The movie traded on Gene Wilder's western-comedy screen persona from the earlier spoof western hit movie Blazing Saddles (1974) which had been made and released about five years earlier. It also did this a year later in Stir Crazy (1980) by making Wilder a hero at riding a rodeo mechanical bull even labeling Wilder at one point an "Urban Cowboy".
In his autobiography, Gene Wilder says that John Wayne was offered the part that was eventually played by Harrison Ford. Wayne loved the role and was eager to work with Wilder. However, an agent tried to offer Wayne less than his usual fee and the legendary actor turned the film down. This may be true, but it is actually unlikely. By 1979 Wayne was too ill with stomach cancer to consider film work, and in fact he died later that year from the disease.
Noticeable in the trailer for this Warner Brothers movie was the use of footage of Gene Wilder from Wilder's earlier films such as Warner Bros' Blazing Saddles (1974) but also ones from Wilder's other studio pictures from 20th Century Fox, Silver Streak (1976) and Young Frankenstein (1974).