To find a "10" for the film, director Blake Edwards originally scouted a variety of locales such as coffee shops, talent agencies, little theaters and model agencies and went to a fashion show where a dozen top models screen-tested underwear of their own choosing. Edwards then decided that spectacular beauty is no substitute for acting talent and that the ability to market products is different to carrying a major acting role in a major motion picture.
Actor Dudley Moore is seen playing the piano in this picture, his character is a composer. In actuality, Moore was also a composer and pianist. On movie sets, Moore would often entertain the crew by playing the piano during breaks in filming.
George Segal was originally cast in the lead role, but walked off the set shortly after filming began. Rumor had it that this was because Julie Andrews' role had been built up. Allegedly, after the movie had been released, Segal was asked if he had seen it, and replied by giving "the finger". This marks the first time that George was replaced by Dudley Moore. This would happen again for the title role of Arthur (1981). Conversely, in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), Moore was replaced by Segal.
Because of this movie, Ravel's "Bolero" remains one of the most expensive songs to use for film and TV; the rights cost more than $25,000. According to SACEM, the French equivalent of ASCAP, Ravel's estate earns more royalties than any other French composer.
The customized license plate on Sam (Julie Andrews)'s car read 'SAM 1". The dedicated license plate on George Webber (Dudley Moore)'s car read "ASCAP". This acronym stands for the "American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers" -- the guild for songwriters. Moore's character in the movie is a composer.
Director Blake Edwards had difficulty finding the right actress to play the pivotal role of bride Jenny, and gave serious consideration to using his own daughter Jennifer Edwards, even filming a screen test of her. Once Bo Derek read for the part late in the process, all consideration of other actresses ended.
The picture's opening title card dedication states: "This Film is Dedicated With Love and Respect to Dick Crockett". Crockett had been a stunt man and a double for Peter Sellers on a number of Blake Edwards' movies and passed away in 1979 around the time this film was completed. 10 (1979) was Crockett's final film.
George Segal played the lead role of George early on, filming on location in Mexico. When the film company returned to the MGM Studios, Segal learned that Blake Edwards had inserted a 'television musical commercial' sequence for Julie Andrews, to sing and dance. The feature's interior sets were under construction, being painted, finished, and dressed on the MGM sound stages. Miriam Nelson was rehearsing the choreographed segment with Andrews and male dancers. Declaring that Edwards was using his film to revive Andrews' career by riding on his coat tails, Segal walked off the film. Edwards immediately hired Dudley Moore, shutting down the production until Moore could start, and filming continued. However, Segal is still the actor who appears in the scenes set in Mexico. These segments were never re-shot, but were used in the final film. The 'television commercial musical' production scene was broadened and re-staged at the Pasadena Civic Theater stage, utilized stage scenery rented from the Dallas Civic Light Opera Association.
First major film appearance of actress Bo Derek in a main role, having previously had a small part in the movie Orca (1977). She was cast at the suggestion of then-husband John Derek, who had previously been married to both Linda Evans and Ursula Andress. Bo was twenty-two years of age when she appeared in this movie. She had been most well-known at the time for an erotic poster where she was seen at the beach kneeling in the surf, which had sold over half a million copies. When she auditioned for 10 (1979), Blake Edwards recounted, "Her first words, when she came in to read for us, were: 'I'm sorry about wasting your time...' Meanwhile, [co-producer] Tony Adams and I were crossing our fingers and praying: 'Let her be able to act -- please let her be able to act!.'"
The name of the amateur song that George Webber (Dudley Moore) listens to is "I Have an Ear for Love". Director Blake Edwards told composer Henry Mancini to "Write me a lousy song -- I mean, a real stinker". Mancini once said, "There's no question about it -- it's definitely the worst song I have ever written. In fact, every so often, a nightmarish thought runs through my head . . . What -- heaven help us -- if 'I Have an Ear for Love' becomes a hit?". Ironically though, the song was still featured on the "10" movie soundtrack.
The film's "10" title references an attractiveness rating system used by people to rank members of the opposite sex. A '10' is usually the highest score attainable but in the movie Dudley Moore rates Bo Derek as an "11". The movie popularized the rating system, which became a part of common usage and popular culture. Publicity for the actual picture made a movie joke. It was that one man's "10" might be another man's "8½".
Although this movie's title was widely understood to say that Bo Derek's looks rated 10 out of 10, the rating actually given to her character's looks in the scene where the subject arises is 11, even 12, out of 10.
The movie has been said to have popularized Maurice Ravel's classical piece of music, "the Boléro". The song is played in the movie while Dudley Moore and Bo Derek are making love. There was a big connection between this music piece and sex symbol Derek, as the first two letters, "BO", formed the beginning of both the music piece's title and Derek's first name. Derek later starred in a movie called Bolero (1984) which further capitalized on this connection. Moreover, that movie was one of two with that title made during the early-mid 1980s, the other was Claude Lelouch's "Bolero: Dance of Life" [See: Bolero (1981)].
Sam J. Jones played David Hanley, husband of Jenny Hanley. Ironically, Jones's next role was Bo Carlson in the tele-movie Stunts Unlimited (1980). Jones played a character in his next film who had the same first name as his co-star in this movie.
Julie Andrews' first theatrical film in four years, under the direction of her husband Blake Edwards. Andrews' last part had been as Judith Farrow in Edwards' The Tamarind Seed (1974). The DVD sleeve notes for this film state that Andrews "returned to movies after a long absence".