The film is famous for its line "You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!". The line of dialogue has been frequently referenced and parodied in popular culture.
During filming, actor Al Pacino frequently ad libbed and improvised. Pacino like to do this because he was slow learning lines as well as to be spontaneous. This however can interfere with another actor's performance. Reportedly, Pacino's mentor, Lee Strasberg, said "Al, learn your lines, dollink!". Pacino years later recognized that this was good advice.
On and off the set, Al Pacino was seen frequently being "in character" due to his method acting, something to which he had been a student of under co-actor Lee Strasberg. At meal breaks, Pacino would be known to call Strasberg by his character name of Grandpa and once when asked about a contract by someone working on the film, Pacino started to assess it for him legally even though Pacino is an actor not a lawyer.
Actor Jeffrey Tambor had to wear a wig for several scenes. Scenes seen later in the film show him bald, and as scenes for movies are not usually shot in sequence, Tambor had shaved his head for the bald scenes, and so had to wear a wig.
According to director Norman Jewison's audio-commentary, in legal circles the film was criticized for its portrayal and depiction of legal eagles, lawyers and judges. Jewison described the film as "a terrifying comedy".
The movie is notable for one particular scene which sees a justice, Judge Francis Rayford (played Jack Warden), firing a pistol in court. According to director Norman Jewison's audio-commentary, this was allegedly based on a judge in Texas who had unbelievably taken a gun to court. In one American borough, Jewison cited research that showed that five out of six criminal justice judges wore firearms.
Final cinema movie of actor Sam Levene who portrayed Arnie. It culminated in the 75-year old character actor's acting career which spanned over forty years. The picture was also one of four feature films featuring Levene which were first released in the year of 1979.
One of the first major Hollywood movies of the modern era to shoot exclusively in Baltimore, Maryland. Most of the picture was shot on location there but some sets were built for filming on sound stages in the studio in Los Angeles. The majority of the film's casting was cast in New York though none of the picture was shot there.
Director 'Norman Jewison said of this film's lead actor: "It's an unusual role for 'Al Pacino'. In past films, like Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and even Serpico (1973), he's been the eccentric, cut off from a sane world. This time, he's the most rational person in the picture. It's everyone around him, and his environment, which is bizarre".
Co-screenwriter Barry Levinson said of the film's central character Arthur Kirkland who is played by Al Pacino: "The character is not a celebrity lawyer like a Perry Mason or an F. Lee Bailey. He's a guy who's trying to practice his profession honestly and responsibly, without getting disbarred. Which is itself crazy". Arthur Kirkland, Levinson says, first came to life as a minor character in a different screenplay. Levinson said: "But he became so likable and important to me that I dropped the other script and began working with Valerie [Curtin] on this one".
Co-screenwriter Valerie Curtin said of this film's leading man who portrays the central character of Arthur Kirkland: "Mr. Pacino [Al Pacino] projects reality unlike some actors who always seem larger than life. That's essential to this character".
When Jack Warden is seen sitting on the ledge of the law building four stories up, he really was. Warden was though wearing a security cable harness under his clothes as a safety precaution in case he slipped.
Co-scriptwriter Barry Levinson said of researching the film in real life American courtrooms: "The first thing that strikes you is not to trust your first impressions. We'd see someone and say, 'Gee, he looks like a nice guy,' then discover that he'd butchered his whole neighborhood. The second reaction is that truth and justice aren't necessarily the same. Every trial is a unique personal drama with different motivations, different circumstances. Yet we want the law - the verdict - to be absolute".
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1980, for Best Actor - Al Pacino, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen - for co-screenwriters Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, but the movie failed to win an Oscar in either category.
The title is the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance recited daily by US schoolchildren. Its full version reads: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all".
Scenes showing courtrooms and the interior of the courthouse were filmed in the interior of Baltimore's Circuit Court building on Calvert Street, but exterior shots of the courthouse are actually of the War Memorial Building on Gay Street.
Out of the screenwriters' watching real life court trials resulted in a first draft screenplay which intrigued director Norman Jewison who said: ''It had the sense of theatre which exists in a court of law. I don't mean the phony theatrics of 'Where were you on the night of January 17th?' or 'Pardon me, your -honor, but there's a surprise witness waiting in the corridor.' What really happens in a courtroom is far more dramatic . . . or funny . . . or tragic . . . depending on the circumstances".
One of the first major Hollywood movies of the modern era to shoot exclusively in Baltimore, Maryland. Most of the picture was shot on location there but some sets were built for filming on sound stages in the studio in Los Angeles.