The Deep Impact Trivia Quiz that hits home

By: Julie Medina
Image: TMDB

About This Quiz

Recall this science fiction disaster film that envisions the preparation for - and the attempted destruction of - a seven-mile-wide comet set to collide with the Earth, causing mass extinction.

How is the comet discovered?

Teenage amateur astronomer Leo Biederman discovers an unusual object near the stars Mizar and Alcor at a star party in Richmond, Virginia, with his school's astronomy club. Leo Biederman is portrayed by Elijah Wood, of the Lord of the Rings fame.

What does Leo Biederman’s science teacher do with this discovery?

He tells Leo to take a picture of it, and then sends it to astronomer Dr. Marcus Wolf, who realizes that the object is a comet on a collision course with Earth. Dr. Marcus Wolf is played by Charles Martin Smith. He is best known for his roles in American Graffiti, Never Cry Wolf, Starman, The Buddy Holly Story, and The Untouchables. He is also known for writing and directing the films Dolphin Tale, Dolphin Tale 2, and The Snow Walker.

What happens to Dr. Marcus Wolf when he tries to alert the authorities?

Wolf dies in a car accident before he can alert the world, which delays preparations for the collision. But eventually the government is alerted. Did you know an actual giant object from space did once strike the general area of the Eastern Seaboard where "Biederman" impacted in the film? It hit the Norfolk, Virginia, vicinity. It created the huge, now-buried Chesapeake Bay impact crater.

Who on the staff of MSNBC investigates the sudden resignation of Secretary of the Treasury Alan Rittenhouse?

Jenny Lerner is an MSNBC journalist who investigates the sudden resignation of Secretary of the Treasury, Alan Rittenhouse. She finds out that his wife thinks he is seeing another woman. Tea Leoni portrays Jenny Lerner. Tea Leoni’s breakthrough role was in Bad Boys. In later years, Leoni had the female lead roles in box office hits, including The Family Man, Jurassic Park III, Fun with Dick and Jane, and Tower Heist with Ben Stiller. In 2014, Leoni returned to television with the leading role in the CBS political drama series, Madam Secretary.

What name does Jenny Lerner get from the wife of Alan Rittenhouse?

The wife of Alan Rittenhouse tells Jenny the name of the woman who she thinks is sleeping with her husband - Ellie. Alan Rittenhouse is portrayed by James Cromwell, who is known for his starring roles in Babe, Star Trek: First Contact, L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile, Space Cowboys, The Sum of All Fears, I, Robot, The Queen, and The Artist, as well as the television series Six Feet Under, 24, American Horror Story: Asylum, and Halt and Catch Fire.

What does Ellie really stand for?

E.L.E (Extinction-Level Event) is a very real thing. An extinction event (also known as a mass extinction or biotic crisis) is a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth. Such an event is identified by a sharp change in the diversity and abundance of multicellular organisms. It occurs when the rate of extinction increases with respect to the rate of speciation. Astronomers described Deep Impact as being more scientifically accurate than the other similarly themed movie at that time, Armageddon.

Who does the FBI take Jenny Lerner to see?

After interviewing Rittenhouse, she is intercepted by the FBI and brought before President Tom Beck. Morgan Freeman portrays the President. Freeman won an Academy Award in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby, and he has received Oscar nominations for his performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus. He has also won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

When Jenny meets with Alan Rittenhouse and President Tom Beck, what supplies does she recognize at both locations?

When Jenny Lerner meets the president in the kitchen and when she tries to interview Alan Rittenhouse on his boat, she sees supplies in the form of many cases of Ensure Nutrition Drink in both places. Did you know that the scene where Jenny Lerner first meets the president was filmed in the actual kitchen where Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated, in 1968, while campaigning for the presidency of the United States?

What happens due to Jenny’s meeting with the president?

