The external shots were filmed using a ocean-front cottage that is now part of the Heritage House Inn on the Mendocino coast in Little River, Northern California. Writer Bernard Slade and his wife stayed there a few years before Slade wrote the play and it is this cottage which inspired the "Same Time, Next Year" play. The room was distinctive for having a log fireplace, out-of-tune piano together with much antique furniture. The shell of the cottage was built as a temporary dwelling especially made for filming, the interiors were shot in the studio. When the film was finished, Universal Pictures gave the cottage to the inn and paid for the foundations to be made permanent with the interior fitted-out with studio furnishings from the movie. The building was converted into two cottages, one called "Same Time" and the other "Next Year". The actual cottage today is now listed for rent as the "Same Time Next Year Suite" and is a popular tourist attraction for romantic holidays.
A number of actors and actresses were considered for the two lead roles. Al Pacino was up for the role of George. Source playwright Bernard Slade wanted the two leads from the Broadway production, they being Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin. Burstyn was originally rejected by the studio due to her age and Grodin wasn't considered a name actor. In the end, Alan Alda and Burstyn were cast as the leads.
Ellen Burstyn won the Best Actress Academy Award for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) while performing in the "Same Time, Next Year" play on Broadway. In the same year, she won the Tony Award for Best Actress for the play. Ironically, Burstyn received both awards at the same time in the same week. Burstyn is one of only two actresses to win both awards in the same year. The other actress was Audrey Hepburn who won a best Actress Tony for "Ondine" in the same year she won an Oscar for Roman Holiday (1953).
Paul McCartney was first asked to write theme music for this film. He came up with a title song called 'Same Time, Next Year'. Paul McCartney & Wings then recorded the song for this film. However the song was rejected and was not used but was later released as the B-side of the 1990 single "Put It There". The song used was Marvin Hamlisch's Academy Award-nominated "The Last Time I Felt Like This".
Director Robert Mulligan did not see the "Same Time, Next Year" stage play (it was still being performed when this film was in development and shot). Mulligan wished to have an unaffected vision for the film but this was a bone of contention for source playwright Bernard Slade.
The film's six acts, each occurring in about five year periods of the picture's 26 year time span, are linked via breaks which feature newsreel footage of world events which pertain to the very next era of the next section of the movie.
The movie's trailer quirkily declared that the two had been lovers for twenty years but had only been together for that many weekends. Similary, the film's main movie poster tagline quirkily stated, "they couldn't have celebrated happier anniversaries if they were married to each other".
This movie was made and released about three years after its source play of the same name by Bernard Slade was first performed in 1975. It premiered in November 1978 about two-and-a-half months after the Broadway season closed. "Same Time, Next Year" was the first stage play written by Slade.
Actor Alan Alda was playwright Bernard Slade's first choice to play George in the Broadway stage production of "Same Time, Next Year" but due to other commitments, Alda could not do the play. The role was cast with Charles Grodin.
The actual full title of Bernard Slade's play features a subtitle, it states, "Same Time, Next Year: A Romantic Comedy". "Romantic Comedy" is also the name of another Slade play, it also has been filmed [See: Romantic Comedy (1983)].
The original Broadway production of "Same Time, Next Year" by Bernard Slade opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on 14 March 1975, ran for 1453 performances until 3 September, 1978. The play was nominated for the 1975 Tony Award for Best Play. Ellen Burstyn reprises her role in the movie from the play for which she won the 1975 Tony Award (New York City) for Best Actress in a Drama. Slade also wrote the screenplay for this film based upon his stage play.