While Christopher Reeve was filming this movie, the local theater decided to show his latest hit Superman (1978). Many of the "Somewhere" cast joined the locals for the event. Early into the screening, the sound went out. Reeve, who was seated next to Jane Seymour, stood up in the audience and delivered all the lines.
Although the film was a box office disappointment in the United States, it was a huge hit in Asia. Somewhere in Time (1980) is one of the highest-grossing films in China, and played in Hong Kong for eighteen months.
According to producer Stephen Deutsch, Christopher Reeve's agent literally laughed in his face when he was told the salary his client would be offered for the role ( in what would be his first role after his star-making performance in the smash hit Superman (1978)). He refused to read the script or allow Reeve to hear about it. Knowing he could not proceed without a star, Deutsch clandestinely slipped Reeve the script in his hotel room. Reeve called the next day and said he loved the script and would accept the part. Reeve told Deutsch that another reason why he accepted was that the other project he was being offered at the time was a viking movie.
A split focus diopter (a half convex glass) lens was used in the scene when Richard is crushed when he thinks Elise has left, and the viewer sees Elise down on the grass slowly moving into view. This mechanism effectively splits the shot in half so that the two subjects, although at different points in distance, can both be in focus.
Playing the older Elise McKenna, actress Susan French only has four words of dialogue in the whole film. These were spoken when she gives Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) the antique gold fob-watch. The four words of dialogue were "Come back to me," a very serious key scene in the movie. During one take, as a joke, French said instead four other words, "Have it fixed, dear," which caused the whole set to crack-up with laughter.
The moment when Richard Collier first sees the portrait of Elise McKenna in the film was also the first time Christopher Reeve saw the portrait. Reeve did not want to see the portrait ahead of time, which helped meet the director's objective of getting a genuine reaction from him when he first sees the portrait as Richard.
Actress Jane Seymour suggested composer John Barry to director Jeannot Szwarc as a candidate to compose the score for Somewhere in Time (1980), but Szwarc balked at the idea, saying that because of their tight budget, they couldn't even afford to ask him. But Seymour said that Barry was a friend of hers and that she would ask him. She told Barry about the project, he loved it and agreed to do it.
The famous picture of Elise McKenna was also used as a picture of Michaela Quinn (also played by Jane Seymour (I)') in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993).
The film's two male lead actors were both called Christoper. Director Jeannot Szwarc ran into a small problem directing both Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer in the same scene. When he said, "Chris," both men replied, "Yes?" He said that this would never do, so he consulted with producer Stephen Deutsch, and together they decided that from now on, Christopher Plummer would be known as "Mr. Plummer", and Christopher Reeve would be known as "Bigfoot".
While Richard and Elise are walking together on the grounds of the Grand Hotel, the extras in the background move to and from poses of classical impressionist paintings (Monet, Stevens, etc.).
According to the DVD Bonus Features, Jane Seymour tells a story about Christopher Reeve's airplane, which was parked on the island. Late at night, Seymour and Reeve would discreetly leave and go for plane trips. Seymour states that they flew to Toronto in Canada several times.
About a decade after the film first came out, a major global fan club was created by Bill Shepard in 1990. Called INSITE, the acronym stands for the "International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts". It's mission statement is to "Honor the film, and those responsible for its creation, to Inform members about all aspects of it, to enhance their appreciation of it, as well as to influence public and media perception of the film, to assure its recognition as the classic we know it to be."
There is a follow-up to this movie in the form of a sequel/prequel book, Memoirs of Elise, written by David L. Gurnee. This book answers the questions of what happened to Elise during the sixty years apart from Richard, how did she discover where Richard Collier had come from, and how did she find him.
Automobiles are not allowed on Mackinac Island, Michigan, location of the Grand Hotel and site of much of the movie. The use of cars for the movie required special permission from the town. Although cars were allowed for filming, the cast and crew weren't allowed to drive them outside of actual filming for the movie.
Composer John Barry's father died several days before Christmas 1979 and his mother died the following April. Barry stated that he did not typically compose this style of music, and that the feelings and emotions from the loss of his parents had a lot to do with what he wrote.
