Between takes and when not filming, lead actor David Bowie composed songs; sketched drawings; wrote short stories; planned an autobiography to be titled "The Return of the Thin White Duke"; filmed on a 16mm newsreel camera that director Nicolas Roeg had given him; and read books, such as a biography of silent film comedian Buster Keaton. This was in preparation for a then being developed biopic of Keaton whom Bowie was to play.
David Bowie said of this film in Kurt Loder's article "Straight Time" published in the 12th May 1983 edition of 'Rolling Stone' magazine: "I'm so pleased I made that [movie], but I didn't really know what was being made at all". Further, in the article "Bowie at the Bijou" published in the April 1982 edition of 'Movieline' magazine, Bowie said: "I just threw my real self into that movie as I was at that time. It was the first thing I'd ever done. I was virtually ignorant of the established procedure [of making movies], so I was going a lot on instinct, and my instinct was pretty dissipated. I just learned the lines for that day and did them the way I was feeling. It wasn't that far off. I actually was feeling as alienated as that character was. It was a pretty natural performance. ... a good exhibition of somebody literally falling apart in front of you. I was totally insecure with about 10 grams [of cocaine] a day in me. I was stoned out of my mind from beginning to end". Moreover, in the same article, Bowie said of his relationship with director Nicolas Roeg: " . . . we got on rather well. I think I was fulfilling what he needed from me for that role. I wasn't disrupting . . . I wasn't disrupted. In fact, I was very eager to please. And amazingly enough, I was able to carry out everything I was asked to do. I was quite willing to stay up as long as anybody".
Apparently, David Bowie was unable to work on the movie for two days because he had drunk some "bad milk". Bowie saw "some gold liquid swimming around in shiny swirls inside the glass". According to the 'Bowie Golden Years' website, Bowie is "still to this day unsure of what actually happened. No trace of any foreign element was detected in tests though there were six witnesses who said they had seen the strange matter in the bottom of the glass. Already in an extremely fragile state, Bowie felt the whole location had 'very bad Karma'".
The painting seen early on in the film is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. It was long thought to be by Pieter Brueghel, but this has been questioned recently. In Greek mythology, Icarus succeeded in flying, with wings made by his father Daedalus, using feathers secured with wax. Ignoring his father's warnings, Icarus chose to fly too close to the sun, melting the wax, and fell into the sea and drowned. His legs can be seen in the water just below the ship. The sun, already half-set on the horizon, is a long way away; the flight did not reach anywhere near it. This, of course, is another metaphor for Newton's predicament, as Icarus falls into water too. A cruel irony given how little water there is on his own planet.
Director Nicolas Roeg cast David Bowie after seeing Bowie in the 1975 documentary "Cracked Actor" [See: Omnibus: Cracked Actor (1975)]. According to Roeg, the singer turned actor threw himself into the film, was always on time and delivered a performance that everyone was very happy with including Bowie himself.
The film's soundtrack has never been released and is not expected to be due to various legal problems. According to Wikipedia, "Due to a creative and contractual dispute with Roeg and the studio, no official soundtrack was ever released for the film, even though the 1976 Pan Books paperback edition of the novel (released to tie in with the film) states on the back cover that the soundtrack is available on RCA. According to Bowie in several interviews over the years, there are no plans ever to release a soundtrack album, and he has absolutely no desire to undertake the effort due to the legal entanglements".
Candy Clark was not really carrying David Bowie in their first scene together when Bowie's character collapses at her hotel. Instead, a rig involving a skateboard and a bicycle seat was devised that enabled the actress to look like she was carrying Bowie.
Novelist Walter Tevis described this story as very disguised autobiography. Three features of Tevis' life influence this film: his long periods of sickness during his childhood which confined him to bed, his battle with alcoholism, and his family's move from urban San Francisco to rural Kentucky.
Oliver Farnsworth is named after Philo Taylor Farnsworth, one of the most important pioneers of television. As may be seen in the film, Thomas Newton has an obsession with television, which is how his people learned about Earth.
The Latin phrase in the film, "Per ardua ad astra", is mentioned as being the motto of the Royal Air Force. It is defined in the movie as meaning "Through difficulties to the stars" though it is more commonly translated as "Through adversity to the stars".
James Sallis, writing in the The Boston Globe, describes "The Man Who Fell To Earth" as a Christian parable, not only about the corruption of an innocent being, but as being highly critical of the 1950s conventionalism which Tevis grew up with, along with environmental destruction and the Cold War.
First of two filmed versions of "The Man Who Fell To Earth" novel by Walter Tevis. This movie was made and released about eleven years before the remake, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1987), which was made for television.
At the beginning of the film, the audience is shown a mysterious man in a suit who investigates Newton's original landing on Earth. Who this man is or what agency he works for is never explained, although it is hinted that the U.S. government knew all along that Newton was an alien.
Wikipedia states, according to the book "Michael Deeley, Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies" (2009), "...when Barry Diller of Paramount Pictures saw the finished film he refused to pay for it, claiming it was different from the movie the studio wanted. British Lion sued Paramount and received a small settlement. The film obtained a small release in the US through Cinema V in exchange for $850,000 and due to foreign sales the film's budget was just recouped".
Nicolas Roeg wanted to get rid of any sense of time in the movie, because it's surprising how often people mention it in their lives. However, one reference almost got past him until the cutting stage, when he suddenly noticed the line "I've been hear three months already", and he had to overdub it.