Sir Michael Palin's father stuttered, so Palin used a lot of his real-life experience when playing Ken Pile, including the fact that Ken's stutter is less pronounced around people he trusts (George Thomason and Wanda Gershwitz) and worse around people with whom he is uncomfortable (Otto West).
Jamie Lee Curtis buried her face in pillows during Kevin Kline's ejaculation scene, to keep her from bursting out laughing at the faces he was making.
Jamie Lee Curtis was listed as "Jamie Lee Schwartz" on all of the call sheets, because John Cleese found it amusing that her father Tony Curtis' real name was Bernard Schwartz.
Actor, executive producer, and writer John Cleese chose the name "Archie Leach", Cary Grant's real name, because he was born twenty miles away from where Grant was born (Hughenden Road, Horfield, Bristol, England), and because it was the closest Cleese could get to being Grant.
Archie Leach's daughter Portia was played by John Cleese's real-life daughter Cynthia Cleese.
In 1989, when this movie was shown in theaters in Denmark, a Danish man named Ole Bentzen, an audiologist, literally laughed himself to death during the scene where Ken Pile (Sir Michael Palin) gets the chips up his nose. Bentzen's heart rate went between two hundred fifty and five hundred beats per minute and he eventually succumbed to cardiac arrest. The story behind this is that the man had made a joke a few years earlier with his family during dinner, where he put a piece of cauliflower up his and every family member's nose as a joke and made a bet with them on who could eat up their carrots without the cauliflower falling out. When the scene with Ken Pile and the chips came up, he started thinking about this dinner incident and laughed so hard that his heart stopped. This story is well-known in Scandinavia and spread around as almost an "urban legend" shortly after it happened. It was confirmed by his son, who also told the dinner story as an explanation to why his father laughed so hard during the chips scene that he died.
Kevin Kline begged actor, executive producer, and writer John Cleese to let Otto West speak French instead of Italian when he wants to seduce Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), since Kline speaks French. Cleese insisted that it had to be Italian. Kline started singing "Volare" because he ran out of Italian cheeses and other Italian phrases that he could ad-lib and was concerned that writer and director Charles Crichton did not yell cut, since the producers did not own the rights to "Volare" when the scene was being filmed.
The fish that Kevin Kline ate were made out of Jell-O. Kline claims that he offered to eat live fish, but the filmmakers wouldn't let him.
When Otto West (Kevin Kline) leaves Archie Leach's (John Cleese) home, he says to Wendy (Maria Aitken) that they all would speak German outside the U.S. He leaves the house while singing the first verse of "Deutschland über alles". In the German-dubbed version, he says that they'd all eat sauerkraut and listen to military marches, then he imitates some military marches. The first verse of "Deutschland über alles" is considered too nationalist and generally is not sung in public.
This is the most successful movie former Pythons John Cleese and Sir Michael Palin have made. Cleese considers this to be his favorite movie of the many with which he has been involved. Although he considered his previous movie, Clockwise (1986), the best script written for him as a lead, it flopped in America.
Archie Leach speaks in Italian: "Ma ho sposato una donna che preferisce lavorare in giardino a fare l'amore appassionato. Uno sbaglio grande!", what translates as: "But I married a woman who prefers working in the garden to making passionate love. A big mistake!" It could refer to Archie's marriage.
Kevin Kline won a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar without winning any previous awards during the awards season (he received only a BAFTA nomination), which is a rare feat in terms of Oscar winners.
Sir Michael Palin founded the London Centre for Stammering Children after a group of stutterers confronted him regarding the sensitivity with which he dealt with Ken Pile's handicap in this movie.
During the robbery, it really was Kevin Kline who shot the crossbow at the sensor. Kline got the shot off correctly on the second take.
John Cleese said that he based the character of Otto on a Zen Buddhist teacher that he once had seen in an advertisement, a man who pretended to be knowledgeable but looked "singularly unimpressive". He decided to write Otto as a man "not smart enough to realize how stupid he was". Kevin Kline ad-libbed a lot of material as he gradually found the character.
John Cleese claims that this is Charles Crichton's movie. He took a co-director credit to reassure studio executives, who were worried about Crichton's advanced age and the fact that he hadn't directed a theatrical movie for twenty-three years. The only major work Cleese did as director was near the end of the shoot, when he handled various scenes mostly involving Sir Michael Palin, to allow Crichton to start overseeing the editing.
Sir Michael Palin thought the script was awful when he first read it and recorded his low opinion of it in his diary.
When Otto suggests possible snitches to George, he suggests Kevin Delaney, which are Kevin Kline's first and middle names.
Jamie Lee Curtis has pointed out that in several shots she can be seen cracking up; for example, when Wanda Gershwitz and Otto West have their argument at the dockside: "To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people!".
John Cleese, who played British barrister Archie Leach, entered Cambridge University as a law student, although he never became a member of the British bar.
In the original English version, Otto speaks Italian in some scenes with Wanda. In the Italian-dubbed version, he speaks Spanish.
John Cleese suggested Jamie Lee Curtis for the role of Wanda after seeing her in the comedy film Trading Places (1983). Realizing she could be sexy, duplicitous, and funny, he thought she'd be perfect for the role and held out for her to be cast.