The date that Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) and Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) meet in the film is 27th June 1912. The centenary of the time was celebrated by fans of the film on 27th June 2012. The anniversary was just a couple of months after the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, the subject of another romantic movie that also existed in two time frames and shares a number of parallels with this film.
This is technically George Wendt's film debut. However, while he is credited, his scenes were cut.
Elise's line "Is it you?" was actually flubbed by Jane Seymour during the take that's in the film, and she had to rerecord it in post-production.
Composer John Barry considered using the slow movement (Adagietto) from the Mahler Symphony Number 5 in place of the Rachmaninoff variation. He felt that it was too overwhelming. However, in the scene in Richard's loft during the "eight years later" segment, we see, prominently, an album cover for a recording of Mahler Symphony Number 5.
Christopher Reeve's 1912 hat is on display in the check in lobby of the Grand Hotel which has always been on the lower floor. In the movie, a makeshift "desk" was made for the movie. The small music box Teresa Wright's character has in her home of the Grand Hotel is also on display there.
There were problems with the original footage of Elise performing on stage, so the scenes of her had to be re-shot. The second time around, Jane Seymour delivered the speech to the author and screenwriter Richard Matheson instead of Christopher Reeve. Matheson was supposedly so moved and upset by the experience, he had to call his wife and return home immediately.
Many of the extras and background artists in the movie were residents of the the film's principal shooting location of Michigan's Mackinac Island.
The film's recurring haunting theme music, selected by composer John Barry, was the eighteenth variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini".
As of at least 2008, the numbers of Elise and Richards rooms do not exist at the Grand Hotel. There is, however, a Somewhere In Time suite.
The film got made because the Universal Pictures studio owed director Jeannot Szwarc a favor because Jaws 2 (1978) had been the studio's biggest box-office performer of 1978. Somewhere in Time (1980)'s budget was originally set at US $8 million but the studio cut it in half to US $4 million and would only green-light the film with such a reduction due to a belief and resistance by studio executives that the film had limited appeal - the time-travel aspect of the film had no visual effects or time-machine, the picture being made in the genesis of the post Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) special and visual effects boom era.
The film is based on author and scriptwriter Richard Matheson's dream about meeting renowned stage actress Maude Adams. Matheson never met her in real life, only saw her portrait in Piper's Opera House Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada and fantasized what it would be like to go back in time and meet her; hence the character of writer Richard Collier has the same first name as Richard Matheson.
The film was made and released about five years after its source novel "Bid Time Return" by Richard Matheson was first published in 1975. The book won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1976. Matheson also wrote the film's screenplay. Editions of the novel published since the film was made have adopted the film's "Somewhere in Time" title. The film's original working title was the book's title, "Bid Time Return". That title is derived from a line from Act III, Scene 2 in William Shakespeare's play "Richard II". It reads: "O call back yesterday, bid time return."
Producer Stephen Deutsch accepted responsibility for the film's box office failure, saying that he made a mistake allowing it to be released wide on opening day (as opposed to opening in limited markets and gradually expanding to further theaters). One of the problems was that the Screen Actor's Guild was on strike at the time, leaving the film without the promotion of its stars. Reportedly, Deutsch cried for a lot of the film's opening weekend.
The hotel in the film's source novel, the Hotel del Coronado, was the first choice for use in the film. The hotel had been well known for its appearance in the classic film Some Like It Hot (1959) but it could not be used in this film version due to its modernization. This modernizing, preventing a depiction of 1912 film reality, included roof antennas, aluminum windows, new tennis courts and a high-rise convention center built on the property. The Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel was sited in the book "Great American Hotels", was perfect, and was selected for use in the film. Today, there is a plaque on stone monument placed on the hotel's site at the actual place where Richard and Elise met in the film. Ironically, due to the limited budget, cast and crew did not stay at the hotel during principal photography, they stayed in dormitories on the other side of Mackinac Island. The Hotel del Coronado did not miss out on a film production though, it was used for another picture around the same time that this film was made, for The Stunt Man (1980).
