The movie was inspired by an actual series of games in Kiev, during the German occupation of the city. Several members of Dynamo Kiev, the top soccer team in Ukraine, found work in a bakery. There they formed a soccer team with other bakery employees. They began playing in a new league against teams supported by the Ukranian puppet government and German military. After they beat a team from a local German Air Force base, the league was disbanded, and several of the team members were arrested by the Gestapo, and four were executed.
Sylvester Stallone started soccer training on weekends off during the filming of Nighthawks (1981). Stallone received training from England's World Cup winning goalkeeper, Gordon Banks. Initially, Stallone paid little attention to Banks' advice, as he didn't think the training was necessary, and recklessly threw himself around on the first day of filming the match. Eventually, he hit the ground so hard that he dislocated a shoulder and broke one of his ribs, putting him out of action for several days. When he returned, Stallone paid much more attention to what Banks was telling him, but still sustained several minor injuries over the course of filming, including another broken rib. After production was finished, Stallone commented that the experience had been harder than fighting in the Rocky movies.
Reportedly, Sylvester Stallone insisted that his character score the game-winning goal in this movie, as he felt he was the biggest star in this movie. The non-American crew was finally able to convince him of the absurdity of the goalkeeper scoring the winning goal, and the penalty shot was specifically written to placate his ego.
The MTK Stadium in Budapest, Hungary was used to play the Stade Colombes (Colombes Stadium) in Paris, France, where the movie's climactic football match takes place. The producers had had difficulty finding a large stadium without floodlights, as floodlights at football stadiums were largely unknown until well after World War II. The MTK stadium, now known as the Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium, was the biggest one without lights (but at the same time structurally similar to Continental stadiums that were around during World War II) that they could find. The stadium today is the home of the MTK Hungária Football Club.
Apart from acting in the movie, Pelé also assisted in choreographing all the playing actions in the climactic game.
Sylvester Stallone broke one of his fingers trying to stop Pelé from scoring a goal.
Osvaldo Ardiles said of the 47-year-old Sir Michael Caine and his soccer skills, "Awful, and he couldn't even run twenty yards."
Sir Michael Caine admitted that the only reason he agreed to make this movie was the opportunity to work alongside footballing legend Pelé.
Sylvester Stallone lost about forty pounds for this movie because he didn't want a prisoner of war to look like an "Olympic boxer", and he felt he needed that weight reduction to perform the tasks of a soccer goalie.
Other than Sylvester Stallone and Sir Michael Caine, the rest of the Allied players (that play in the game) were actual soccer stars from various countries around the world, mostly from the 1970s and 80s. Some of them performed the "tricks" for which they were famous, such as Pelé with a bicycle kick.
The original draft of the script was a serious drama, based on the true story of a group of allied P.O.W.s challenged to a football match by the Germans. The deal was that if the Germans won the match, the P.O.W.s would be set free in Switzerland. However, if the P.O.W.s won, they would be shot. The P.O.W.s decided to go for "victory", won the match and were consequently executed.
During the climactic soccer match, when the commentator says that there is fifteen minutes left in the game, there is exactly fifteen minutes and five seconds left until the end of the end credits.
A three acre prison set was built in the grounds of the Allag Riding Stables on the outskirts of Budapest, Hungary. The P.O.W. set took three months to construct.
Several soccer players from the Ipswich Town Football Club featured in this movie. These included Kevin Beattie, Paul Cooper, Kevin O'Callaghan, Russell Osman, Laurie Sivell, Robin Turner, and John Wark.
At the playing of the German National Anthem, the assorted German officers stand and salute. S.S. officers in black uniforms (apart from one or two) give the Nazi salute, and Luftwaffe officers in grey give the standard military salute (hand to headgear with palm down). This is correct, so long as the events took place prior to July 1944, when the Nazi salute was imposed across the whole Wehrmacht.
When questioned by news reporters in 2014, Osvaldo Ardiles said that his greatest ever sporting moment was playing in this movie, despite Ardiles being a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978, and having other major honors throughout his football career.
