Universal Pictures wanted a final extra scene to be shot, to show what happened to the characters played by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. The latter said he would only do it if he was paid an additional $500,000, so the scene was dropped.
Casey Affleck was keen to take part in Tower Heist (2011), as he really wanted to do a comedy and was very rarely being approached to do anything other than serious drama.
The signing on of Ben Stiller as the lead was instrumental in coaxing Eddie Murphy back to the project.
The only improvised scene was when Odessa instructs Slide how to crack a safe in a very suggestive manner.
The original idea for the movie came from Eddie Murphy, who first pitched it to both director and producer Brett Ratner and Brian Grazer, years before the project was finally launched.
Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock were both considered for starring roles in this film at one point, with the film being developed as an "African American Ocean's Eleven (2001)." Chris Tucker and Dave Chappelle were also in talks for roles at this stage. Murphy was eventually cast for a supporting role after Ben Stiller signed on as the lead.
Brett Ratner turned down the opportunity to direct Horrible Bosses (2011) in order to make this film.
Producers hired a professional safe cracker, eight time world champion Jeff Sitar, to work with the props master to set up the dial lock for the safe cracking scene, and coach Gabourey Sidibe on how to use a safe cracker's listening device and work the dial to crack the safe.
The Rossa Corsa Red 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso used in the film was claimed to have been the exact car owned by the "King of Cool, Steve McQueen." While it is true that Steve McQueen did own a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, his car was Chestnut Brown, not the Italian Red used on the movie car.
The 1912 chess game Shaw (Alan Alda) references, while talking to Kovaks (Ben Stiller), is a real game. However, rather than playing it out, Levitsky resigned after Marshall moved his queen, realizing checkmate was inevitable. The "Marshall Swindle" term did not derive solely from that game, as it was a well known tactic of Frank Marshall's to often play a game in a lazy or relaxed style that ceded his opponent the advantage. Just when he appeared to be in a totally lost position, he would summon up a marvelous tactical flight of fancy to smash his unaware opponent. Some of his defeated and frustrated opponents, believing that they had a moral right to the victory after having established decisive advantage, felt that Marshall had cheated them out of their just desserts, and often complained that they had been "swindled." A well-known "Marshall Swindle" occurred in a game between Marshall and Georg Marco in 1904.
Some theater chains refused to book the film when Universal Pictures revealed that they planned to put the film out on Video on Demand three weeks after the theatrical release. Their concern about how this move would harm ticket sales prompted Universal to back down on this idea.
According to producer Brian Grazer's account on Piers Morgan Live: Episode dated 3 November 2011 (2011), Alan Alda's character, Arthur Shaw, was inspired by Ponzi mastermind Bernie Madoff.
To perfect her Jamaican accent, Gabourey Sidibe used the services of three vocal coaches.
Eddie Murphy really impressed Director Brett Ratner by reciting lines from many movies that Ratner was a fan of with the exception of Doberman Gang (1972). He is a real life movie buff like Ratner.
After a screening of the film at L.A.'s Arclight Cinemas, director Brett Ratner said that "rehearsal is for fags" during a Q&A. Due to this controversial statement, Ratner had to resign as a producer of The 84th Annual Academy Awards (2012) in November 2011. Following this, Eddie Murphy, who had signed on as host of the event, also stepped down. Ratner and Murphy were replaced with Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal, respectively, for the show.
Noah Baumbach did re-writes specifically for the character Josh Kovaks, to suit Ben Stiller.
The mall visited is actually in Queens, close to the main character's home of Astoria. The Queens Shopping Center in Elmhurst, Queens contains all of the stores where the shoplifting takes place.
Of the stars, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck and Matthew Broderick had all previously directed movies. Indeed, with his cameo appearance at the beginning, Robert Downey Sr. would make that six directors in the cast list.
Actor Greg Grunberg, who has a son suffering from epilepsy, demanded an apology from director Brett Ratner after hearing a joke about seizures from the trailer. Ratner later apologized.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade was completely recreated with footage from the 2009 parade along with recreated scenes of the parade with the actors involved. The studio wanted to eliminate the scene entirely but Director Brett Ratner fought it and won because it was vital to the plot of the film.
Fake snow was used during the part where Slide teaches lock-picking at the rooftop along with digital snow because Director Brett Ratner didn't know how the wind machines the snow in either direction. The film was shot during the Fall into Winter at the time.
