BMC (British Motor Corporation), the owners of Mini, refused to donate any cars to the film. The boss of Fiat Motors offered to donate all the cars they needed including Fiat 500s in place of the Minis. The director however decided that as it was a very British film, it should be British Minis. Fiat's boss still donated scores of cars for filming as well as the factory grounds and even though the authorities refused to close the roads, the Italian Mafia stepped in and shut whole sections of Turin down for filming, so the traffic jams in the film are real as are people's actions during it.
In a BBC documentary to celebrate his 70th birthday in March 2003, Michael Caine revealed his character's "great idea", and the deleted ending of the film, as the gang's bus teeters on the edge of a cliff. "The next thing that happens is you turn the engine on," he said. "You all sit exactly where you are until all the petrol has run out, which changes the equilibrium. We all jump out of the bus and the gold goes over the cliff. And at the bottom are the Italian mafia, sitting waiting for the gold." This was also rumoured to be the premise for the sequel "The Brazillian Job"
This is a movie primarily about cars and driving. Michael Caine, the star, could not drive at the time the movie was made, and in fact he is never seen driving a car. The only time in the movie that Charlie Croker is assumed to be driving is the cut between when he picks up his Aston Martin at the garage, and in the next shot we see it arrive outside the hotel. But Michael Caine gets out of a stationary Aston Martin after a further cut. Throughout the drive to Turin and the entire heist, Croker is always a passenger.
When filming the bus hanging over the cliff, the camera helicopter's downdraft started to tip the bus over. Stunt crew had to hang on to the front of the bus to stop it falling thousands of feet into a reservoir.
According to Michael Caine, the film did not perform well at the US box-office due to a misleading advertising campaign. The US poster featured a scantily clad woman with a map on her back kneeling in front of a Mafioso holding a machine gun. While promoting the film in the US, Caine saw the poster and became so upset that he immediately flew home to England.
The roof to roof jump was filmed on the roof of the Fiat factory. Some crew members walked off for fear it would end in a fatality and the Italian Fiat workers made the sign of the cross to the stuntman.
The road used for the climactic cliff-hanger sequence led only to a restaurant. The first day of shooting was a Saturday, brilliantly sunny and the shoot went off without a hitch. On the next day, however, a huge line of cars appeared at the bottom of the road - the restaurant was hugely popular on Sundays. Some disgruntled drivers eventually broke through the police cordon and the shoot had to be aborted. Over the next two weeks it rained steadily and the snowline came down the mountain by approximately 250 feet. By the time the shot was completed, the crew had to sweep snow from the road.
August 2001: To mark the completion of a new 10 km sewer in Hull (England), Yorkshire Water re-created the famous scene where the Minis escape through the tunnels of Turin, this time using the recently-released new-shape BMW Mini.
Director Peter Collinson's wife, Hazel, appeared in all his films "for luck". In this film she appears at the Mafiosos' dinner as the blonde wife of the visiting American. She was called in the last minute because Collinson was being sent only tall, dark Italian models and he wanted "a short, blonde scrubber". Also, when Croker is getting out his equipment from under the bed after he leaves prison, he calls the rope and grappling hook "Hazel."
Fiat immediately saw the potential for product promotion in this movie and offered an unlimited supply of Fiat 500s, plus top-of-the-line Lamborghinis and Ferraris, plus $50,000 if the producers would use the Italian cars instead of the Minis. The Minis stayed because they were seen as quintessentially British and one of the themes of the movie is us vs. them, i.e. Britain versus Europe.
The rooftop race track is an actual working part of the Fiat factory that was completed in 1923. The track measures 1680 feet by 260 feet. The five-story building has 16,000,000 square feet of floor space and was once home to 6,000 workers.
According to the DVD commentary, although never formally planned, the start of the anticipated sequel resolved the cliffhanger ending of the original by having the Mafia arrive in helicopters and lifting the bus back onto the road to recover the gold (incidentally rescuing Charlie and the gang). The rest of the movie would then involve Charlie's crew pulling a second heist to steal the gold back from the Mafia.
At the time of making of the film, there was no ending, and it was left to the US studio to create one. The main crew and writer hated what they came up with so the 2nd unit was given the job of filming it.
They filmed a scene for part of the Mini Cooper chase sequence on an ice rink, with the cars gliding past each other to the accompaniment of Strauss's "The Blue Danube". The scene was cut for timing reasons, but was included in the Channel 4 documentary "The Mini Job" which later appeared on the Special Edition video. All DVD releases include the scene as an extra feature.
When Charlie Crocker gets out of jail, his girlfriend is waiting for him with a car to drive him home and Charlie mentions that it's the car of the ambassador of Pakistan. The actual car was owned by the High Commissioner of Pakistan when the film was produced.
The deleted "Blue Danube" sequence was filmed in the Exhibition Hall designed by Pier Luigi Nervi and completed in 1949 after only eight months of construction. It was updated for use as a hockey rink for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin.
Noel Coward was not in good health and had a hard time learning lines for the movie, so his longtime companion/partner Graham Payn had a cameo role as Bridger's assistant so he could be on hand to help with any problems.
The screenplay originally was set in London and was to have been a TV show. However the scope of the production was too large for British TV at the time and so the script was purchased for the movie and the setting changed to Turin because it had the most extensive computer-controlled traffic monitoring system in Europe. However Milan had been the original location choice until the producers realized it would be impossible to get a shooting permit.