Director Sidney Lumet and Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky claimed that the film was not meant to be a satire but a reflection of what was really happening.
Beatrice Straight is only on-screen for five minutes and two seconds. Hers was the briefest performance ever to win an Oscar.
According to Sidney Lumet, the "Mad as Hell" speech was filmed in one and a half takes. Midway through the second take, Peter Finch abruptly stopped in exhaustion. Lumet was unaware of Finch's failing heart at the time, but in any case, did not ask for a third take. What's in the completed film is the second take for the first half of the speech, and the second half from the first take.
Sidney Lumet openly admitted that he was furious to have the picture lose to Rocky (1976) for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
The only music heard in the film comes from commercials and television show themes.
Ned Beatty once remarked that actors should never turn down work, "I worked a day on 'Network' and got an Oscar nomination for it".
Sidney Lumet said that he shot the film using a specific lighting scheme. He said in the film's opening scenes, he shot with as little light as possible, shooting the film almost like a documentary. As the film progressed, he added more light and more camera moves and by the end of the film, it was as brightly lit and "slick" as he could make it. The idea was to visually convey the theme of media manipulation.
Before 2013, this was the last movie to receive five Academy Award nominations in the acting categories. Silver Linings Playbook was nominated in all acting categories, but only won Best Actress.
Peter Finch was desperate to win the role of Howard Beale once he had read the script. He even offered to pay his own airfare to New York City for the screentest. But Sidney Lumet was concerned about Finch's Australian accent. Finch won the part after sending Lumet a recording of himself reading the New York Times with a perfect American accent.
Is only one of two films that has been awarded three acting Oscars, the other film being A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Although both were nominated, neither film won the Best Picture Oscar that year.
Peter Finch died before the Academy Awards were to take place, where he was nominated for Best Actor. He won, making him the first performer ever to receive a posthumous award at the Oscars. The second winner was fellow Australian Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008).
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has claimed that Paddy Chayefsky, and particularly his script for this film, have been a major inspiration for his own writing. He has written "no predictor of the future, not even Orwell, has ever been as right as Chayefsky was when he wrote Network (1976)."
Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor were approached for the Howard Beale role, but neither was interested. Cronkite's daughter Kathy Cronkite agreed to play left-wing radical Mary Ann Gifford, a character loosely based on Patricia Hearst.
Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet made it clear to Faye Dunaway that they wanted a cold-blooded, soulless characterization with no sympathetic shadings. "I know the first thing you're going to ask me", Lumet told her. "Where's her vulnerability? Don't ask it. She has none. If you try to sneak it in, I'll get rid of it in the editing room, so it'll be a wasted effort." Dunaway's then-husband Peter Wolf warned her that she could risk typecasting in such a role, but Dunaway plunged ahead fearlessly.
Peter Finch's final feature film. His final screen appearance was in Raid on Entebbe (1976).
Faye Dunaway would later say that this was "the only film I ever did that you didn't touch the script because it was almost as if it were written in verse." She was as happy with Sidney Lumet as with the writing, describing him as "one of, if not the, most talented and professional men in the world. In the rehearsals, two weeks before shooting he blocks his scenes with his cameraman. Not a minute is wasted while he's shooting and that shows not only on the studio's budget but on the impetus of performance."
Sidney Lumet recalled that Paddy Chayefsky was usually on the set overseeing his direction, and would give him advice on how certain scenes should be played. Lumet claims that Chayefsky had better comedic instinct than him, but when it came time to shoot the argument scene between William Holden and Beatrice Straight, the four-times-married director told Chayefsky, "Paddy, please, I know more about divorce than you."
William Holden had some reservations about the scene were he and Faye Dunaway are in bed making love and, in her excitement, she exclaims about the ratings of her successful television show. At a climactic moment she cries out, "We're getting more publicity out of this than Watergate!" "Such scenes are not to my liking," Holden later said. "I believe lovemaking is a private thing, and I don't enjoy depictions of it on the screen." He rationalized that, "If nobody had been in bed on the screen before, I might have hesitated." But he went with it, understanding that "The scene was not meant to be pornographic. It was meant to disclose a character flaw, the fact that Faye talks all the way through it tells more about her. It was Paddy's way of getting the dialogue out." Holden did allow, however, that he felt "the scene was meant to be more amusing than it came off."