Due to Lerner's investigation, President Beck makes an announcement earlier than planned, that the comet named Wolf-Biederman is headed for Earth. The comet is named after Wolf and Biederman, mistakenly assuming Leo Biederman was killed along with Professor Wolf. This accident mirrors the real-life car accident death (July 18 1997, in outback Australia) of astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, who helped discover the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet.

What does the president tell the public?

The president tells the public that the comet is large enough to cause a mass extinction and possibly wipe out humanity, if it hits the Earth. He also reveals that the United States and Russia are launching an Orion spacecraft armed with nuclear bombs to divert the comet’s trajectory. Morgan Freeman wanted his character (the president) to be wearing an earring. Director Mimi Leder turned him down.

What is the name of the Orion spacecraft?

The name of the Orion spacecraft is Messiah. Although in this instance Messiah means a leader or savior of a particular group or cause, saving them from a particularly bad situation, Messiah can also mean the promised and expected deliverer of the Jewish people. Messiah is also referred to as Jesus Christ, regarded by Christians as fulfilling this promise and expectation, as told in John 4:25, 26.

Who is going to lead the team in the Messiah?

Commander Oren Monash is the leader of the Messiah team who get blinded due to direct, unfiltered sunlight and suffers severe facial burns. Commander Oren Monash is portrayed by Ron Eldard, an actor known for his role in True Love, the Grand Jury Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Eldard has performed on Broadway, in On the Waterfront, Biloxi Blues, Bash: Latterday Plays, and Death of a Salesman. Eldard is known for his role in Drop Dead Fred, Sleepers, Super 8, Roadie, Justified, Jobs, and Poker Night.

What is the nickname of the veteran astronaut, Spurgeon Tanner?

The team also includes veteran astronaut Spurgeon Tanner, who has the nickname “Fish.” Oren asked Spurgeon Tanner why people call him Fish. Tanner said, “Well, Spurgeon... Sturgeon... FISH. Took about 15 minutes my first day at the Naval Academy.”

Who pilots the Messiah?

Andrea Baker pilots the Messiah. Andrea Baker is portrayed by Mary McCormack, known for leading roles as Justine Appleton in the series Murder One, as Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper in The West Wing, and as Mary Shannon in In Plain Sight. Her film roles include Private Parts, Deep Impact, True Crime, High Heels and Low Lifes, K-PAX, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Right at Your Door, and 1408.

What are the nuclear bomb devices called?

The nuclear bomb devices are called moles as they first drill into the comet and then detonate. Once deployed on the comet, one of the moles gets stuck 75 feet down. The delay to dislodge it causes the astronauts to return to the Messiah just as sunlight hits the comet surface. Jon Favreau said that it was so uncomfortable for the cast to film in the astronaut suits that during breaks they had to be hung on a rack in their suits and brought outside to get air. This led to some awkward moments whenever a studio tour bus came by!

How did Gus Partenza get detached, floating into space?

Gus Partenza, played by Jon Favreau, is ejected from the comet surface by a tremendously strong outflow of gas. Jon Favreau might look familiar to you as he is an actor, filmmaker, and comedian. He is known for roles in films such as Rudy, Swingers (which he also wrote), Very Bad Things, The Break-Up, and Chef (which he also directed). He has also directed the films Elf, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens, and The Jungle Book, and he served as an executive producer on The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The moles do not divert the comet; what do they do instead?

The moles do not do the job. Instead of diverting the comet, the moles break the comet into two smaller rocks - the larger of the two called “Wolf,” and the smaller of the two called “Biederman.” The ship is also damaged from the blast and the team loses contact with Earth. Did you know that just before the movie's release, astronomers announced that the asteroid 1997 XF11, about one mile across, will impact the Earth at a speed of over 100,000 mph at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 26, 2028? This greatly boosted ticket sales. Just after the movie's release, a new orbit (based on a sighting from many years before) predicted that 1997 XF11 will miss by 600,000 miles.

Why is Leo Biederman addressing the school at an assembly?