For the French-dubbed version, when Wanda states that Otto mistook the Gettysburg Address for Lincoln's residence, it was replaced with Wanda stating that Otto mistook General Motors for a hero of the war of '14.
When John Cleese is being dangled out of a window and forced to apologize, members of the public can be seen in the background looking at what's going on. While the camera crew likely was visible, the public was not aware of what was being filmed nor the actors involved.
Jamie Lee Curtis was initially skeptical when John Cleese contacted her to offer the role of Wanda. She was convinced he really wanted to meet her husband Christopher Guest, whose film This Is Spinal Tap (1984) had just been released.
This movie holds the record of Longest Time to Reach #1 (from 1982 to the present). This movie was released on July 15, 1988 in the U.S. and reached number one on September 16, 1988.
Although John Cleese solely is credited for the screenplay, in interviews he has acknowledged the contributions of Jamie Lee Curtis,Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Maria Aitken in coming up with lines for their respective characters. He has stated that 13 people, including first assistant director Jonathan Benson, gave suggestions that ended up in the script.
Kevin Kline's Oscar-winning performance in this movie is his only Academy Award nomination.
When this movie was aired on television in the U.S., many stations deleted the "chips up the nostrils" scene, deeming it insensitive to individuals with mental impairments.
The producers were worried about how this film would perform at the box office, particularly in the U.S. It was a British-made, British set comedy with a veteran British director, written by a British writer, with a British cast known primarily for television work plus two familiar, but not A-list, American actors (who were not particularly known for comedy roles). Using the budget carefully, it took John Cleese and director Charles Crichton four years to get the film made and to persuade MGM to take a chance and distribute it. Fortunately, it proved to be a huge sleeper hit and made a tidy profit for those involved.
John Cleese has said in interviews that Patricia Hayes was the only cast member not to have any material deleted during editing.
The poem Archie Leach recites in Russian for Wanda Gershwitz is Molitva (1839) by Mikhail Lermontov.
Premiere Magazine voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.
Michael Palin had very little to do with helping promote the film after its debut in the U.S. in July, 1988. That's because the film started to be released in the rest of the world from September, 1988. By this time Palin had embarked on his globetrotting escapades for his hit television documentary series Around the World in 80 Days (1989), which began filming a few weeks after the U.S. premiere but before the film had hit most international territories.
Much has been made of Sir Michael Palin's sensitive portrayal of stuttering. Numerous studies have found that stutterers will talk normally to animals. Ken speaks without stuttering to the assorted animals he talks to in the film.
Included amongst the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
Archie and Wendy sleep in separate beds, just like Basil and Sybil in Fawlty Towers (1975), also co-created by John Cleese.
One of Otto's lines throughout this movie is "Don't call me stupid." In The Ladykillers (1955), "One-Round" Lawson (Danny Green) didn't like to be called stupid either. Writer and director Charles Crichton was a veteran of the Ealing Studios movies, most famously directing The Lavender Hill Mob (1951).
Included amongst the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
This movie contains an early acting role for Stephen Fry, later to be well-known as comedy partners with Hugh Laurie and anchor host of series A to M of the BBC/FremantleMedia U.K. version of QI (2003).
The principal interior setting was the flat of Nicholas Lacey and playwright wife Juliet Aykroyd in a loft development in a former warehouse at Reeds Wharf, Docklands, London, England.
John Cleese named his character Archie Leach after the birth name of his acting hero, Cary Grant. Jamie Lee Curtis's father, Tony Curtis, acted opposite Grant in Operation Petticoat (1959); he also based his playboy character and voice in Some Like It Hot (1959) on him.
The patch on the shoulder of Ken's jacket is an annual promotional patch from the "Working Together for Wildlife" program from the US Pennsylvania Game Commission - 1983 River Otter.
The scene where Otto sits up in the background behind Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is reminiscent of a scene in Halloween (1978), in which the character of Michael Myers sat up behind Curtis' character.
In one scene Otto and Wanda speed away in a large American automobile, causing a car in oncoming traffic to crash. The crash is caused by the fact that the Americans were driving on the wrong, i.e., the right, side of the road.
In the opening sequence that introduces the principal cast, a model of the Eiffel Tower can be seen over Sir Michael Palin's shoulder. This may have been a reference to writer and director Charles Crichton's The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), in which Sir Alec Guinness tried to smuggle the stolen gold out of England by melting the gold down and disguising the stolen gold as a model of the Eiffel Tower.
The British Airways airplane that can be seen at the airport is a Boeing 747-236, called "City of Manchester", registration G-BDXC. It was sold to European Skybus Ltd. and scrapped in 2002 after about twenty-five years of service.
This was one of the first original MGM movies made via the leaner ("new") MGM following the earlier notorious Kirk Kerkorian/Ted Turner (Turner Entertainment Co.) asset stripping of the bulk of the original MGM library, intellectual property, and studio lots in 1986.
John Cheese has stated in his audiobooks that there are 2 foods he doesn't eat; celery and uni. He places the celery back in the fridge when he takes the meal that his wife has left for him when she leaves for the opera. Cheese is his original family name.
First film in which Jamie Lee Curtis's character compares her romantic partner to Rambo; the second is True Lies (1994).