The Genetic History Of GATTACA

A collector's edition of GATTACA will be out in two weeks, and it's getting the full Blu-ray treatment from Sony. Maybe this box-office flop will finally get the respect that it deserves, especially now that we're getting closer and closer to being able to build superhumans. Find out more about the strange and awesome history of GATTACA below.

The Genetic History Of GATTACA


  • The film was originally supposed to the called The Eighth Day, but a Belgian film with that title forced the film-makers to change theirs. In the film, the center where Vincent's parents go to genetically engineer another baby is called "The Eighth Day." It's a reference to the biblical line "And on the Seventh Day, God rested." Presumably, on the eighth day, man started tinkering around on his own.

  • The production budget for the movie was $36 million, but it only grossed $12 million. Sadly, there is no genetic testing for a box office hit.

  • The film boasts a fairly impressive cast: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine, Loren Dean and Gore Vidal.

  • Jude Law's character Jerome starts referring to himself as his middle name, Eugene. Perhaps a sly reference to eugenics.

  • Uma Thurman's character is named Irene Cassini after the 17th century Italian astronomer. He discovered the gap in Saturn's rings, along with several of its moons.

  • They didn't have a large budget for the futuristic look and feel of the movie, so they modeled the "near future" after the past. Men wear dark suits with fedoras, women wear form-fitting dresses, cars are retro models, like Vincent's 1963 Studebaker Avanti, outfitted with electric engines (just an electric whine on the soundtrack).

  • The government agents/detectives in the film are called "Hoovers," not only as a nod to J. Edgar Hoover, but to the fact that they vacuum up hair and skin cells when they collect evidence.

  • When promoting the movie, Sony placed fake ads in newspapers around the country offering "Children made to order." The ads looked so real that they got thousands of phone calls, and The American Society for Reproductive Medicine asked Sony to change them to make it clear they were fake advertisements.

  • Sony knew the film would be under close scrutiny from scientists, so they hired human-gene-therapy researcher French Anderson as a science consultant, and had test screenings for The Society of Mammalian Cell Biologists.

  • Scientists seemed to love the movie for the most part. In fact molecular biologist Lee M. Silver said "Gattaca is a film that all geneticists should see if for no other reason than to understand the perception of our trade held by so many of the public-at-large." Too bad there weren't a ton of geneticists hitting the theaters back then.

  • Bioethicist James Hughes wasn't so fond of the movie, however. His book Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future railed against the genetic testing in the movie.

  • The original ending of the film featured images of people who may have never been born if we'd had genetic testing: people like Albert Einstein (dyslexia) , Abraham Lincoln (Marfan syndrome), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (asthma) and John F. Kennedy (Addison's disease) were shown over a background of stars with their afflictions listed. It then ends with the statement "Of course, the other birth that may never have taken place is your own." People in test screenings said it made them feel inadequate.

  • As a lesson in the DNA-uninformed (like me), the tile of the film comes from the four DNA bases: Adenosine, Guanosine, Thymine, and Cytosine. They sometimes line up to form GATTACA in a DNA sequence.

  • The announcements that come over the PA system in the Gattaca building are in Esperanto.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright's futuristic Marin County Civic Center was used as the exterior of the Gattaca building. It's got that sort of hipster-50s retro cool look. It was also used extensively in George Lucas' THX-1138.