Several professors of music stated, after studying all of the musical keys struck on pianos throughout the film, that not one key is struck incorrectly when compared to what is heard at the exact same moment. In other words, what you see is exactly what you hear.
When shooting the scene in which Salieri is writing down the death mass under Mozart's dictation, Tom Hulce was deliberately skipping lines to confuse F. Murray Abraham, in order to achieve the impression that Salieri wasn't able to fully understand the music being dictated.
Only four sets needed to be built: Salieri's hospital room, Mozart's apartment, a staircase, and the vaudeville theater. All other locations were found locally.
In one scene, Mozart refers to Christoph Willibald Gluck as "boring" and says, "I don't like" George Frideric Handel. However, Gluck and Handel were two of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's favorite composers.
The young boy that Mozart smiles at in the party scene as he plays the piano is supposed to be the young Beethoven.
The performance of "Don Giovanni" in the movie was filmed on the same stage where the opera first appeared.
In preparation for some aspects of the title role, actor Tom Hulce studied footage of temperamental tennis star John McEnroe's on-court tennis tantrums.
Tom Hulce said he based Mozart's distinctive, obnoxious laugh on a very famous director he worked with, who laughed in an identical manner. As of 2016, he has still refused to name the director.
Milos Forman insisted that his lead actors retain their American accents so that they could concentrate on their characters and performance instead.
When the movie won Best Picture at The 57th Annual Academy Awards (1985), Sir Laurence Olivier was presenting the award. He went up to the podium, opened the envelope and said "Amadeus." The problem was he forgot to read the nominees first. An AMPAS official quickly went onstage to confirm the winner and signalled that all was well, before Olivier then presented the award to producer Saul Zaentz. Olivier (in his 78th year) had been ill for many years, and it was because of mild dementia that he forgot to read the nominees. Zaentz then thanked Olivier, saying it was an honour to receive the award from him, before mentioning the other nominees in his acceptance speech: The Killing Fields (1984), A Passage to India (1984), Places in the Heart (1984) and A Soldier's Story (1984).
Salieri's chaste, unexpressed love for Katarina Cavalieri is shattered by the realization that Mozart slept with her. In real life, Katarina Cavalieri slept with Antonio Salieri, not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
When Mozart upstages Salieri by modifying the march that Salieri wrote for the emperor, the modified piece is actually Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's own "Non piu andrai, farfallone amoroso" from "The Marriage of Figaro".
Prague (Milos Forman's native city) was ideal as a stand-in for Vienna, as modern television antennas, plastic and asphalt had rarely been introduced under Communist rule.
Entire film was shot with natural light. In order to get the proper diffusion of light for some scenes, the DPs covered windows from the outside with tracing paper.
Several real (or at least apocryphal) events from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life were incorporated into the screenplay, including the interlude between the child Mozart and Marie Antionette, and the Emperor's comment that "Abduction from the Seraglio" had "too many notes".
The portrait of Leopold Mozart seen in the movie, while made to look like Roy Dotrice, is based on and has a very close resemblance to a real portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's father. The original is in the care of the Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg.
"Amadeus" joins a select group of other Best Picture Academy Award winners never to crack the box office top 5.
The film ironically helped spark a revival of Salieri's music, which had previously languished in obscurity.
The music was pre-recorded and played in the background as scenes were filmed. Tom Hulce practiced four hours a day at the piano to appear convincing.
Sets and costumes for the operatic productions were based on sketches of the original costumes and sets used when the operas premiered.
Tim Curry and Mark Hamill both auditioned for the role of Mozart (and played Mozart on Broadway).
During the start Confutatis section dictation, a miscue from John Strauss (who was cuing the music phrase for both actors via AM wave hearing aids) got Tom Hulce lost and confused because he was waiting for the exact pitch and phrase coming in. The miscue was included in the final film - when F. Murray Abraham repeats the phrase 'A minor', Hulce was not responding for a while as he was actually waiting for the cue.
One of only 4 productions to win both a Tony Award for Best Play (1981) and the Best Picture Oscar (1984). The other 3 are My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) (both of which won Best Musical Tonys) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).