Henry Fonda turned down the role of Howard Beale, saying that it was "too hysterical." Glenn Ford and George C. Scott did also. Although William Holden turned it down, he was cast in the other male lead and was nominated for Best Actor along with Peter Finch.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #64 Greatest Movie of All Time.
The three Oscar winners, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, and Beatrice Straight, share scenes with William Holden, but they share no scenes with each other. Finch and Dunaway, who won the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars, have no scenes or dialogue together in the film.
To celebrate Faye Dunaway's first Oscar victory, husband-to-be photographer Terry O'Neill arranged to meet her at the Beverly Hills Hotel at 6:30 the morning after the Academy Awards, for a photo shoot. What transpired was the famous image of a listless Dunaway, reclining beside the tranquil hotel swimming pool with her Oscar statuette standing upright on the table beside her. Thrown in for good measure were various newspapers scattered on the ground and table, the headlines of which mostly echoed the previous night's festivities. Dunaway had not slept since her win, and so appears totally fatigued, prompting O'Neill to title his photograph "The Morning After" shot.
In 2005, in preparation for what would eventually be a scrapped project for a live television adaptation of this film, George Clooney screened the film for a group of teens and young adults in order to determine their reactions to it. He found, much to his surprise, that none of the young people recognized the film as satire. "I couldn't understand it", Clooney told the Associated Press. Then he "realized that everything Paddy Chayefsky wrote about had happened."
The movie's line "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" was voted as the number nineteen movie quote by the American Film Institute. It was voted as #79 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
During his "the world is a business" speech, Jensen references rins, a Japanese currency that had been out of circulation for over twenty years.
Arthur Burghardt (Great Ahmet Khan) was a vegetarian. For the scene where he was to munch on a piece of chicken, Burghardt stuffed his cheeks with paper towels and smeared the grease on his face before the camera rolled, instead of actually eating meat.
In the film, Max and Diana refer to their affair as "a many-splendored thing", an inside joke, since William Holden had starred in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955).
In researching her role as the rare female in the mostly male world of television executives, Faye Dunaway met with NBC daytime programming Vice President Lin Bolen. Bolen noted later that while she could see something of herself in Dunaway's mannerisms and speech patterns, she disavowed any further connection to the character, and was appalled by her lack of moral standards.
In 1968, Paddy Chayefsky worked on a pilot script for a possible television comedy series called "The Imposters", in which political subversives infiltrate and try to undermine a television network.
With his Best Screenplay win for this film, Paddy Chayefsky became the first screenwriter to win three Academy Awards for scripts that he wrote by himself. The other two awards were for his work on Marty (1955) and The Hospital (1971). Contrary to popular belief, Woody Allen was not the second person to achieve this feat, because he shared his Oscar for Annie Hall (1977) with Marshall Brickman.
In Shaun Considine's biography of Paddy Chayefsky, it is revealed that Glenn Ford and William Holden were the finalists for the role of Max Schumaker. Holden's recent success in The Towering Inferno (1974) was believed to have been the deciding factor in his casting.
Sidney Lumet claimed that he wanted to cast Vanessa Redgrave in the film, but Paddy Chayefsky didn't want her. Lumet argued that he thought she was the greatest English-speaking actress in the world, while Chayefsky, a proud Jew and supporter of Israel, objected on the basis of her support of the PLO. Lumet, himself a Jew, said "Paddy, that's blacklisting!", to which Chayefsky replied, "Not when a Jew does it to a Gentile." The year after this film swept the Oscars, Redgrave won a Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for Julia (1977). The Jewish Defense League had protested her nomination, and was picketing and burning her in effigy outside the Academy Awards ceremony. In her controversial acceptance speech, Redgrave decried intimidation by "Zionist hoodlums". Chayefsky was one of the scheduled presenters later in the evening, and he took a moment to express his contempt at Redgrave for "exploiting" the Academy Awards for "personal propaganda".
