After a huge meteor shower destroys the space-shuttle Atlantis and much of New York City, scientists discover that an asteroid the size of Texas is due to impact Earth in 18 days, ending all life here. NASA executive Dan Truman (Billy-Bob Thornton) leads a team which decides to use the world’s best oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) to train astronauts to drill a hole in the asteroid and place a nuclear bomb inside, which they hope will split it in half and send the pieces past the Earth.
Harry agrees to help, but he wants his own team there to do the drilling. They include his right-hand man Chick (Will Patton), geologists Rockhound (Steve Buscemi) and Oscar (Owen Wilson), and drillers Bear (Michael Clark Duncan), Fred Noonan (Clark Brolly), Max (Ken Hudson Campbell), and A.J. Frost (Ben Affleck), who is dating Harry’s daughter Grace (Liv Tyler), much to Harry’s disgust. They take 12 days to train astronaut Willie Sharp (William Fichter), who will pilot the space shuttle Freedom. The shuttles Freedom and Independence take off and dock with the Russian space-station Mir to take on fuel. A fire breaks out accidentally and Russian Cosmonaut Lev Andropov (Peter Stormaire) is nearly killed but gets on board Independence before the station is destroyed.
Independence is damaged as they approach the asteroid and the crash kills all but Lev, A.J., and Bear. They use an Armadillo wheeled vehicle to reach the crew of Freedom, who landed 26 miles away on an iron ferrite plate. The drilling takes too long, drills break, and Sharp reports that they are unable to reach the proper depth. The President (Stanley Anderson) decides to trigger the bomb remotely. Harry and Sharp, despite a vicious argument, agree to defuse the bomb and work together to keep drilling. They hit an oxygen pocket with the drill and Max and the shuttle are lost. A.J. and the rest of the team arrive in the other shuttle.
A.J. drills to the required depth, but the remote detonator is damaged by a rock storm. They draw straws to decide who will stay to detonate the bomb, killing himself. A.J. is the chosen one, but Harry disconnects his air hose, forcing him back into the shuttle. Freedom takes off. Another rock storm causes Harry to lose the detonator, but he gets it back in time to trigger the bomb at the last moment. The asteroid is split in half and both halves miss the Earth. The surviving crew return to Earth and A.J. and Grace are married.
The film was produced and directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and released by Touchstone Pictures. It was totally inaccurate, scientifically, but exciting as hell, and it certainly was loud. It did not get good reviews, but it made a lot of money. There were nine writers, including young J.J. Abrams. Three million dollars worth of special effects were added to be shown on TV advertising, just to differentiate it from Deep Impact, released the same year. More than two million was spent on Superbowl advertising. Bruce Willis was given an extra trailer with a $175,000 gym, which he did not use. $200,000 was spent on new teeth for Ben Affleck.
A hoax trying to show that the 2003 Columbia Shuttle Disaster never happened used shots from the movie. NASA forced the production to put a line in the credits saying that they did not endorse the film. But the premiere was held at the Kennedy Space Centre. It received four Oscar nominations for sound and special effects and won two Saturn Awards. It was also nominated for a Razzie. NASA uses the film for management training, asking new managers to view the movie and see how many scientific mistakes they find. There are 168 of them. Bruce Willis agreed to do the movie so he could get out of doing another one he thought could not be salvaged. Steve Buscemi did it because he wanted a bigger house. Michael Clark Duncan’s name is not on the opening credits. Michael Bay considered it his worst film. The Ben Affleck/Liv Tyler romance was not in the original script.
Much of Steve Busceni’s dialogue was cut because it was too funny. Roger Ebert said the movie was a 150-minute trailer. I believe he was the one who said the cutting was like two and a half hours of machine-gun fire. The average cut in the movie is 1.5 seconds long. The NASA warehouse where some of it was filmed was so large that clouds formed, and it rained inside. If you shoot a million feet of Kodak film, Kodak sends you six bottles of Champagne. The Armadillo vehicles used on the asteroid had gatling guns, mostly because toys with guns sell better. There was a scene explaining why they had guns, but it was cut. Ben Affleck asked Michael Bay why it was easier to train oil-drillers to be astronauts than to train astronauts to be oil-drillers, and he was told to shut the fuck up.