Kevin O'Callaghan, who played the young goalkeeper who has his arm broken in this movie, never played in goal professionally. Instead, he enjoyed a successful career as a winger with Millwall, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and the Republic of Ireland.
In the scene where the Germans discover Hatch's escape, the German guard reporting speaks Hungarian instead of German. Most likely, the actor was a Hungarian extra. He says "jelentem, a létszám 93 fo", which roughly translates as "(I report) ninety-three people are present." Also, one of the French Resistance men speaks English (to Hatch) with a noticeable Hungarian accent.
Sylvester Stallone antagonized his fellow cast and crew members by refusing to eat with them and disappearing off to London or Paris every weekend on a private jet.
The movie was originally slated to star Lloyd Bridges and Clint Eastwood. French actor Alain Delon was also touted to appear.
This movie featured eighteen international professional football players of the time appearing in both acting and sports action stunt roles. Soccer stars who have key roles in this movie included Brazilian Pelé as Allied Trinidadian Corporal Luis Fernandez, England's Bobby Moore as the Allies' English Terry Brady, Argentina's Osvaldo Ardiles as Allied Argentine Carlos Rey, Scotland's John Wark as Scottish Arthur Hayes, Ireland's Kevin O'Callaghan as the Allied Irish goalkeeper Tony Lewis, Poland's Kazimierz Deyna as Polish player Paul Wolchek, Norway's Hallvar Thoresen as Norwegian player Gunnar Hilsson, Belgium's Paul Van Himst as Belgian Michel Fileu, Denmark's Søren Lindsted as Danish Allie Erik Ball, U.S.'s Werner Roth as German Team Captain Baumann, England's Mike Summerbee as Allied Soccer Player Sid Harmor, England's Russell Osman as Doug Clure, Holland's Co Prins as Dutch Pieter Van Beck, while England's Laurie Sivell played the German goalkeeper Schmidt.
Upon theatrical release, this movie was described as a cross between The Great Escape (1963) and The Longest Yard (1974), and alternatively, also as a cross between The Great Escape (1963) and Rocky (1976).
One of the footballers, Mike Summerbee, became friendly with Sir Michael Caine. After retiring from football, Summerbee went into bespoke shirt-making. Caine is one of his favored customers.
Sylvester Stallone nixed the idea of using a professional player as a double for the game sequences. As a result, he separated his shoulder and broke a finger.
This movie is similar in storyline to two earlier European movies made around 1962. Firstly, it is similar to the Hungarian black-and-white movie Two Half-Times in Hell (1961). Winner of the Critics' Award at the 1962 Boston Cinema Festival, this movie told of a soccer match between Allied P.O.W.s and German soldiers and held on Adolf Hitler's birthday. This movie is also similar in storyline to the earlier Russian movie, Tretiy taym (1963).
The movie was scored by Bill Conti, who had composed the Oscar nominated score for Sylvester Stallone's Rocky (1976). This movie is one of around ten collaborations of the pair and one of just a handful of non-Rocky films scored by Conti and starring Stallone, with the others being F.I.S.T. (1978), Lock Up (1989), and Paradise Alley (1978).
A location scout covering seven countries was conducted to find the appropriate sports stadium which would reflect a 1940s Europe in Paris, France.
Screenwriter Yabo Yablonsky hated the revisions made to his script, and was so horrified when he saw the finished movie, that he even briefly considered taking his own life.
Sir Michael Caine played the main character in Get Carter (1971). Sylvester Stallone played the main character in Get Carter (2000), with Sir Michael Caine appearing in a supporting role.
Carole Laure received an "introducing" credit despite the fact that she had appeared in numerous French language movies.
