Goldie Hawn did most of her own stunts, after being convinced by Mel Gibson to do so. She was originally reluctant to perform them, fearing the harsh and overwhelming nature of the tasks. She was eventually so pleased with her stunt performances that she kept her stuntman's jacket after filming resumed, and as of 2017 still exhibits it next to her Oscar statuette.
The gigantic zoo set measured 83 feet wide by 350 feet long and was almost six stories high. The DVD production notes state that it was the "largest studio set ever built in Vancouver". It was constructed at the Bridge Studios in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Production designer Philip Harrison said that it was "a once-in-a -ifetime" undertaking.
The baboon seen was, according to the film's production notes on the DVD, the only male baboon in the world that was trained to work in front of a camera.
The final negotiating point to convince Mel Gibson to do this film was the offer of a use of a producer's house for the summer, allowing him to shoot the film and give his large family an excellent summer vacation home.
Producer Rob Cohen has said of this movie: "There have been other films with car chases, helicopters, motorcycle rides through impossibly narrow alleys, rooftop escapes, etc. But this picture's specialty was the zoo climax and the difficulty shooting it".
Originally this film was supposed to star Kurt Russell opposite his real-life partner Goldie Hawn. However, Russell had already committed to star alongside Sylvester Stallone in Tango & Cash (1989), which was filming at the same time but released several months before this. Russell suggested that director John Badham ask his Tequila Sunrise (1988) co-star Mel Gibson if he would be interested and Badham was pleasantly surprised when Gibson accepted.
Two watering crews were employed to water all the plants in the rainforest on a full-time basis, right throughout the zoo shoot.
The walls of the cages of the zoo set were made of just plaster, so the production had to be especially careful that animals, like the tigers, did not put a foot through any of the plaster-set walls.
Three kinds of sand were brought in for the zoo set. This included 16 truckloads that were transported from Oregon. The three sand types were mixed together, and then sifted three times, so as to filter out and remove any glass particles that could possibly hurt any of the big cats' paws. The mixed sand was on the concrete floors of the animal cages, which were cushioned with four inches of the sand, so as to protect the big cats' paws.
Mel Gibson's and Goldie Hawn's characters are supposed to be former lovers who are the same age. In real life, there is an 11-year age difference between Hawn (born in 1945) and Gibson (born in 1956).
Director John Badham has said of working with wild animals on this movie: "No animals are easy to direct. They don't read the script. It's kind of like controlled chaos--you have to be really ready to catch something exciting that may happen, and you have to be ready to deal with things that are dangerous, because these are wild animals, and they will hurt you."
There were two major bridges that spanned the rainforest's central 60- foot crevasse. Both of them were more than three stories high. The main suspension bridge had to be engineered and reinforced, to be able to withstand crew and equipment weighing 1,200 pounds.
Debuted at the #1 spot at the US box office in 1990, and went on to gross over $138.6 million worldwide.
Animals in the zoo sequence included a lion, one baboon, an iguana, a seven-foot-long monitor lizard, a 12-foot python, three jaguars, four alligators, six tigers, six chimpanzees, and 25 kinds of parrots.
Last movie to regularly use the 1963 Universal Pictures logo (some later movies, such as Inglourious Basterds (2009), used it for a "retro" feel).
When Joe Weyburn (Stephen Tobolowsky) goes to check on Ricks last places of employment, you get a brief glimpse of the name David Puttnam and Columbia Pictures. This was an apparent reference to Puttnam's brief, and turbulent, time as head of Columbia pictures in the '80s.
Though he has since acted in other major movies, and though he had directed for television, Bird on a Wire (1990) was the last big movie that Bill Duke appeared in as an actor, before he directed his first movie, which was A Rage in Harlem (1991).
In the mall scene, when Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn are walking to the stairs, the provincial flag for Saskatchewan can be seen, and as they start walking down the stairs, the provincial flags for Ontario, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island can be seen behind them.
In this movie Mel Gibson's character is shot in the butt. His co-star Goldie Hawn also went through a similar situation in Protocol (1984).
Animal stunt coordinator Monty Cox brought with him his own two male tigers, and scouted Canada to find other big cats for the picture.
The name of the man who runs the hotel into which Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn check, following the helicopter chase, is Norman--which as also the first name of the psycho killer in Psycho (1960) who runs the hotel in that film.
There were three waterfalls constructed in the rainforest set, with the largest of them being about three stories high. This waterfall, and its two companion waterfalls, according to the film's production notes, were the first ever built on a sound stage in Canada.
John Badham's first feature film in three years. Badham's previous movie had been Stakeout (1987).
"Variety" called this picture a 1990s version of Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934).
On a computer screen, seen in the movie, an alias for criminal Richard Jarmin (Mel Gibson) read "David Putnam, Columbia Pictures".
Oversized leaves were manufactured for the background of the zoo set, with real plants placed in the foreground for the closer shots.
The name of the zoo seen at the end of the picture was the "Woodlands Park Zoo". The name of the new attraction there was the "Amazon Rainforest --African Savannah".
This was the only movie in which Goldie Hawn appeared during 1990, but in the same year she had an executive producer credit in My Blue Heaven (1990).
The crop-dusting plane was a Piper J-3C-65 Cub, while the black chopper that chased it was a Hughes 369D. Both are seen flying upside down and even doing a 360-degree loop, something that had also been seen in John Badham's earlier movie Blue Thunder (1983).
The nickname of Richard Jarmin (Mel Gibson) was "Rick", while his nickname for Marianne Graves (Goldie Hawn) was "Muffy".