The scene where Ben Stiller meets Téa Leoni in the bar was one of the last scenes filmed but the whole cast and crew were miserable because New York City had been hit by a blizzard after Christmas 2010. The crew had to stay outside in the cold because the bar was cramped and small. Filming took over 2 to 3 days.
Donald Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan was the stand-in for the "The Tower" in the film.
Jeff Nathanson added in the part of Odessa specifically for Gabourey Sidibe, at Brett Ratner's request.
The scene where Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy are driving underneath the elevated train line was an homage to The French Connection (1971) chase according to Director Brett Ratner, which was shot in Astoria, Queens. Ratner regretted missing one shot to make it a perfect homage.
The Ferrari Lusso used in many of the scenes was actually a heavily modified Volvo 1800. Two were fabricated. Corroboration from the builder found on FerrariChat, said, "Hi, I'm Erich Schultz. I built the two replica Lussos for Tower Heist (2011). I was hired by Ralph Lucci of Automobile Film Club of America, based in New York, to do the job. Brett Ratner, the film's director, wanted the job done by Ted Moser of Picture Car Warehouse in LA. Ted and I are friends, so I told Ralph I would do the job with Ted and act as the project manager. Initially, we were given just seven weeks from getting the job to the final delivery date for two complete cars. I thought that this time frame was unrealistic and I needed ten weeks. We ended up taking eight and a half weeks from start to finish to build them. The decision to build onto a Volvo P1800 platform was mine. I noticed the similarity between the Lusso's windshield, A-pillar, and side windows with the P1800, which incidentally was designed in Italy. I used the P1800 as a platform for the Lusso mold plug. With the exception of the windshield frame, every surface and the overall dimensions of the P1800 were changed with metal work, MDF, urethane foam, fiberglass, and Bondo to transform it into a facsimile of the Lusso. Our replica is not identical in any way. We had to settle for very close. We did not have access to a real Lusso to get measurements or make plans or templates. I had a photo file of pictures that were downloaded from the internet, and I had to approximate everything by trying to scale dimensions from those photos."
Director Brett Ratner is very proud of Christophe Beck's score for the film because he totally nailed the score from the moment Ratner first heard the bass line at Beck's studio. Ratner had been looking for a sound that was akin to the scores of the 1970's such as The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) as well as the work of Curtis Mayfield.
Director Brett Ratner was extremely excited to be working with Eddie Murphy because he was his hero and looked forward to working with him every day on the film. Murphy enjoyed working with Ratner and always sought his direction. They're still friends to this day.
The Motel that Matthew Broderick stays in is the Motor Inn located on Queens Boulevard, which was not far from the Wendy's where Eddie Murphy had filmed Coming to America (1988) it as McDowell's and not far from the Queens Center Mall, where the crew all get together for the shoplifting scenes.
Frank Pesce plays the prison guard when Eddie Murphy is released from jail. He previously appeared with Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Cop II
During the building lockdown scene, the security guard is reading the November 2009 issue of Playboy Magazine, for which director Brett Ratner shot a pictorial that featured his then-girlfriend Alina Puscau.
The finale where everyone receives the gold car parts were shot in actual New York apartments and not sets.
Stephen McKinley Henderson (Lester) is talking to Ben Stiller (Kovaks) about how he got drunk and pretended to be Mufasa from The Lion King (1994). Matthew Broderick (Mr. Fitzhugh) did the voice for adult Simba in the Disney version of The Lion King (1994).
The scene in the bar where Ben Stiller and Téa Leoni meet was the same bar in Goodfellas Goodfellas (1990).
This was the second movie Eddie Murphy filmed in Elmhurst (at the Queens Center mall). The first film was Coming to America (1988) at the McDowells Restaurant (Wendy's on Queens Blvd).
The penthouse set which was Arthur Shaw's apartment was actually inspired by a real apartment inside the Trump Tower which was selling for over 35 Million dollars at the time.
The cast which included Ben Stiller, Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck all got along with Eddie Murphy. Murphy was also adamant that the other actors also be at the forefront of the film and loved it when they were all doing funny things.
The script was revised by Russell Gewirtz, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Leslie Dixon, and Noah Baumbach.
When Josh (Ben Stiller) bails and picks up Slide (Eddie Murphy) from Riker's Island, Josh starts talking about a car named a Nova. When Murphy starred in Beverly Hills Cop (1984), he drove a "crappy, blue Nova."