After Leo’s name is mentioned on TV, Leo speaks to the students about the discovery and how the White House thought he died alongside Wolf. During the school assembly, one student observes, "You're going to have more sex than anyone else in our class!" to Leo. This line was improvised by Jason Dohring, and the reactions from the other students are genuine.

After President Beck announces the Messiah crew’s failure, what else does he tell American citizens?

After President Beck announces the Messiah crew's failure, he declares martial law and reveals that governments worldwide have been building underground shelters. The United States' shelter is in the limestone caves of Missouri and will hold one million people.

How will people be selected to be in the underground shelter?

The U.S. government has already pre-selected individuals who are needed for their skills and knowledge to care for those underground and to reclaim Earth after the air clears and the dust settles. In addition, for those under age 50 there is be a lottery to decide who will join the 200,000 pre-selected individuals.

Why does the president refer to the caves as a modern-day Noah’s ark?

The caves will contain enough food to last more than two years as the inhabitants will need to reclaim the soil to grow their own food. The caves will also contain genetically viable populations of animals, and the seeds of every species of plant. It is interesting to note that when Jenny Lerner is looking up "ELE" on the Internet, the ad banners on the right-hand side of the screen foreshadow the tidal wave at the end of the film: "The Wave of the Future", "You've got some ocean coming," etc.

What does Jenny Lerner’s mother do when she learns that those over 50 will not be saved?

Dressing in her best outfit, placing her makeup perfectly on her face and wearing her favorite jewelry, Jenny Lerner’s mother commits suicide. Jenny’s mother is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave rose to prominence playing Rosalind in As You Like It and has since starred in more than 35 productions in London's West End and on Broadway, winning the 1984 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival for The Aspern Papers, and the 2003 Tony Award for Best Actress in Long Day's Journey into Night. She also received Tony nominations for The Year of Magical Thinking and Driving Miss Daisy. On screen, she has starred in more than 80 films and is a six-time Oscar nominee, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the title role in Julia.

What must Leo's girlfriend do to get herself and her family on the list?

The Biederman family are pre-selected, but Leo's girlfriend, Sarah Hotchner, and her family are not. Leo marries Sarah to save her family, but her family is left off the evacuee list. Sarah refuses to leave without her parents. Sarah is portrayed by "Leelee" Sobieski, who achieved recognition in her mid-teens in Deep Impact and Eyes Wide Shut. She received an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for the TV movie Joan of Arc and another Golden Globe nomination for the TV movie Uprising.

What is the next strategy for obliterating the comet?

A last-ditch effort is to use Earth's missile-borne nuclear weapons to deflect the comets. However, this fails and President Beck reports on this and reveals the final trajectories of the comets. Did you know there was a slight scientific error in the film? As the comets near Earth, they are hit with over 150 nuclear missiles. The Messiah at this point is in close proximity, traveling back to Earth just ahead of the comets. The Messiah should have experienced severe electromagnetic pulses being that close to so many nuclear detonations, if not being outright destroyed.

What will be the impact on the U.S. when the smaller comet hits?

The Biederman fragment will impact the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras, which will cause a megatsunami up to 3,500 feet high. People are advised to evacuate. The traffic jam scene was filmed on Virginia State Route 234, a bypass that was under construction at the time. The roughly 1,800 vehicles used in the scene came mostly from volunteers from the Washington D.C. suburb of Manassas, Virginia. The President also says that the Wolf fragment will impact western Canada, creating a cloud of dust that will block out the sun for two years, killing all life on Earth in a matter of weeks.

What vehicle does Leo use to catch up with Sarah and her family, who have left for the Appalachian Mountains?

Leo, using a motorcycle from Sarah’s garage, finds the family in a traffic jam on the way to the Appalachian Mountains. Sarah's parents urge Leo to take Sarah and her baby brother to high ground. Sarah complies and she and her parents say goodbye. Did you know that the first cut of the film had more scenes with Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski's characters? However, in response to a poorly received sneak preview, these scenes were drastically reduced.