The gazebo built and used in the film now sits next to Fort Mackinac high on a bluff overlooking Marquette Park, on Mackinac Island. It used to reside on the Governor's Estate, but was moved to its new location in the winter of 2006.
Broadway musical version of the movie, with same title, is set to open in New York City in 2014, directed by Scott Schwartz. Its world premiere on stage took place in Portland, Oregon in May 2013.
The professor in the movie is named "Finney". The book's author Richard Matheson gave this character the name in tribute to Jack Finney, the science fiction writer. It is (controversially) said that Matheson stole or borrowed his idea for "Bid Time Return" - the book's title, published in 1975 - from Finney's book "Time and Again", published in 1970.
The cast stayed at The Inn on Mackinac - what is now the Mission Point Resort - where a number of scenes were filmed.
One of the two movies made during the early 1980s that actor Christopher Reeve made where he played a playwright. The other film was Deathtrap (1982).
Max von Sydow was considered for the role of William Fawcett Robinson before Christopher Plummer was cast.
The character of Elise was inspired by real life stage actress Maude Adams. Adams was well known for playing Peter Pan, a play that was written by J.M. Barrie. The composer of the film's beautiful music score is named John Barry.
One of two 1980 films starring actress Jane Seymour. The other picture was Oh Heavenly Dog (1980). Both movies featured fantasy story elements, one time-travel, the other reincarnation.
The portrait of Elise that Richard First sees at the hotel, later autographed by Jane Seymour, is now at a restaurant/bar called Valley Inn located at 4557 Sherman Oaks Ave in Sherman Oaks, California.
When Richard Collier in 1980 lays his head on a pillow while attempting to go back in time, the pattern on his pillow case as well as the bedspread he's lying on is identical to the pattern on the pillowcase he finds himself waking up on in the morning of June 27, 1912.
The names of two of the plays that playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) wrote were "Passionate Apathies" and "Too Much Spring". The name of the play that actress Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) was acting in at the Grand Hotel was "Wisdom of the Heart" by Bartlett Wells. The name of the time-travel book by Dr. Gerald Finney (George Voskovec) was "Travels Through Time".
Costume designer Jean-Pierre Dorleac was the costumer designer of the TV series Battlestar Galactica (1978) which Jane Seymour had starred in 3 episodes as Serina, the ill-fated wife of Apollo and mother of his adopted son Boxey.
This is the only one of Christopher Reeve's first four films in which Ned Beatty does not appear.
The second of two films where Christopher Reeve plays a character who travels back in time for a woman. He did so previously for Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) in Superman (1978).
Writer Richard Matheson has been documented (after his death) as having had a strong attraction to turn-of-the-Century actress Maude Adams, upon whom the film is loosely based. She had famously performed the role of Peter Pan in her career. Coincidentally, Christopher Reeve the star of the film, mentions the character in 'Superman' (1978). Furthermore, Reeve's former Juliard classmate and friend-actor Robin Williams-portrayed Peter Pan in "Hook".
Foolin' Around (1980) and Somewhere in Time (1980) were the first theatrical feature films of actor William H. Macy where he was billed in both as "W.H. Macy". Somewhere in Time (1980) released first stateside in early October 1980 prior to Foolin' Around (1980) premiering in the USA about a fortnight later mid October 1980.
The coin shop Richard exchanges his coins at "Baxter's coin shop" was a real shop on Mackinac Island. It still exists today only its called "Baxter's Somewhere In Time Shop". It confuses customers that come in for coins, however, since it no longer is a coin shop.
There are a number of elements in John Barry's compositions for this film that can be heard in other films that he has scored. For example, his original love theme has a number of changes and keynotes that would be used four years later in his score for Out of Africa (1985).
The 1951 British film 'I'll Never Forget You' aka 'The House in the Square' starring Tyrone Power Jr has a similar theme to this story, although in that film the time travel aspect is accidental. That film itself is a loose color remake of a film from the 1930s.