Mary Stuart Masterson's film debut, playing the daughter of actress Katharine Ross and of her own father, actor Peter Masterson.
Author Ira Levin was originally going to write this as a stage play, until he realized there were too many characters and opted to turn it into a novel instead, which the film was based on.
After the movie was released, there was a feminist demonstration against it, decrying it as being sexist. One of the protesters hit director Bryan Forbes over the head with her umbrella. Katharine Ross commented on the incident in the documentary The Stepford Life (2001) about the making of the movie, stating that this was a powerful testimony to how the movie affected the protesters.
When Joanna goes to the city to show her photos at a gallery, the large black and white photo in the gallery window is of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. Under his real name (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), he was a well-known Victorian photographer, especially of children.
Director Bryan Forbes claims that Diane Keaton turned down the role of Joanna the night before signing her contract, because her analyst got "bad vibes" from the script.
Jordan Peele's social thriller, Get Out (2017), which has become one of the most successful debut movies by a director, was directly influenced by The Stepford Wives. Peele has openly acknowledged as much in interviews, citing The Stepford Wives and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) as two of his favorite movies.
The original draft of the screenplay called for the women to wear miniskirts. Supposedly, once director Bryan Forbes cast his wife, Nanette Newman, as one of the wives, this changed. Ms. Newman did not have the figure for such revealing clothing, and the women were dressed instead in feminine but modest wardrobe. The remake, The Stepford Wives (2004), attempted to correct this design problem.
Brian De Palma was approached to direct in early 1974, due to the surprise success of Sisters (1972). However, the offer was rescinded when screenwriter William Goldman refused to work with DePalma, and DePalma ended up filming the suspense melodrama Obsession (1976) instead.
Neither film version of The Stepford Wives was very successful at the box office, although the 1975 version was well-reviewed and continues to develop a cult following. The 2004 version was pummeled by the critics and roundly despised by everyone, even some of the people who made it.
Joanna Cassidy was cast in the role of Bobbie by producer Edgar J. Scherick, and actually shot a few scenes, but was abruptly fired and replaced by Paula Prentiss, who had recently given birth to her first child.
Casting directors used actresses Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper, (aka Mary Richards and Rhoda Morganstern), as prototypes for the Joanna and Bobbie characters.
This became one of the first major studio releases not to be given a proper circuit release in the UK following its poor box office showing in the US.
When Bobbie Markowe says, "I don't want to squeeze the goddamn Charmin!", this is a reference to a television advertisement for Charmin, a brand of toilet paper, which was heavily promoted in the US in the 1970s.
Before Katharine Ross was cast in the leading role of Joanna Eberhart, Tuesday Weld had originally been set to play the part, but passed. Diane Keaton very nearly took the role.
In the novel, Second Wave feminist and "Feminine Mystique" author Betty Friedan comes to Stepford and makes an appearance at a Women's Club meeting. This is ironic since the real Friedan did see "The Stepford Wives", but she didn't like it, saying it was anti-woman and anti-human.
Director Bryan Forbes claimed that he found screenwriter William Goldman very high-handed and rude, and reluctant to change anything in his script, which several previous directors had turned down. Goldman, in turn, was infuriated that Forbes rewrote his script extensively, mostly during shooting.
Producer Edgar J. Scherick offered Brian De Palma the opportunity to direct 'The Stepford Wives' after he had seen his cult thriller, Sisters (1972). When screenwriter William Goldman got wind of this, he threatened to quit since he did not like De Palma's work. The producers acquiesced, and British director Bryan Forbes was hired (much to his own surprise).
Early on during pre-production, Edgar J. Scherick suggested that Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper could play "Joanna Eberhart" and "Bobbie Markowe" respectively. This was vetoed immediately by William Goldman who deemed it as a "very gimmicky publicity stunt", as both actresses were very popular at the time starring in top-rated sitcoms. The idea was dismissed before casting ever began.
Actress Tina Louise played Ginger in the television series Gilligan's Island (1964) while actress Judith Baldwin played Ginger in the television movie Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978).
Franklin Cover, who stars as one of the Stepford husbands, was also starring on the television sitcom, The Jeffersons (1975) at the time of the film's release. His wife in the movie, actress Tina Louise, was also a sitcom star; she played Ginger on Gilligan's Island (1964).
When the casting process began, producer Edgar J. Scherick, who had secured the rights to Ira Levin's novel desiring to achieve "another Rosemary's Baby (1968)", suggested Mia Farrow for the role of Joanna. The idea was quickly dropped, and the actress, then living in England, was never approached.