BMC (British Motor Corp.), the owners of the Mini, refused to donate any cars for this movie. The chief of Fiat Motors, however, offered to donate all of the cars needed, including Fiat 500s in place of the Minis. Director Peter Collinson, however, decided that, as it was a very British movie, it should be British Minis. Fiat's boss still donated scores of cars for filming, as well as the factory grounds, and even though the authorities refused to close the roads, the Italian Mafia stepped in and shut whole sections of Turin down for filming, so the traffic jams in this movie are real, as are people's actions during it.
The silver Aston Martin DB4 thrown off the cliff by a Mafia bulldozer was a fake car. The red Jaguar E-Type (smashed up in the same scene) was restored in the 1990s and featured in a UK classic car magazine. The Lamborghini Miura, which featured in the opening scenes, was recently discovered in a secret car park in Paris and bought by a collector in Wales.
The scene between Charlie Croker and the garage owner was entirely improvised by Sir Michael Caine and John Clive.
This is a movie primarily about cars and driving. Sir Michael Caine could not drive at the time the movie was made, and in fact he is never seen driving a car. The only time Charlie Croker is assumed to be driving is the cut between when he picks up his Aston Martin at the garage and in the next shot, when we see it arrive outside the hotel. Caine gets out of a stationary Aston Martin after a further cut. Throughout the drive to Turin, and the entire heist, Croker is always a passenger.
According to Michael Caine, this movie did not perform well at the US box office due to a misleading advertising campaign. The US poster featured a scantily-clad woman with a map on her back kneeling in front of a Mafioso holding a machine gun. While promoting this movie in the US, Caine saw the poster and became so irate that he immediately flew home to England.
The rooftop race track was an actual working part of the Fiat factory that was completed in 1923. The track measures 1,680 feet by 260 feet (512 meters by 79 meters). The five-story building has 16 million square feet (4,878 square kilometers) of floor space, and was once home to 6,000 workers.
Believed to be the first time the word "camp" was used in a movie to describe a gay man.
When Charlie Crocker gets out of jail, his girlfriend is waiting for him with a car to drive him home and Charlie mentions that it's the car of the Ambassador of Pakistan. The actual car was owned by the Ambassador of Pakistan when this movie was produced.
The road used for the climactic cliffhanger sequence led only to a restaurant. The first day of shooting was a Saturday, brilliantly sunny, and the shoot went off without a hitch. On the next day, however, a huge line of cars appeared at the bottom of the road. The restaurant was hugely popular on Sundays. Some disgruntled drivers eventually broke through the police cordon and the shoot had to be aborted. Over the next two weeks it rained steadily, and the snowline came down the mountain by approximately 250 feet (76 meters). By the time the shot was completed, the crew had to sweep snow from the road.
Noël Coward was so sick that his triumphant walk through the prison had to be filmed in stages, as he could not walk more than few feet at a time.
DIRECTOR CAMEO (Peter Collinson): When the Minis are being driven onto the coach after the heist, he is standing at the doorway guiding the cars in.
They filmed a scene for a part of the Mini Cooper chase sequence on an ice rink, with the cars gliding past each other to the accompaniment of Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube". The scene was cut for timing reasons, but was included in the Channel 4 documentary "The Mini Job" which appeared on the Special Edition video. All DVD releases include the scene as an extra feature.
Sir Michael Caine is one of the singing voices in the closing theme song "Get A Bloomin' Move On".
According to the DVD commentary, although never formally planned, the start of the anticipated sequel resolved the cliffhanger ending of this movie by having the Mafia arrive in helicopters and lifting the bus back onto the road to recover the gold (incidentally rescuing Charlie and the gang). The rest of the movie would then involve Charlie's crew pulling a second heist to steal the gold back from the Mafia.
In a 2003 UK movie survey, Charlie Croker's (Sir Michael Caine's) line, "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" was voted the most memorable line in any movie.
Noël Coward was not in good health and had a hard time learning lines, so his longtime companion and partner Graham Payn had a cameo role as Bridger's assistant, so he could be on hand to help with any problems.
The green police car used was an Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, favored by Italian police forces in the 1960s.
The book has a completely different ending. There are no problems with the getaway, and they successfully get the gold back to England, and take it to Mr. Bridger, who tells them, "Now go and take it back to where you got it from!"
Fiat immediately saw the potential for product promotion in this movie, and offered an unlimited supply of Fiat 500s, plus top-of-the-line Lamborghinis and Ferraris, plus fifty thousand dollars, if the producers would use the Italian cars instead of the Minis. The Minis stayed, because they were seen as quintessentially British, and one of the themes of the movie is us vs. them (Britain versus the rest of Europe).
The roof-to-roof jump was filmed on the roof of the Fiat factory. Some crew members walked off, for fear it would end in a fatality, and the Italian Fiat workers made the sign of the cross to the stuntman.
The "Chinese" plane delivering the gold to Turin airport is one of the rare (only 14 ever built) Douglas C-74 Globemaster transport planes.
The sports car featured in the opening sequence was a Lamborghini Miura. They originally sold for $20,000. As of 2015, this is equivalent to $146,113, but they can fetch in the neighborhood of $1 million on the collector car market.
Director Peter Collinson didn't tell the responsible authorities that he would be using cars in the staircase scene in the palazzo, only "machinery".
Paramount Pictures chief Robert Evans originally wanted Robert Redford to play the part of Charlie.