It has been claimed that the concept for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's bizarre laugh was taken from "references in letters written about him by two women who met him", that describe him as laughing in "an infectious giddy" which sounds "like metal scraping glass". No citations have ever been provided for these letters, however. There is no indication as to who wrote them, to whom or when. And in the absence of further citations, these claims of historical evidence for Mozart's laugh should be regarded as dubious at best. Robert L. Marshall, writing in "Film as Musicology: Amadeus" (The Musical Quarterly, Vol.18/2, 1997, p.177) says that there is "absolutely no historical evidence for this idiosyncrasy. We simply have no contemporary testimony at all as to how Mozart sounded when he laughed." Marshall goes on to explain that the laugh is a dramatic device, representing the mocking laughter of the gods, as Salieri states in the script.
Milos Forman and Peter Shaffer spent four months adapting the very stylized play into a workable script. They added characters such as the priest, maid, archbishop, and mother-in-law; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's character was enlarged beyond Antonio Salieri's perceptions; and Salieri's monologues were reworked visually.
F. Murray Abraham was in the make-up chair for an average of 4.5 hours each day he played the old age Salieri.
Throughout the entire film, all German (even those in the operas) is translated to English. All Italian is left as Italian. This was done to help viewers better immerse themselves in the time that was Classical Era Austria.
According to John Harkness's book "The 1999 Academy Awards Handbook", Maurice Jarre, in his speech accepting the 1984 Best Original Score Oscar for A Passage to India (1984), expressed his gratitude that Amadeus (1984) had not been Oscar-nominated for Best Original Score. An obvious joke, since none of Amadeus' score was original.
Elizabeth Berridge, during the Nipples of Venus scene, did not know she could spit out the candy (which was really lumps of marzipan) between takes and ate about 15 whole pieces. She later describes how she thought that they were disgusting and that she eventually made herself sick.
Neville Marriner had less than an hour to commit to the project as he was in between connecting flights at New York when he met with Milos Forman and Saul Zaentz. Marriner agreed to do it on the proviso that not one note of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music be changed.
Tom Hulce only knew how to play the guitar before shooting. Milos Forman said they could cheat it, but it would be good if he learned how to play the piano. Hulce spent six hours a day for six months learning how to play the piano, and every Mozart symphony that was in the film.
According to Milos Forman's autobiography, one studio offered to funding the film on the one condition that Forman cast Walter Matthau (a reported Mozart enthusiast) for the role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Forman refused the offer, considering Matthau to be too old for the role, since he was more than 60, and Mozart only lived to be 35.
The soundtrack made #56 in the Billboard album charts, making it one of the most successful classical music albums ever.
The piece of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music with the oboe and clarinet themes, whose score Salieri so deeply admires in the early scenes, is the Adagio, or third movement, of the Serenade No. 10 in B-flat, KV361, also known as "Gran Partita".
Peter Shaffer broke down in tears when he first visited the Prague opera house, knowing that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself had performed there.
The "Don Giovanni" scene was being shot in part on the Fourth of July. During one take, upon Milos Forman's call of "Action", a large American flag unfurled from the ceiling. 500 extras stood up from their seats and begun to sing "The Star Spangled Banner". The only extras that did not stand up were about thirty people, scattered throughout the theater- at first thought to be normal people, but it was deduced that these thirty were members of the Czechoslovakian secret police.
Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham had a deliberately distant working relationship during the making of the film, much their characters do.
F. Murray Abraham originally sought for the small role of Rosenberg. During one audition session, Milos Forman asked him to read for the part of the old Salieri. His reading was so good that Forman has already had in mind of him playing the lead role but deliberately stopped short of saying "you got the part" because Forman knew that casting him for that would clash with his work on Scarface (1983), so he deliberately waited until he nearly completed all his scenes. A few days later, Forman asked Abraham to do the same reading for a few more audition sessions, but his refusal to do so eventually convinced Forman to cast him because he felt Abraham "could be a great actor if there are no breaks in between."
Baron van Swieten (played by Jonathan Moore) has a Dracula connection. He was the son of Gerhard van Swieten, appointed by Empress Maria Theresia to squelch a vampire hysteria sweeping Austrian society and especially the armed forces. As the Imperial "vampire hunter," the elder van Swieten was Bram Stoker's inspiration for the character of Abraham Van Helsing in "Dracula".
