Jeremy Renner declined the lead role in order to star in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).
Originally, when the boys were sitting and waiting for Alice to pick them up, they were supposed to just talk. However, J.J. Abrams heard the boys singing together between takes later on, and re-shot the scene featuring them singing "My Sharona."
J.J. Abrams: (Kelvin) The gasoline station on the outskirts of town is named Kelvin Gasoline. Kelvin was the name of J.J. Abrams' grandfather. Abrams commonly uses this name in his work, such as "Kelvin Inman" from Lost (2004) and the USS Kelvin from Star Trek (2009).
Approximately 5000 children were auditioned for the main parts.
The creature's breath on Joe's hair during the final scene was actually J.J. Abrams waving a large sheet of cardboard up and down.
The green Air Force fatigues with the blue name tapes and blue insignia are correct for the 1970s era the movie portrays. The utility uniform would later change to the jungle then desert BDU.
The portable cassette player is a Sony TPS-L2: the orange microphone button is clearly visible.
The video release has a supplement called "Do You Believe in Magic?" showing DOP Larry Fong doing magic tricks for cast and crew and Tom Cruise who apparently visited the set.
While addressing the Academy of Achievement in 2006, Steven Spielberg said that his initiation to the magic of movies and the direct influence which actually got him to shoot his first film as a kid was Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), especially its sequence of a train and car accident. In Super 8, which is a direct homage to the style of the family films from the 80s produced or directed by Spielberg, the train and car accident is the initiation moment for the coming adventure.
J.J. Abrams mentions in the DVD commentary that every time you see the water tower in the movie, it is computer generated.
The first teaser for the film was shot by cinematographer Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan's frequent collaborator, months before principal photography began. Larry Fong was later brought aboard for the actual shoot.
Dakota Fanning: During the town hall meeting, for a brief second you can spot Elle Fanning's big sister among the assistants.
J.J. Abrams originally had two separate ideas for his follow-up to Mission: Impossible III (2006). One was a coming-of-age story, the other was an alien on the loose idea. It was much later in development that he actually had the idea to combine the two.
J.J. Abrams named the film's fictional setting, Lillian, Ohio, after his grandmother. The map showing where runaway dogs were found shows it located on the north side of route 35 ten miles west of Dayton (twenty-two miles west of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base).
In the summer of 2010, Joel Courtney visited his brother, an aspiring L.A. actor, attended one of his brother's acting classes, fell in love with acting, auditioned for a TV commercial in LA, was urged by an acting coach to answer a J.J. Abrams casting call, and after eleven call-backs landed the lead role of Joe Lamb.
In the Snack Shack Diner scene where the kids are talking amongst themselves about the train wreck, Deputy Lamb can be seen through the window getting out of his patrol car at the auto dealership because, as it was originally written, the diner scene and the auto dealership scene took place simultaneously but during editing the dealership scene was moved to later.
The train crash was purposely made much more sensational than a train crash would actually be. The goal was to pay homage to the science-fiction movies of the '70s.
In the first draft of the script, the alien was never shown at all.
The train crash was largely improvised - there was no set storyboard for this key event in the film.
Riley Griffiths (Charles Kaznyk) played an April Fool's prank on director J.J. Abrams during filming: "On the verge of crying, I told him I had lost my script, lost it at a mall in L.A., somebody took it, and it's online. He totally fell for it... I think I might have been more scared than J.J. I was trembling."
The film according to J.J. Abrams was homage to the producer of the film, Steven Spielberg, and his films of the 1970's ranging reverence from Spielberg's directorial films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) & E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) to Spielberg's produced films like The Goonies (1985).
J.J. Abrams: Dressed as a soldier coming out of the jeep he is driving at 01:08:15.
J.J. Abrams: (Music) by Michael Giacchino.
The moving train was completely computer-generated, but in the shots of the kids moving among the wrecked train cars (shot at Agua Dulce 43 miles north of L.A.) the wrecked cars were actually there.