Griffin O'Neal was originally cast as Pete Deveber, but was replaced, when Francis Ford Coppola's son, Gian-Carlo Coppola, was killed in a speedboating accident in May 1986 in Annapolis, Maryland. O'Neal, who was driving the boat while using drugs, had attempted to pass between two slow-moving boats, failing to realize in his haste that both boats were connected by a very long towline. While O'Neal barely had time to duck, young Coppola was struck, throwing his body to the metal deck, sustaining head injuries whereby he died instantly. O'Neal was later charged with manslaughter over the tragedy. He was ultimately fined two hundred dollars and sentenced to eighteen months probation in 1987, eventually receiving an eighteen-day jail sentence for not performing four hundred hours of community service as ordered. A law was later passed requiring short towlines between boats. At the time of his death, Coppola's fiancée, Jaqueline De La Fontaine, was two months pregnant with their only daughter, Gian-Carla Coppola, who was born on January 1, 1987.
The repartee between "Goody" Nelson (James Earl Jones) and Jackie Willow (D.B. Sweeney), regarding asexual reproduction, is almost identical to that between David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) and his science teacher in WarGames (1983).
The film's closing credits declare: "Special thanks to the Honor Guards and Bands of all Services: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, for their pride and devotion in attending the last call for their fallen comrades at Arlington National Cemetery".
The role of Pete Deveber (Elias Koteas) was originally to be played by Gian-Carlo Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola's son, who tragically died in a boating accident a few months before filming. Koteas, who got Coppola's role, felt very uncomfortable while shooting the movie, because he knew that he was replacing Gian-Carlo in a film directed by his father, who just lost his son.
First feature film in five years for James Caan, whose previous picture had been Kiss Me Goodbye (1982), with Sally Field and Jeff Bridges. Reportedly, Caan hated working on that movie so much, that he did not make another film until this movie.
During the parade field ceremony sequence, the announcer says, "The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is led today by Drum Major Phipps." When this movie was shot, one of the actual Drum Majors of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps at the time, was Sergeant First Class Steven Phipps, and he was leading the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps for that scene in the movie.