Melanie Griffith was battling an alcohol and cocaine addiction throughout filming. She would often go dancing until 4:30 a.m. and had to be at the set by 6. On the morning she was supposed to shoot the scene where her character reunites with Alec Baldwin at Joan Cusack's wedding, Griffith was so wasted that production had to be shut down until she could say her lines coherently and $75,000 was taken out of her paycheck to fund the reshoot. Three weeks later Griffith entered the Hazelden Foundation, a rehab center in Minnesota.
Kevin Spacey was brought in as a last-minute replacement for another actor in the part of Bob Speck. On the day the scene was shot, Mike Nichols, who had previously directed Spacey in Heartburn (1986), sent a car to Spacey's New York apartment, with a copy of the script in the back seat. Spacey learned his lines while on the way to the shoot. Nichols was under pressure to finish the scene so he wouldn't have to postpone his wedding to Diane Sawyer two days later. Years later, when Spacey became a producer on the film The Social Network (2010), he gave a part to Dakota Johnson, who is the real-life daughter of his co-star Melanie Griffith.
David Duchovny's film debut. He was one of the guests hiding in the bathroom at Tess's surprise birthday party. He can also been seen at the engagement party later in the film.
Melanie Griffith won the Miss Golden Globes contest as a teenager. Later she won a competitive Golden Globe for her acting work in Working Girl. She's the only actress who has ever done that.
Though Tess is unquestionably the sole lead character, actress Melanie Griffith is billed third in the credits, after Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver who have supporting roles in the movie. Griffith had received critical acclaim for earlier performances in Body Double (1984) and Something Wild (1986), but those films barely made a dent at the box office and she was still largely unknown when Working Girl (1988) was made in 1988. 20th Century Fox wanted a big name actress to play Tess, but Mike Nichols pushed for Griffith until the studio ultimately gave in.
The Petty Marsh lobby scenes were filmed in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith followed several female executives and secretaries on their hectic daily schedules in New York City and sat in during meetings to get a better idea of the industry from the female perspective.
Carly Simon's "Let the River Run" was the first of only two songs (the other being Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia (1993)) to win all three major awards - the Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy - while being composed, written, and performed by a single artist.
According to casting director Juliet Taylor, "Mike and I had already kind of fallen for Alec Baldwin and wanted him to play Jack, but the studio was catatonic about that. They did not want two unknowns in the leads." Producer Douglas Wick recalls, "So, Mike had to call Alec and say, 'Look, I'm really sorry. The circumstances have changed. Would you do this other part?' Alec understood and was so lovely about it. He came in and really nailed that character. It was an awkward adjustment."
Harrison Ford got his famous scar by crashing into a pole on Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach, CA. He was a player at the Laguna Playhouse at the time and got a "rush stitch job" at South Coast Hospital in Laguna Beach. In the movie, his character says that he was piercing his ear as a teen, and fainted and hit his chin on the toilet. See also: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Though receiving top billing, Harrison Ford does not appear until 35 minutes into the film.
Katherine Parker is said to be turning 30 years old where actually Sigourney Weaver was turning 39 at the time the movie was made (1988).
Olympia Dukakis, who has a small role in this movie, is the subject of an article in a newspaper, about herself, and her cousin Michael Dukakis, the then Governor of Massachusetts. It can be seen when Tess rips out a page of the newspaper while on the ferry.
"Let the River Run", Carly Simon's award winning theme song, was originally titled "Wall Street Hymn".
Michelle Pfeiffer and Meryl Streep were considered for the roles of Tess and Katharine, respectively. Brooke Shields wanted badly the role of Tess; after she graduated from Princeton, she wanted to play a serious movie role. Kathleen Turner, Cher, Geena Davis, Debra Winger, and especially Shelley Long were also considered to play Katharine. Diane Lane and Sarah Jessica Parker were also in talks to play Tess. Lorraine Bracco wrote in her memoir that she gave a first-rate audition as Tess and was devastated when she wasn't picked for the role.
Something else that did not make the theatrical cut: in the restroom scene between Tess and Jack during the wedding reception, one can see a woman in white shoes in the stall next to the one Jack uses. That woman overhears the conversation between Tess and Jack about having crashed the wedding. That woman must be the one telling the bride afterwards which is why she tries to confront Tess and Jack while they're dancing.
The stuffed rabbit that Tess sets on her desk when she arrives at her new job was made by teddy bear artist Gae Sharp. It was purchased at the Mables in New York. Director Mike Nichols later returned to the store and ordered five more rabbits to give to significant cast members.