Since the movie wasn't financed by a major studio, Orion Pictures promoted the film with a music video featuring David Lee Roth and cuts of Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, KISS, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and Madonna dancing along to Mozart's "Symphony No. 25 in G minor".
The musicians play on an instrument that was the forerunner to the modern piano, called the forte-piano, combining the Italian words for loud (forte) and soft (piano). This is because the instrument was the first keyboard instrument developed that could truly provide contrast between loud and soft depending on how the keys are struck by the fingers. Its popularity with the emerging European middle class is showcased in a scene in the director's cut where a wealthy family has their daughter take a lesson from Mozart. The real Mozart's piano sonatas were written with his female students in mind. It quickly outpaced the harpsichord and clavichord as a household musical instrument as well as a concert staple. The Classical Era (roughly 1750-1820) saw an end to the harpsichord being used in virtually all compositions, and the piano along with the violin becoming the chief featured instruments of concertos for solo instrument and orchestra. Also in this era, the genre of concerto was no longer a work written for orchestra without a featured solo instrument; that form of concerto was replaced by the sinfonia, later called the symphony. The forte-piano had black keys where the modern piano (fully named the pianoforte) has white keys, and white keys where the modern instrument has black. In one scene where Mr. and Mrs. Mozart are driven to a concert where Mozart is to play, six men are seen hefting the forte-piano on their shoulders through the streets of Vienna. The earlier instrument was smaller than the modern piano (with a shorter keyboard), and much lighter. It was also far less durable than its modern counterpart. Beethoven is the composer credited with helping to design a more durable instrument with a wider pitch range, leading to the instrument having to be renamed.
The original Broadway production of "Amadeus" opened at the Broadhust Theater on December 17, 1980 and ran for 1181 performances starring Ian McKellen and Tim Curry. The movie was based on the Peter Schaffer play which won the 1981 Tony Award Best Play and who also wrote the movie screenplay. Patrick Hines was in the original Broadway production, but played a different role in the movie version.
Understandably, no major studio was interested in financing a three hour biopic about a classical music composer.
Vincent Schiavelli was informed by director Milos Forman after one take of him walking that, "Television is ruining you".
Though there are dubious historical reports that the real Mozart had an obnoxious laugh, Tom Hulce created the giggle after Milos Forman asked him to come up with "something extreme." "I've never been able to make that sound except in front of a camera," Hulce later said. "When we did the looping nine months later, I couldn't find the laugh. I had to raid the producer's private bar and have a shot of whiskey to jar myself into it."
Last film to date (June 2016) to receive 2 Best Actor nominations (F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce) with F. Murray Abraham winning
Originally, a very young Kenneth Branagh was cast as Mozart, but Milos Forman changed his mind and decided to go with American actors for the principal roles.
The movie was shot without the use of light bulbs or other modern lighting devices.
The Emperor tells of the young Mozart proposing marriage to his sister, Antoinette. This was the Marie Antoinette who went to the guillotine during the French revolution.
During the opening scene, where Salieri is carried through the snowy streets, he is carried past a large extravagant mansion-like building where a party is in progress. According to Milos Forman, this building is, in reality, the French embassy in Prague.
The filmmakers often used music with text that could be interpreted as referential to the pathos of the story, and several times in Latin. One instance is where Mozart's coffin is being carried out of the church and dumped into the pauper's grave. The music is the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem mass as the choir sings "Lacrimosa dies illa,/ Qua resurget ex favilla/ Judicandus homo reus./ Huic ergo parce, Deus:/ Pie Jesu Domine:/ Dona eis requiem. Amen," which translates as "That day is one of weeping,/ on which shall rise again from the ashes/ the guilty man, to be judged./ Therefore spare this one, O God,/ merciful Lord Jesus:/ Give them rest. Amen."
The accent convention in this movie is: American accents are native German speakers. Non-American accents are foreigners even if the accent doesn't match the actual language. This is why Simon Callow (British) plays Schikaneder with an American accent, while Charles Kay speaks in his normal English accent to play Count Orsini-Rosenberg, considered in this piece to be Italian (although historically an Austrian). F. Murray Abraham, an American actor, affects a slight Italian accent for Salieri.