Faye Dunaway revealed in her autobiography that she wanted Robert Mitchum to play Max.
Black radical Laureen Hobbs' character is loosely modelled after Communist activist Angela Davis.
The first film to win Oscars for both Best Actress and Best Actress in a Supporting Role since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
Faye Dunaway managed to put aside their earlier clashes and enjoy an apparently cordial relationship with William Holden. She claimed that during the shooting of the new film, "I found him a very sane, lovely man."
According to Shaun Considine, the author of "Mad As Hell: The Life and Work of Paddy Chayefsky", George C. Scott was offered the role of Howard Beale, but declined without reading the script, apparently due to his having once been offended by Director Sidney Lumet. Whatever happened, exactly, the hatchet must have been buried at some time, as Scott made his final feature film appearance in the Lumet-directed Gloria (1999).
Sidney Lumet began a period of rehearsals in early 1976 in a ballroom of the Diplomat Hotel in New York City. Like most Lumet movies, the film was shot in New York City, although control room and news studio scenes were filmed at CFTO-TV Studios in Toronto, Ontario. Lumet said that he planned a very specific visual scheme for the film, shooting the early parts with available light and minimal camera movement, as in a documentary. As the movie progressed, he added more light and movement so the final sequences were as brightly lit and "slick" as possible.
When Diana and Max are discussing adding Sybil the Soothsayer to the UBS Network Evening News, Diana claims that there are actual tarot card readers and other prognosticators offering investment advice on Wall Street. While there have been rumors of fortune tellers working on Wall Street for many decades, the prohibitions against SEC-registered investment advisers assuring their clients of success has had a dampening effect on many would-be soothsayers registering to be able to give investment advice, until recently. Starting in 2008, with the economic meltdown, many more fortune tellers have become registered with the SEC, and more and more clients are turning to them for their securities recommendations.
Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky thought of Candice Bergen, Ellen Burstyn, and Natalie Wood for the hard-driving programming executive, Diana Christensen. The studio also suggested Jane Fonda, Kay Lenz, Diane Keaton, Marsha Mason, and Jill Clayburgh for the role.
Kay Lenz was offered the lead female role, but turned it down, due to her commitment to Rich Man, Poor Man (1976).
Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky envisioned Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Paul Newman, or Cary Grant filling the role of Howard Beale.
The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Beatrice Straight, and Robert Duvall; and one Oscar nominee: Ned Beatty.
Sidney Lumet claimed that one of the reasons he wanted to cast Robert Duvall was due to his screen image from westerns and war movies. In Lumet's experience many television heads came from the American heartland.
Peter Finch was desperate to win the role of Howard Beale once he had read the script. He even offered to pay his own airfare to New York City for the screentest.
United Artists agreed to make the film despite having recently settled a lawsuit brought on by producers Paddy Chayefsky and Howard Gottfried that challenged the company's right to lease their previous film, The Hospital (1971), to U.S. television network ABC in a package with less successful film. Later, United Artists backed out, fearing the subject matter was too controversial. Once MGM agreed to make the movie, United Artists suddenly did a reversal, choosing to co-produce the film with the competing studio that, six years later, would buy United Artists outright following the debacle of Heaven's Gate (1980), a financial and public relations nightmare that prompted United Artists' parent company, Transamerica, to bail out of the film business.
Upon its original release, the film was a co-production of MGM, which released the film in the U.S., and United Artists, which distributed internationally. Following the 1981 merger of the two studios, the newly-formed MGM/UA Entertainment Company held worldwide rights for five years. In 1986, the U.S. rights were included in Turner Entertainment's purchase of the pre-1986 MGM library, but not the non-U.S. rights, as MGM/UA retained United Artists' own post-1951 releases. MGM continued to hold U.S. video rights for thirteen more years, after which they reverted to Warner Brothers, whose parent company, Time Warner, purchased Turner in 1996. As of 2014, Warner Brothers and Turner still control the U.S. rights to the film, and MGM still controls international rights.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The UBS Washington, D.C. offices shown are set in the office building located at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, and the interior offices shown are on the second floor, overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue, and across the street from the old Post Office Building.