In a scene set in a comedy club, a terrible comedian performs a roast-style comedy act. This comedian asks Daniel (writer/director lead Albert Brooks) how Daniel died. Daniel says "on stage, like you." Daniel later jokes that he can't leave before the end of the act because the guy on stage is his father. "No, I'm kidding. That would be so sad for me." This entire interaction is a dark and elaborate in-joke. Albert Brooks' father, Harry Parke, actually was a comedian who died on stage at the Friar's Club, just after he finished his roast style comedy routine.
On the coffee-table book "Above Judgement City," the picture is actually an aerial view of Downtown Denver, Colorado.
The trams used throughout the film are older ones from Universal Studios Hollywood.
The Hall of Past Lives is actually the old Fluor Daniel building in Irvine, California.
The CDs Daniel receives for his birthday are: "The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley, "Greatest Hits" by James Taylor, "1999" by Prince, "The Broadway Album" by Barbra Streisand, and "Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars" by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
Defending Your Life was released around six months after Postcards from the Edge, a film-a-clef loosely based on the real-life experiences of mother and daughter Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Both stars had been close to Albert Brooks since his high school days, and remained so through the production of Postcards. Fisher scripted that movie, and it co-starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Brooks himself then tapped Streep and MacLaine for Defending Your Life, his next project. Reynolds teamed up with Brooks five years later; she had a critically-acclaimed starring role in his comedy Mother (1996).
In the scene where Daniel and Mr. Diamond are having lunch, the resident food which Mr. Diamond is eating is in fact meatloaf with gravy.
Having just written the script for this movie, Albert Brooks first met Meryl Streep at a party at the home of Carrie Fisher. "You wouldn't be interested in playing the lead in my movie, would you?" he asked Streep. She was.
One of the co-stars of this movie, Buck Henry, previously co-directed (with Warren Beatty) another romantic comedy-fantasy film involving afterlife, Heaven Can Wait (1978).
Albert Brooks held three different jobs/roles for this film; top-billed lead star, sole writer, and director.
Similar to the love his Lost in America (1985) character has for Easy Rider (1969), Albert Brooks wanted a star from that film to play Bob Diamond. He first offered the role to Dennis Hopper who passed on it due to scheduling conflicts. Jack Nicholson was then offered the part but was also unavailable. He remembered Rip Torn was offered the role in Easy Rider ultimately played by Nicholson before being fired for apparently pulling a knife on Hopper who also directed the film so he ultimately offered the role to Torn who accepted.
Similar to Albert Brooks's classic road comedy, Lost In America, the movie starts with him buying a new expensive car. A BMW here and a Mercedes in Lost In America. For very different reasons, he winds up either not buying or not keeping the car... for very long. Also, in each case, the car represents a somewhat shallow, yuppie lifestyle that he either chooses to escape from, or that choice is done for/to him.
Albert Brooks offered the role of Julia to Glenn Close, who was unable to accept it but suggested her friend Meryl Streep for the part instead.
Shirley MacClaine's cameo is somewhat ironic: While her voice is provided with only a hologram of her image i.e. without her there physically, in Terms of Endearment, Albert Brooks provided the voice for her husband, who is heard from another room in the opening backstory sequence.
This 1991 movie was the first feature film Albert Brooks appeared in since Broadcast News (1987), a break of four years.
The name of the Dr. Theodore McAllister seminar at the International Planetarium was "The Universe As It Really Is".
The nice old men, Arthur and Ernie, in the comedy club audience that the bad comic talks to while on stage also played two nice old men in Albert Brooks' Lost In America.
Showbusiness trade paper Variety said that the film contained Ferenc Molnár's "Liliom idea of being judged in a fanciful after-life".
Due to the similarities to this film and Heaven Can Wait Albert Brooks wanted a star from that film to play a role in this one. He originally offered the role of Dick Stanley to Warren Beatty who declined as he was finishing Dick Tracy (1990). He then asked Buck Henry who accepted the part. Henry and Beatty both co-directed Heaven Can Wait and Lee Grant who plays Lena Foster co-starred with Beatty in Shampoo (1975) a film which won her an Oscar.
Albert Brooks first offered the role of Lena Foster to Audrey Hepburn. But she had retired from acting following her small cameo two years earlier in Steven Spielberg's Always (1989) and was so busy as the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that she eventually turned down the role to focus on her other famous role aside from being an actress.
Buck Henry, who plays Albert Brooks's substitute attorney, also appeared in Heaven Can Wait (1978). In both films, Henry's character is an afterlife functionary assisting the main character. In the earlier film, plays a guardian angel who removes Warren Beatty's soul from his body before an almost certainly fatal accident. In both films, the assistance proves botched: Henry's character in the latter film fails to mount a proper defense; in the earlier film, Henry's character removes Warren Beatty's soul from his body immediately before an almost certain fatal accident, not knowing that Beatty's character was actually supposed to survive.
Star Billing: Albert Brooks (1st), Meryl Streep (2nd), Rip Torn (3rd), Lee Grant (4th) and Buck Henry (5th).
Many of the details of Judgment City appear to have been taken from Between Death and Life (1993), by Dolores Cannon. Cannon was a hypnotherapist who took thousands of people back to past lives, and to the realm where beings go in-between lives. Similar details include: 1. overcoming fear being an important goal of life on Earth; 2. wisdom or knowing being the reward of overcoming fear; 3. the review of one's life as if one were watching a movie; 4. the ability to view past lives; 5. the perfect health of the astral body; 6. the harmonious activity of the realm; 7. the way things happen effortlessly; and 8. the number of times beings are born on Earth. Defending Your Life was released in 1991, so "Between Life and Death" must of taken "many of the details" from Defending Your Life".