Alan Alda, Ben Stiller and Téa Leoni had all previously appeared together in David O. Russell's Flirting with Disaster (1996).
This is the first film that director Brett Ratner has made entirely in New York City. Prior to this, he had only shot a few scenes in The Family Man (2000) in the city. Also starring Téa Leoni.
The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Casey Affleck; and four Oscar nominees: Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Judd Hirsch and Gabourey Sidibe.
Filming took place over 70 Days on location in Manhattan, Queens and on the Brooklyn sound-stages in New York City.
All of the scenes shot at the Queens Center Mall, where the shoplifting montage took place were all shot late at night and very early in the morning and the cast and crew had to be done before the mall opened at it's normal hours.
The Ferrari and the parade that appear in this film is a reference to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), which also starred Matthew Broderick.
The parade sequence was shot over the course of two weekends around Central Park West which was shut down for the film.
The bar scene with Ben Stiller and Téa Leoni had originally been scripted to be shot at Elaine's in Manhattan. However, Director Brett Ratner and the writers Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffin agreed that was not believable that these two characters meet at an upscale place when Stiller is a working class guy from Queens. So they relocated the scene to Queens with the help of Production Designer Kristi Zea and used the bar from Goodfellas (1990), which wasn't far from where the apartment that Stiller lives in the film in Astoria, Queens.
Editor Mark Helfrich begged Director Brett Ratner to leave the pitchfork in the drink scene with Ben Stiller and Téa Leoni in the bar in the final cut and Ratner agreed after Helfrich bugged him constantly.
The music in this film is similar to the theme in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), almost like a big city homage.
The parade chase scene took place during one of the coldest days of the year in late 2010 according to Director Brett Ratner.
The scene in the paddy wagon where Josh and his crew confront Arthur Shaw was shot in a real paddy wagon truck which made it harder to shoot due to the confined spaces according to director Brett Ratner.
Writers Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffin based a lot of the characters' names based on family members or characters from other movies. For example, one of Nathanson's relatives was obsessed with Snoopy and Devereaux, Michael Peña's character's name is based on Die Hard (1988) actor, De'voreaux White.
Before choosing a composer for the film, Director Brett Ratner listened to demo tapes from various different composers including Christopher Beck with whom he had never worked with before since he primarily had worked with only Lalo Schifrin, Danny Elfman and John Powell previously. After listening to his demo, which eventually became the score's main theme, Ratner hired him because Beck nailed the sound that he had been looking for.
The scenes set in Arthur Shaw's apartment including the heist and Josh Kovaks' , were actually shot in the Brooklyn Soundstages due the difficulty of shooting for Director of Photography Dante Spinotti in an actual apartment.
Just after leaving the jail, the car scene under the train is the exact scene and same car and car color from the movie The French Connection (1971) starring Gene Hackman.
The fathers of both Mathew Broderick and Ben Stiller both appeared in the original The Taking of Pelham 123.
The school (P.S. 104) that both Josh and Arthur Shaw claim to have attended in Brooklyn is known as a "magnet school for museum studies." Ben Stiller starred in the Night at the Museum (2006) films.
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) picks up Slide (Murphy) in a brown Chevy Nova. In Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Axel Foley (Murphy) drives a blue beat-up Chevy Nova.
Ben Stiller and Matthew Broderick worked previously together on The Cable Guy (1996) where Stiller directs and plays a minor role and Broderick is the co-lead alongside Jim Carrey.
The secret wall safe in Shaw's apartment uses a Sargent & Greenleaf (S&G) model 6730-100 mechanical combination lock.
Ben Stiller puts together a team to plan a heist which consists of Casey Affleck who was part of heists in Ocean's Eleven (2001), Ocean's Twelve (2004), and Ocean's Thirteen (2007) as well as Michael Peña who was part of a heist in Ant-Man (2015).
During the shoplifting sequence, everyone steals something from different stores within the Queens Center Mall. Josh steals underwear from Victoria's Secret and a scented candle, FitzHugh steals a sweatshirt from the GAP, Charlie steals three sets of Swarovski earrings by his mouth and De'Rereaux steals a pair of expensive Nike Hightop sneakers. While Slide steals all their money from all of their wallets totaling 264 dollars.
Téa Leoni and Zeljko Ivanek later costar together in Madam Secretary, where Leoni plays Secretary of State (and later President) Elizabeth McCord and Zeljko plays President Chief of Staff Russell Jackson.