An important theme of movie is the change in Salieri's belief in God. That might be the reason for the title Amadeus, which means "love of God". Ironically, the word Mozart means "sloppy".
During filming in 1983, Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule. The production team was often followed around by the secret police, and Milos Forman and the cast spoke about their fears that a Fourth of July prank-the unfurling of the American flag in the concert hall and the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the large cast and crew-would lead to their arrests for inciting rebellion. Many suspected that their hotel rooms had been bugged during the six months they spent filming the movie. Forman, who was considered a traitor for becoming an American citizen and not returning to the Soviet-controlled area, had previously had one of his movies banned in the country (then called the Czech Socialist Republic). According to Twyla Tharp, in order to shoot in red territory, Forman had to make certain concessions. "Milos had to sign an agreement that he would go to his hotel every night for the year that he was there and that his driver would be his best friend from the old days," Tharp told The Hollywood Reporter. "And everybody knew what would happen to his best friend if something untoward politically happened around Milos, because Milos was a sort of local hero and he was dangerous to the authorities."
Meg Tilly originally was cast as Stanze but tore a leg ligament in a street soccer game the day before she was to film her first scene. Elizabeth Berridge, Rebecca De Mornay and Diane Franklin were both screen tested as replacements, with Berridge getting the role. Milos Forman would later succeed in casting her in a costume drama, Valmont (1989), alongside Amadeus actors Jeffrey Jones and Vincent Schiavelli.
At age 17, Cynthia Nixon played Lorl, the maid employed by Salieri to spy on Mozart. Though she was an experienced child actor at that point, she was also trying to finish her schooling. Thus, she and her parents were cautious of the time she'd need to be abroad for filming. It was agreed that if she didn't shoot for two days in a row, she'd be sent home.
The script clearly took some artistic liberties, including the plotline of the masked man who comes to Mozart pretending to be his dead father. This was not, as the movie portrays, Salieri. But in 1791, Austrian Count Franz von Walsegg-who had a penchant for commissioning music to pass off as his own at his twice-weekly concerts-approached Mozart and asked for a requiem for his beloved wife, who had died on Valentine's Day. According to a famously censored document in which a teacher near Vienna, Anton Herzog, recorded firsthand accounts of von Walsegg's court, the Count often rewrote these commissioned quartets and other scores in his own hand and didn't give credit to the original composers. His staff musicians often laughed this off because it seemed to amuse the Count, and because the Count was also an amateur musician in his own right. Mozart's "Requiem Mass in D minor," the document alleges, was one such piece. And Mozart really did die later that year, in December, before completing the full mass. Salieri didn't help him complete it though; Austrian composer and possible Mozart student Franz Süssmayr took that on.
As Mozart, having fainted, is carried out of the middle of the opera "The Magic Flute", you see three small boys with wings half following him. This is a reference to the Three Boys (Drei Knaben) who play a significant part in the opera.
Cast member Simon Callow originally portrayed the part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1979 stage production.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
This is one of only eleven films to receive more than one Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In this instance, F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were so nominated. The other ten films were Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) for which Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone were all nominated, From Here to Eternity (1953) for which Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster were nominated, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) for which Maximilian Schell and Spencer Tracy were nominated, Becket (1964) for which Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton were nominated, Sleuth (1972) for which Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine were nominated and The Dresser (1983) for which Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney, Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald in "Going My Way" (1944), James Dean and Rock Hudson in "Giant" (1956), Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones" (1958) and William Holden and Peter Finch for "Network" (1976) were nominated. Of the actors in question, only Crosby, Schell, Finch and Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the relevant performances. In an unusual twist, Barry Fitzgerald lost Best Actor to his co-star Bing Crosby, but won Best Supporting Actor for his performance, the only time in Academy history that an actor was nominated in lead and supporting categories for the same role in the same film.
In a interview on The One Show (2006) in 2013, Andrew Lloyd Webber said he was offered the role of Mozart but turned it down.
Milos Forman wanted Amy Irving to repeat her Broadway role of Mozart's wife. To his disappointment, she passed, unable to cope with six months in Prague.