Paris' Colombe Stadium in France was portrayed by Budapest's MTK Stadium in Hungary. The actual stadium could not be used as its exteriors were surrounded by post-World War II modern buildings. Overall, it was considered that Paris was too modern to film there. Since World War II, Budapest had emphasized reconstruction rather than modernizing. The MTK Stadium in Budapest compared closely to the Colombe Stadium in Paris. Emperor Franz Joseph I of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire had previously commissioned state architects there to make Budapest the "Paris of the East" of Europe.
This was the only acting role for the vast majority of the football players who appeared in this movie.
Many of the actors had to learn how to play soccer, while many of the soccer players had to learn how to act.
Kevin Beattie stood-in as an action double for Sir Michael Caine during the football scenes, while Paul Cooper did the same for Sylvester Stallone.
This movie featured eighteen international soccer stars of the time, appearing in acting and sports action stunt roles.
This movie is both known as "Victory" and "Escape to Victory" in various territories, though its original English title is "Victory". In some territories, it was released under one of these titles in theaters, and and then the other title for videocassette release.
Michael Caine noticed that Sylvester Stallone began turning up late for filming after a while. When Caine told Stallone that he had an important appointment elsewhere (he hadn't) and that Caine was going to arrive for work when he felt like it, Stallone always came to the set on time hence forth.
In an early scene, when the Allied officers are playing cards and chatting, Rose (Tim Pigott-Smith) jokingly says "Elementary, my dear Shurlock" to Shurlock (Julian Curry). Three Allied officers in that scene played in Sherlock Holmes productions: Julian Curry and Daniel Massey played in back-to-back episodes of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1991), and Sir Michael Caine played the great detective himself, in the comedy-adventure production Without a Clue (1988). He also did voice-over work in Sherlock Gnomes (2018).
One of this movie's main posters shows the left and right red sleeve arms of Sir Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone respectively pushed-upwards stretching from their red soccer guernseys and symbolic of a goal victory, forming a V-shape signifying the V of the word Victory, this being the movie's title.
Casting: Fate brought "Victory" to Stallone. In 1979, Stallone was looking to buy a beach house in Malibu, CA. One of the houses he looked at was owned by producer Freddie Fields. After Stallone looked over the house, he met Fields out on the sundeck to tell him that, unfortunately, the house was too small. Not to let a good opportunity pass, Fields began to tell Stallone the story of a new film he wanted to make entitled "Victory." Fields happened to have an available script on him. Stallone was intrigued enough to to take the script home with him. Three days later, Stallone announced he wanted to play Captain Hatch in the movie.
Sylvester Stallone wanted to be the one to score the winning goal, but was persuaded by soccer-supporting cast and crew that a goalkeeper scoring would be absurd. In the years since this movie was made, Stallone has proven to be more right than the soccer experts. In the modern game, when there's nothing to lose, a goalkeeper will sometimes abandon his goal and go forward for a last minute set-piece such as a corner, adding to his team's numbers in the area near the goal. This tactic has occasionally succeeded. Manchester United's iconic goalie Peter Schmeichel scored such a goal in 1997.
Pele's character claims to have learned how to play football kicking oranges as a child in Trinidad. In real life Pele claims that he used to practice as a child by kicking fruit in Brazil
Fourth sports movie for Sylvester Stallone after Rocky (1976), Paradise Alley (1978), and Rocky II (1979).
First prison movie of Sylvester Stallone, who played one of the Allied prisoners of war. Stallone starred in the prison movies Lock Up (1989), Escape Plan (2013), Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) and Escape Plan: The Extractors (2019).
Director John Huston and Sir Michael Caine collaborated on The Man Who Would Be King (1975).
At 47 years old at the time of filming Michael Caine was far too old to be playing a supposedly current West Ham and England player. Even he thought it was a strange bit of casting but nonetheless agreed to be in the movie because it would give him a chance to meet the legendary Brazilian player Pelé (who himself was 40 years old during filming and had retired several years beforehand).
The film was a hard sell to North American audiences (where soccer is not the national sport) and struggled at the box-office. However it did reasonably well in South America and Europe thanks in part to it's sprinkling of famous international players in the cast and Stallone's name on the poster.