Director Peter Collinson's wife, Lisa Shane, appeared in all of his movies "for luck". Here she appeared at the Mafioso's dinner, as the blonde wife of the visiting American. She was called in at the last minute because Collinson was being sent only tall, dark Italian models, and he wanted "a short, blonde scrubber".
The red sports car seen during the opening titles is a Lamborghini Miura which, with a top speed of 170 mph (270 kph) , was one of the fastest cars available at the time.
The "in the sewer" scene was filmed near Coventry in Stoke Aldermoor, where several miles of the Birmingham-Coventry sewer were being constructed. The camera car was a Mini Moke that preceded the Coopers, and was driven by one of Rémy Julienne's team. Remy was excited about the scene, as he wanted to complete a 360-degree barrel roll, essentially getting the Cooper upside down on the ceiling of the sewer. He tried three times, but the slippery algae caused problems and the Mini ended up on its roof three times. The car was so badly damaged, that a forth attempt was ruled out. Sound Mixer John Aldred claims that Remy did complete a barrel roll on one rehearsal, but the cameras weren't rolling. It was the only stunt in the finished movie to defeat Remy.
The screenplay originally was set in London and was to have been a television show. However, the scope of the production was too large for British television at the time, and the script was purchased for the movie and the setting changed to Turin, because it had the most extensive computer-controlled traffic monitoring system in Europe. Milan had been the original location choice until the producers realized it would be impossible to get a shooting permit.
Some of the traffic jam scenes were real. The movie crew blocked off some key roads. The Italian drivers became very annoyed, but they did not notice who the culprits were.
Noël Coward was paid £25,000 for just ten days' work, all of which was filmed in Dublin, Ireland, to avoid paying punitive UK tax rates.
In August 2001, to mark the completion of a new ten-kilometer sewer in Hull, England, Yorkshire Water re-created the famous scene where the Minis escape through the tunnels of Turin, this time using the recently-released new-shape BMW Mini Cooper.
At the time of filming there was no ending, and it was left to Paramount Pictures to create one. The main crew and writer hated what they came up with, so the second unit was given the job of filming it.
Noël Coward was director Peter Collinson's godfather in real life. The part was partly in recognition of the role he played in giving Collinson, who had grown up unhappy in an orphanage, his start.
Screenwriter Troy Kennedy-Martin wanted Nicol Williamson for the role of Mr. Bridger, a character he envisioned as "tough as nails" and totally in control of the situation. Director Peter Collinson offered the role to Noël Coward instead, which changed the tone of the character.
The coach used in this movie was a Bedford VAL with Harrington Legionaire bodywork.
The deleted "Blue Danube" sequence was filmed in the Exhibition Hall designed by Pier Luigi Nervi and completed in 1949 after only eight months of construction. It was updated for use as a hockey rink for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin.
Marketing in the UK included a novelization, a vinyl record of the soundtrack and replicas of the Minis displayed in foyers in selected cinemas.
The job (set in 1969) was about stealing $4 million in gold from Italy. [Noël Coward] tells [Sir Michael Caine] he is about to steal a half-ton (1000 lb.) of gold from under the noses of the Mafia. The price of gold in 1969 was about $42 a Troy ounce. That would equal $612,486. They would need to steal about 6,530 lb. to equal $4 million in 1969.
Footage from this film was used in MacGyver: Thief of Budapest (1985). In the story, MacGyver and a band of gypsies use the Mini Coopers to escape from Hungary.
Michael Caine tells in his biography that Benny Hill was professional but a very shy and private person who never socialized with the cast.. He stayed alone in his room even if the whole crew stayed at the same hotel.
Cilla Black was offered the role of Lorna, but her agent turned it down without her knowledge.
The number plates on the three Minis all have a reference to parts in this movie. The red Mini has the number "HMP 729G", this is "Her Majesty's Prison" and Charlie Croker's Michael Caine's prison number. The white Mini is "GPF 146G", this is Grand Prix flag as referred to by Birkinshaw (Fred Emney). The blue Mini is "LGW 809G", and refers to the flight number that the gang would have taken had they been successful. "LGW" refers to London Gatwick and the flight number.
Sir Michael Caine and Quincy Jones, who wrote the score, were born on the same day, March 14, 1933.
When Croker is getting out his equipment from under the bed, after he leaves prison, he calls the rope and grappling hook "Hazel". This is probably an in-joke, referring to director Peter Collinson's wife Hazel Collinson, known professionally as Lisa Shane.
The plate number of the Daimler limo in which Mr. Bridger arrives at "Great Aunt Nellies" funeral shows "HMP 1", which stands for "Her Majesty's Prison". Prison vehicles wouldn't have had personalized number plates, and they would not have been Daimlers; they would have been Morris commercial vans, regardless of their "status".
It's a British movie in which the three Mini stunt drivers are French--Rémy Julienne's team--and the three vehicles are blue, red and white--the colors of the French and British flags.
The white Dormobile used in the getaway has a few references to English football players of the time. On the left-hand side there is Bobby Moore, the English captain of the 1966 and 1970 World Cup squads, and two photos of Alan Ball and one of Roger Hunt. On the right-hand side is "Osgood is good", a reference to Peter Osgood, and Colin Bell. There are photos of Bobby Charlton and Moore. All were First Division and England capped players in 1969.
The slogan on the side of the Ford Thames dormobile "We shall not be moved" was a popular English football chant at the time this film was made.