Salieri says that Mozart composed his first concerto at the age of four, his first symphony at seven, and a full-scale opera at twelve. Modern scholarship believes that Mozart wrote his first symphony (Symphony No 1 in E flat, K16) at the age of eight, and his first concerto (Piano Concerto No 1 in F, K37) at eleven. As for opera, the term "Full-scale" is open to interpretation, but most would cite La Finta Simplice, K46a, written when Mozart was twelve. However, Mozart's father routinely lied about his son's age to make him seem even more of a prodigy, so Salieri's statement was quite possibly what was then believed.
The filmmakers often used music with text that could be interpreted as referential to the pathos of the story, and several times in Latin. One instance is where Mozart yells at his wife: "Go back to bed!" The music heard starting in that moment is the Rex tremendae from his Requiem mass as the choir sings "Rex tremendae maiestatis/ qui salvandos salvas gratis/ salve me, fons pietatis," which translates as "King of awful majesty/ You freely save those worthy of salvation/ Save me, fount of pity."
As of 2018, the last film to earn two Best Actor Oscar nominations, with F. Murray Abraham winning, and Tom Hulce being nominated as well.
The only film in which both Best Actor nominees, F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce give their one and only Oscar nominated performance in the same film, with the former winning in the category.
The play, on which the film is based, was first performed on November 2, 1979 at the National Theatre in London.
Peter Shaffer shares his name with the original set designer (for the premier) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera "Die Zauberfloete" (The Magic Flute).
The filmmakers often used music with text that could be interpreted as referential to the pathos of the story, and several times in Latin. One instance is where Mozart is furiously writing his Requiem mass without hearing the banging on the door. The section heard is the opening of the Dies Irae as the choir sings "Dies irae, dies illa/ Solvet saeclum in favilla,/ Teste David cum Sibylla./ Quantus tremor est futurus,/ Quando judex est venturus,/ Cuncta stricte discussurus!" which translates as "This day, this day of wrath/ shall consume the world in ashes,/ as foretold by David and the Sibyl./ What trembling there will be/ When the judge shall come/ to weigh everything strictly!"
Mozart's middle name "Amadeus" for which the film is named, when translated from Latin means "love of God." This is a central theme of the film, as Salieri believes that Mozart's composition of music is so perfect that the only explanation is that Mozart is merely a vessel for God who is truly composing the music, or that God Himself bestowed this ultimate talent upon Mozart.
Elizabeth McGovern, who had earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Milos Forman's previous film Ragtime (1981), screen tested for the role of Constanze.
One of two films to have won both Best Picture and Best Actor at the Academy Awards with 2 Best Actor nominations. The other film being Going My Way.
The filmmakers often used music with text that could be interpreted as referential to the pathos of the story, and several times in Latin. One instance is where Salieri angrily sifts through Mozart's perfect original manuscripts and hears segments of beautifully scored music. The final segment he reads (and hears in his head) as he spills the portfolio onto the floor is the Kyrie from Mozart's Mass in C Minor, with a mezzo-soprano singing "Kyrie, eleison! Christe, eleison!" which translates as "Lord, have mercy on us! Christ, have mercy on us!" (The opening of this same Kyrie is heard when Mozart marries Constanze against his father's wishes.)
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee not nominated in either of the support acting categories that year.
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Makeup.
This is one of only seven films to receive more than one Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In this instance, F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were so nominated. The other six films were Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) for which Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone were all nominated, From Here to Eternity (1953) for which Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster were nominated, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) for which Maximilian Schell and Spencer Tracy were nominated, Becket (1964) for which Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton were nominated, Sleuth (1972) for which Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine were nominated and The Dresser (1983) for which Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney were nominated. Of the actors in question, only Schell and Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the relevant performances.
One of 11 American Music/als to win Best Picture: 1)The Broadway Melody (1929), 2)The Great Ziegfeld (1936), 3)Going My Way (1944), 4)An American in Paris (1951), 5)Gigi (1958), 6)West Side Story (1961), 7)My Fair Lady (1964), 8)The Sound of Music (1965), 9)Oliver! (1968), 10)Amadeus (1984), 11)Chicago (2002).