Aerosmith was the second choice to play the Future Villain Band. KISS was approached first, but turned down the role fearing it would hurt their image. They instead opted to star in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978).
Billy Preston, who sang "Get Back", played the piano on the original version with The Beatles. As such, he is the only person in the film who was actually involved with the band in the creation of their music.
During the filming of Strawberry's funeral, Peter Frampton forced himself to cry by thinking of the then-recent Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash that claimed the lives of several friends and associates.
Alice Cooper checked himself into a New York City rehab facility (which he quickly discovered was more of a mental asylum) for alcoholism. He was granted a temporary leave for three days (November 18 to 20, 1977) to record his vocals and shoot his scenes for the film.
For the finale of the film, it was decided that they'd assemble an enormous roster of celebrities to sing the reprise of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Formal invitations were engraved and sent to virtually everyone in the entertainment industry. The many who RSVP'd were treated to first-class transportation to Los Angeles, limos, luxurious hotels, champagne, a lavishly catered dinner, and private tents for each of the stars in the studio's garden room.
Originally, The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton were given dialogue. However, since they all had British accents and the film was supposed to be taking place in middle America, it was decided that they would do away with all dialogue, and use George Burns' role as narrator to supply the dialogue for all the characters.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both attended the premiere, and subsequently shunned the film. John Lennon and George Harrison refused to see it.
The film was adapted as a comic book, which was intended to be released as Marvel Super Special #7. For reasons which were never officially disclosed, the book was never issued in the U.S. The comic was, however, released in France, The Netherlands, and Germany (with text in the respective language of each country), but copies of these releases are scarce.
Alice Cooper first tried to impersonate John Lennon's vocals for the song "Because." For subsequent takes, George Martin encouraged him "to do it like Alice Cooper would do it."
Peter Frampton wanted to get on the trampoline during "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite". It wasn't allowed because he wasn't insured.
Many actors, actresses, and singers turned down roles in the film, including Olivia Newton-John (Strawberry Fields), Donna Summer (Lucy), Elton John, Barry Manilow, Bob Hope (Mr. Kite), Doris Day (Mrs. Fields), and Rock Hudson (Mr. Fields).
When production began, The Bee Gees were sharing a trailer. Saturday Night Fever (1977) was released early into the shoot, and the soundtrack became such an instant, overwhelming success, that the Gibb brothers were each given his own trailer.
The shooting script called for Peter Frampton's character to kill Steven Tyler's. When it came time to film this scene, Aerosmith threatened to walk out. "There's no fucking way that Steven is gonna get directly offed by Frampton", commented Joe Perry. "It's gotta be an accident, the way it was in the original script we fucking agreed to." They finally agreed to a compromise, with Sandy Farina accidentally pushing Tyler's character to his death.
Rumor has it that Andy Gibb was offered the part of Billy Shears, and turned it down.
Donald Pleasence's character is referred to in Burns' narrative voice-over as "B.D. Hoffler", but officially known in the film's credits, publicity materials, and in-film posters as B.D. Brockhurst.
Three songs from the soundtrack charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. Earth Wind & Fire's version of "Got to Get You Into My Life" charted the highest, at number nine. Robin Gibb's solo performance of "Oh Darlin'" reached number 15. Aerosmith's version of "Come Together" reached number 23.
Variety show veteran Chris Bearde was hired to direct, but Executive Producer Robert Stigwood fired him before principal production began.
Frankie Howerd later quipped about the film "It was like Saturday Night Fever (1977), but without the fever".
The Bee Gees cited their involvement with this film for their declining popularity. Some of the most vicious criticism of the soundtrack was levelled at them, and it hurt to be labelled "Beatles imitators," a tag that had been with them since the 1960s. At the time, they were also battling drug addiction, and the environment of making the film and its soundtrack did not help. Maurice Gibb was shocked to see crew members carrying around bags of cocaine. Robin Gibb spent much of this period unable to sleep without taking barbiturates.
John Lennon had to endure two in-flight screenings of this movie during a February 18, 1979 Pan Am flight from Rome to New York. The film was shown a second time when a snowstorm delayed landing in New York City.
In addition to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the film incorporates songs from other albums by The Beatles: "Nowhere Man" (Rubber Soul), "Got To Get You Into My Life" (Revolver), "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Magical Mystery Tour), "Get Back" (Let It Be), "Come Together", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Oh! Darling", "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", "Here Comes the Sun", "Because", "You Never Give Me Your Money", "Mean Mr. Mustard", "Polythene Pam", "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window", "Golden Slumbers", and "Carry That Weight" (Abbey Road).
Paramount Pictures was the international distributor. Nearly 30 years later, Paramount sold its music publishing arm, Famous Music, to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which has owned the publishing rights to most Beatles songs since 1995.
When asked about the film in a 1979 interview, George Harrison expressed his sympathy for Robert Stigwood, Peter Frampton, and The Bee Gees, acknowledging that they had all worked hard to achieve success before making Sgt. Pepper. Of Frampton and the Bee Gees, he said, "I think it's damaged their images, their careers, and they didn't need to do that. It's just like The Beatles trying to do The Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones can do it better."
When The Bee Gees regained control of their catalog, the soundtrack album to this film was the only album that they did not include.
Stargard, which played the Diamonds, was a funk band made up of Rochelle Runnells, Deborah Lynn Anderson, and Janice Williams. Anderson left the group in 1979 or 1980.
The creation of the soundtrack was tense from the beginning. Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees were wary of each other, and didn't know how their music would work together on the same album.
Robert Stigwood envisioned the film as being that generation's Gone with the Wind (1939).
When producer Robert Stigwood came to director Michael Schultz with the idea for the film, Schultz thought it was a bad idea. However, the last time Stingwood had come to Schultz with an idea for a film it was Grease (1978), which he also believed was not a good idea and turned it down. That film became a major success and, not trusting his instinct, he accepted the job.
Two songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band do not appear in the film, "Within You and Without You" and "Lovely Rita".
According to Carel Struycken, this was the last film made at MGM under that studio's management at the time.
Steve Martin's performance as Dr. Maxwell Edison, singing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", influenced his zany dentist role in Little Shop of Horrors (1986).
Aerosmith and Alice Cooper are the only musical acts in the film that have been classified as hard rock or heavy metal. Over ten years later, the former's lead singer Steven Tyler contributed guest vocals to the latter's song "Only My Heart Talkin'". Then during the early 1990s, both acts made famous cameos in one of the "Wayne's World" movies, Cooper in Wayne's World (1992), and Aerosmith in Wayne's World 2 (1993). These movies were released by Paramount Pictures, which distributed this movie internationally.
This was one of two Beatles themed movies released by Universal Pictures in 1978. The other being the Steven Spielberg produced I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978).
In several scenes early in the movie that take place on farm settings, you can spot some fake animals here and there, such as a fake chicken in one scene, and a suspiciously motionless sheep a short time later.