Theatrical release: December 27, 2000 (NY/LA)
January 5, 2001 (Wide Release)
Shot on location in San Diego and Los Angeles, California; Nogales and Las Cruces, Mexico; El Paso, Texas; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; and Washington, DC.
There were 115 specific shooting locations in the film and 135 speaking roles.
Peter Andrews is a pseudonym for director Steven Soderbergh as a cinematographer, since the Writers Guild wouldn't give him permission to use the credit "directed and photographed by Steven Soderbergh." The alias is taken from his father, Peter Andrew Soderbergh.
Each of the three major locales in TRAFFIC has a specific look. Soderbergh told Gavin Smith of Film Comment (1/2001), "In San Diego the idea was to contrast the idyllic visual scheme with the rotten underpinnings of Helena and Carl's story. So for those scenes we were flashing the negative ten percent, which reduces the contrast and makes the highlights blossom, and using diffusion filters to give it a very desaturated, bright, soft look. And then on the East Coast we wanted a little bit more of a spare feeling, so we were shooting tungsten-balanced film in daylight without doing any color correction, which gives you a very cold, monochromatic look. Mexico was shot using extreme overexposure and printing down, adjusting the shutter angle to 45 degrees to give it a very strobey look, and using 'tobacco' filters, which give you a very yellowish-brown feel. We then printed those scenes on Ektachrome, which required a number of additional printing steps, so that it would be seven generations down from the original negative. Originally, we were going to do the whole film that way."
Many nonprofessional actors were in the cast, and many of their scenes were improvised.
TRAFFIC was inspired by the English miniseries TRAFFIK (1989), which was produced for Channel 4 Films.
Among the cameos in the film are appearances by Albert Finney, Salma Hayek, Benjamin Bratt, and James Brolin. Finney also starred in Soderbergh's ERIN BROCKOVICH.
Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and various U.S. senators such as Charles Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Barbara Boxer appear in the film as themselves.
Don Cheadle and Luis Guzmán both previously appeared in Soderbergh's OUT OF SIGHT and P.T. Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS. Guzmán also starred in Soderbergh's THE LIMEY.
Topher Grace, star of the Fox television series THAT '70S SHOW, makes his first feature-film appearance in TRAFFIC.
Soderbergh rarely had to film a scene more than three times.
Lactose powder was used in the shooting to look like cocaine.
Soderbergh watched such genre films as THE FRENCH CONNECTION to prepare for TRAFFIC.
Soderbergh compared Zeta-Jones to Ava Gardner, telling Reuters, "[Catherine] can be glamorous when she wants to, and she can be a human, life-sized character and still be compelling."
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