Jenny Lerner has been the newscaster for the entire disaster. Is she on the pre-selected list?

Jenny Lerner has been the deliverer of all the news concerning the comet. She is well known and has been pre-selected to give the survivors a figure who provides continuity from before to after the disaster. However, Lerner gives up her seat in the last evacuation helicopter to her friend Beth and Beth's young daughter. Beth is portrayed by actress and television director Laura Innes. Most people recognize Innes as Dr. Kerry Weaver on ER. She played this role for 12 seasons and received two Emmy Award nominations and three Screen Actors Guild Awards as part of the ER ensemble. She also played Sophia on the NBC thriller, The Event, as well as other memorable TV and movie roles.

What does the crew of Messiah decide to do while traveling in space?

The Messiah has enough fuel and life support to land on the Wolf comet but not enough to let them return. The crew of Messiah decides that their only chance to save the world is to undertake a suicide mission by entering a fissure with the remaining nuclear warheads to obliterate the Wolf comet. The comet is depicted as nearly white when, in reality, comets are among the darkest objects in the Solar System, normally reflecting about 3% of the light that hits them. The movie producers were aware of this fact, but special effects technology of the time made it extremely difficult to depict a black object against black space.

Who says to Jenny Lerner, “I know you're just a reporter, but you used to be a person, right?”

Alan Rittenhouse says this as he is trying to explain that “Ellen” isn’t news and would only hurt his wife. It is interesting to note that Morgan Freeman played President Tom Beck, with James Cromwell portraying Treasury Secretary Alan Rittenhouse. However, In The Sum of All Fears (2002), Cromwell played President J. Robert Fowler, while Freeman portrayed CIA Director William Cabot.

Who says this? “When I was 11, I stole $32 from your wallet.”

Jenny is saying this to her estranged father, Jason, at their beach house, where they reconcile and await the tsunami together. Her father also makes a confession, “When you were a baby I once dropped you on your head.” This film shared a very similar plot with the Michael Bay film, "Armageddon," which was released the same year. Téa Leoni previously appeared in "Bad Boys," also directed by Bay.

Who says this? “Well, let's get started. Moby Dick. Chapter One. Call me Ishmael... “

Spurgeon Tanner reads Moby Dick to the Commander, Oren Monash, because Monash’s eyes have been blinded and he wants to provide comfort to him. If you recall when the crew makes rendezvous with the comet, they are reported to have a 20-second delay in transmission of pictures to the ground. Did you know that a 20-second delay can also be measured as a distance of 3,728,120 miles?

Who says this? “Life will go on, we will prevail.”

President Tom Beck says this during a press conference. He has been delivering the bad news while trying to provide citizens with the courage to handle the news. Did you know a line was edited in the president's press conference scene? President Beck stated "Life will go on, we will prevail." Originally, President Beck said, "Life will go on, we will prevail... THIS IS NOT ARMAGEDDON!" The producers later realized that the movie was going to be in box office competition with the movie Armageddon (1998) and edited that portion out of the film.

What did the critics think of the film?

The film had mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an aggregate rating of 48%, with an average rating of 5.8 out of 10. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times said that the film "has a more brooding, thoughtful tone than this genre usually calls for.”

What did the fans think of the film?

The audience loved it. On a budget of $80 million, it earned almost $350 million at the box office. Domestically, it became the highest grossing film directed by a woman and held that record for a decade, until Twilight claimed the record in 2008.

There was another similar-themed movie that came out at the exact same time as Deep Impact. What was the name of the movie?

Both films were similarly received by critics, with Armageddon scoring 39% and Deep Impact scoring 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite competition in the summer of 1998, due to this catastrophic-comet-themed movie, Deep Impact was still a box office hit and was the higher opener of the two.

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