Mr. Washington said no to this film until they told him Gene Hackman would be playing the captain. In the piece I saw, he said he only needed to know this fact, for the opportunity to work with a man who is already a legend in film, whether he makes another film or not, was all the inducement he needed. It's nice to know a paycheck is not all that drives some performers.
The film is outstanding as an action film, but I found it easy to understand why the US Navy would not participate. The scenes of diving subs were stock footage, there were not performed by the Navy for this film. The film is so good because of the primary actors already mentioned a script that was worked on by Quentin Tarantino, like the Star Trek banter, and The Silver Surfer debate, and also for a variety of faces that have become much better known since this film was made.
The variations of mutinies that played out against other famous actors on the sea as opposed to below it will come to mind, Anthony Hopkins in the days of sail, and Humphrey Bogart on WWII vintage ships. The stakes this time are much higher and the directions the mutinies take are far more troublesome.
Being faced with the order to actually launch a thermonuclear strike is a scenario that can easily justify a range of behaviors amongst the men involved, in this case on a submarine. And this is where the fifth star fell away for me. I certainly could understand the dynamic and the violation of a legal order that could cause the invocation of Naval Law. What I could not take seriously was the ease with which men who were serving with one another were willing to engage in deadly conduct against these same men, and to switch sides with such ease. If loyalty was so easily changed on a nuclear submarine, if so many top officers would violate Naval Law with such ease, I would guess horrific accidents would have occurred many years ago, and with disastrous results. The men that serve, and especially command, on submarines equipped with thermonuclear warheads are required to pass entirely different and additional levels of tests, that those who serve on submarines without such missiles.
Sure this is only a film, so it should be viewed as entertainment. It also portrayed an event that could happen, events that have been nearly breached in our history, and it does so by portraying the officers and other men serving on this fictional boat in a very poor light. It is again completely understandable why the US Navy said no to the film. The whole film had an odd start and finish, when the reporter was reporting from a French Carrier and not a US one.