The tequila scene where Jack and Tess first meet was filmed at the restaurant bar of Caroline's Comedy Club when it was located at the South Street Seaport in New York City. As Jack descends the stairs to put Tess in a cab, you can see a billboard advertising the club.
When Tess (Melanie Griffith) walks into the meeting the morning after she and Jack (Harrison Ford) first meet, he is standing in front of a window that has the same pattern as the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars (1977), the spaceship Harrison Ford flew as Han Solo in the movie that launched his career.
In Kevin Wade's original script, Jack is disillusioned by the superficiality of the business he's in. In the final act of the story he doesn't stand up for Tess in the elevator scene (it's Trask himself who decides to listen to her). Afterwards he berates himself for not supporting her, and tells Tess he's realized he's become someone he doesn't like. The film ends with him quitting the industry and leaving New York to get back in touch with himself. Tess asks him to come back when he's done, to see if they can start over.
The Simpsons short "Family Portrait" from The Tracey Ullman Show (1987) was in front of the film in its original release. The original VHS release had the short.
Katherine Parker says she is turning 30 in about a week, making her almost the same age as Tess. Her age is reinforced by her fundraising letter to her fellow Wellesley alumna, which contains the information that they graduated eight years prior; people commonly graduate at 22, making Katherine now 30. The significance of her age is that although she and Tess are virtually the same age, Katherine's career is far more advanced.
The film cast includes two Oscar winners (Kevin Spacey and Olympia Dukakis) and five Oscar nominees (Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Cusack and Alec Baldwin) .
When Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) comes back to New York and gets out of the helicopter, she carries a big stuffed-toy gorilla. Weaver played the role of Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist (1988) just a few months before.
Mike Nichols wanted Alec Baldwin to play Jack Trainer, but the studio pressed for Harrison Ford since Melanie Griffith wasn't a box-office household name.
An original trailer showed a scene not in the finished movie, where Katharine asks Tess to spray her red dress with anti-static, before Katharine's welcome party.
Melanie Griffith (in real life) was struggling with her drug addiction during the making of "Working Girl" in 1988, which was directed by Mike Nichols. This director's next movie in 1990, would be about an actress (Meryl Streep) who is struggling with a drug addiction as well. Carly Simon who performed the soundtrack of both these movies has had a troubled history with drug addiction also. And so had director Mike Nichols.
Sally Kirkland was just nominated for her only Academy Award Nomination (Anna (1987), Best Actress in a Leading Role) when she got a hold of the script for Working Girl. She was deemed too old for the role of Tess so she was denied an audition. Even off her new "celebrity status" from her Oscar nomination Mike Nichols once said in an interview "I denied Sally Kirkland an audition because she was too old, but honestly she scared me, she would send me flowers and letters to let her read, it wasn't cute, it was desperate"
First box office hit in which Melanie Griffith appeared. To date, it is also the last (though Pacific Heights (1990), Milk Money (1994) and Now and Then (1995) did well on videocassette).
Melanie Griffith's real-life daughter Dakota Johnson uses Melanie's Working Girl promotion speech in Dakota's 50 Shades Darker.
Emmy, Grammy and Tony award winner Cyndi Lauper is currently working on a musical version of the movie. Her second musical after the highly acclaimed "Kinky boots".
When Jack and Tess are in the negotiations between Ambrister and Trask, Jack comments "we're all waiting to see what color smoke comes out of the chimney." It's a reference about the election of a new pope in the Vatican of Rome: to chose new pope. The ballots are burned after each vote and the smoke is visible to the public outside. If a pope is not selected, straw is mixed with the ballots to make black smoke. If a pope is elected, the ballots are burned alone yielding white smoke.
In June 2017, it was announced Working Girl was being made into a Broadway musical.
Alec Baldwin went on to play Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October (1990), a role that would be taken over by Harrison Ford in the sequels Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). In addition, in this film, Melanie Griffith's character, Tess, switches lovers from Baldwin's to Ford's characters in the same order.
An original trailer featured a scene and dialogue not used in the film. It features Tess and her friend Cyn preparing for Cyn's wedding and talking about Tess's relationship with Jack.
Kevin Spacey's brief role as a sexual predator is ironic, given that he was accused of sexual harassment and intimidation by many people nearly 30 years later. Anthony Rapp, who in October 2017 was the first person to come forward and levy an accusation against Spacey, said that Spacey Sexually assaulted Rapp when Rapp was fourteen years old in 1986--two years before Spacey played the predator Bob Speck in this movie.
Director Mike Nichols and composer Carly Simon re-team their partnership from Heartburn (1986).
Mike Nichols originally intended to use the Eagles song Witchy Woman over the opening credits.
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Original Song.
In the episode Chinga, of The X Files, we can see a ship named 'Working Girl". This is a direct reference to this movie, in which Duchovny made his debut and also a reference to Scully's situation, working in her holidays.
Melanie Griffith revealed in 2018 that she made a pass at co-star Baldwin and he rejected her advances. (It hurt her feelings, obviously, but they've remained friendly.) Instead she ended up having a romance with Liam Dalton, an investment banker Nichols brought on board to teach Griffith about mergers and acquisitions.
The gorilla toy was brought by Sigourney Weaver's character is a reference to "Gorillas In The Mist: The Story Of Dian Fossey" movie.
Working Girl is a 1988 movie about a secretary, Tess Mcgill, played by Melanie Griffith, who is dominated and sexually harassed by her male bosses; screwed over by her female boss; and then finally escapes all that and becomes an independent executive. Ironically, thirty years later, Melanie Griffith's daughter, Dakota Johnson, would star in a movie called Fifty Shades of Grey, about a woman dominated and sexually coerced by her boss; who succumbs to the domination and engages in a steamy S & M type relationship for the bulk of the story. Some would say; comparing these two movies; the battle for women's liberation in the workplace has gone backwards in 30 years.
Coincidentally, actress Melanie Griffith (who plays Tess) and singer Carly Simon (who performs the movie's theme song, "Let the River Run") had both dated Warren Beatty in real life.
Jack Trainer's home address --which he gives a cab driver as Morton Street-- is a real street in New York City, but there is no apartment house at 166 Morton Street, the exact address Trainer uses.
Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin have all played the role of the President of the United States in Air Force One (1997), House of Cards (2013) and Saturday Night Live (1975) as Donald Trump, respectively, while Sigourney Weaver played the role of the First Lady in Dave (1993).
"Working Girl" contains two subtle nods to Martin Scorsese, a director with whom Michael Ballhaus, "Working Girl"'s cinematographer, worked frequently. Early on, one of the firms mentioned for an office party is Raging Bull Catering, which takes its name from Raging Bull (1980), one of Scorsese's best films. And in a mirror in Sigourney Weaver's apartment, part of a pool table is clearly visible, a reference to The Color of Money (1986), which Scorsese directed and Ballhaus shot.
Oliver Platt, Joan Cusack and Alec Baldwin also appeared in Married to the Mob (1988).
Katherine rifles through Tess's notebook at the end just like Tess rifles through Katherine's stuff at the beginning.
At the end of the film, when Jack shows Tess the lunchbox that he purchased for her, he includes "milk money." In 1994, Melanie Griffith starred as V in the movie Milk Money (1994). Phillip Bosco (Orrin Trask) also appears in Milk Money.
After Jack and Tess get together following the meeting at Trask Industries, Jack returns to the bedroom whistling "If I Only Had A Brain" from "The Wizard of Oz". The song's three verses reflect elements about Tess. She needed a brain to come up with the suggestion of the Trask purchase of a radio network, and the nerve to carry the idea through. She also found that - unlike Katherine - she really does have a heart.
The film's ending scene is referenced in "Supergirl: Better Angels (2016)", the season one finale of Supergirl (2015); the series features Calista Flockhart, to whom Harrison Ford has been married since 2010.
1990's Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead is a teen version of this movie. (Or Home Alone spliced together with Working Girl).
Melanie Griffith spent about 4 of her formative years living in an African jungle bungalow with about 70 lions; jaguars and tigers. She also frequently slept with a lion in her bed when she was a girl! The experience was documented in the 1981 movie Roar; co-starring her mother Tipi Hedren; who also lived in the bungalow with her; with all the wild cats. You can see snippets of the movie ROAR online; and it is available for streaming and for purchase online as well. Both actresses were attacked a couple times and had to go to the hospital; and even had to get reconstructive surgery as a result.
This would be the second encounter between Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver had Ford accepted the part of Captain Dallas in Alien (1979).
Melanie Griffith and James Lally also appeared in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990).
Both The Graduate and Working Girl have exceptional music scores; two of the best movie scores ever. Music is obviously important to Mike Nichols; the director.