Airplane! (1980) Poster



The singing nun is Maureen McGovern, who sings the theme song to the sitcom Angie (1979), which Robert Hays was co-starring in at the time of filming. (McGovern's appearance in the film is a poke at her having sung the Oscar-winning theme songs for two classic disaster movies: "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno (1974).)
Jump to: Director Cameo (2) | Director Trademark (1)
For the argument between announcers concerning the white and red zones at the airport, the producers hired the same voice artists who had made the real-world announcements at Los Angeles International Airport. At the real airport, the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only, and there's no stopping in the red zone (except for transit buses). They were also married to each other in real life.
Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker chose actors such as Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film, these actors had not done comedy, so their "straight-arrow" personas and line delivery made the satire in the movie all the more poignant and funny. Bridges was initially reluctant to take his role in the movie, but his sons persuaded him to do it.
Aeromexico was the only airline to buy the film for their in-flight entertainment.
The doctor role was Leslie Nielsen's first comedic part. He later said he was delighted to get the offer, fearing that he was getting too old for anything but "elderly grandfather" parts. The studio actually wanted to cast Dom DeLuise as the doctor, but directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams prevailed. It led to Nielsen gaining a whole new career in wacky comedies, particularly other Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker productions.
In a 2008 interview on the Today (1952) Show, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told the story of being on a European flight and asked to sit in an empty seat in the cockpit during takeoff so the crew could say they flew with Roger Murdoch.
Most of the jive talk between the two black passengers was improvised by the actors, as the ZAZ team weren't sufficiently "conversant" in black street language.
For the famous scene of the 747 crashing through the large windows inside the terminal, producer Jon Davison mentions (in the DVD extras) that after the movie, he received numerous letters from various pilots telling him that they have come very close to re-enacting that very scene in real life, with some pilots admitting that they had come so close as to touch the glass with the noses of their airplanes.
The first two days of the film's gross covered its entire production budget.
The Jaws (1975) spoof in the beginning of the film was made of layers of cotton on a piece of plywood with a hidden wire track for the airplane to "fly" around.
The casting of professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a member of the flight crew was a reference to pro football player Elroy 'Crazylegs' Hirsch's role as a pilot in the serious airplane disaster film Zero Hour! (1957)
When Captain Oveur asks the young boy if he'd ever seen the inside of a cockpit before, it's not the original line which was ultimately deemed to be too risqué. (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker originally wanted the line to be "Have you ever seen a grown man's cock?")
Stephen Stucker ad-libbed all of his lines as Johnny.
In the scene where the husband turns on the air for his sick wife, you see in the background a man wearing a large beard, it was supposed to fly off in the wind, but the adhesive they used wouldn't let the beard come loose. The man can be seen moving his face back and forth and scrunching his face trying to help it come off.
In the scene with Johnny and Steve McCroskey, McCroskey says "Get me someone who won't crack under pressure." Johnny responds "How about Mister Rogers?" If you look carefully that was dubbed in after. 'Airplane!' was shot in August 1979. Stephen Stucker (Johnny) actually said "How about Mamie Eisenhower." The former First Lady died a few months later (in Nov. 1979) so the producers dubbed in "Mister Rogers" out of respect for the Eisenhower family.
The film is mostly a parody of Zero Hour! (1957), a film that had a main character named Ted Stryker and such famous "not meant to be funny" lines like "We have to find someone who can not only fly this plane, but who didn't have fish for dinner."
This was Ethel Merman's final film before her death on February 15, 1984 at the age of 76.
The picture of the boy in the spinning newspaper that has the headline, "Boy Trapped In Refrigerator Eats Own Foot", is Billy Koch, the grandson of producer Howard W. Koch. His grandfather called him up one day and asked him for a photo of him, so Billy grabbed his second grade school photo. It was only after the film came out that he found out why his grandfather wanted the photo.
To get the film green-lighted by Paramount, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker pitched it as "Animal House (1978) on a plane" - which, of course, was far from the truth, but the only way they could get the studio execs to understand it was a zany comedy.
To get inspiration for the ZAZ Kentucky Fried Theatre skits, directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams would leave a videotape running all night, recording late night television with the aim of spoofing the commercials. One night they recorded the film Zero Hour! (1957), which ultimately acted as the main inspiration for "Airplane!".
Universal Pictures threatened to sue when it found out that the directors were trying to get Helen Reddy to repeat her role as the singing nun from Airport 1975 (1974). George Kennedy, from the original "Airport" movies, was also being courted for the film but thought better of running afoul of Universal. However, Kennedy would later work with directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, appearing in all three "Naked Gun" movies. This out of regret for not being in this film.
The three directors had a full-on fight on their hands with the Directors' Guild, which initially refused to allow for a three-director credit.
Otto, the automatic pilot, ultimately disintegrated after spending several years in Jerry Zucker's garage.
The shots of the planes taking off were taken by directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. As this was their first big-budget film, they didn't realize that the 2nd unit should have been taking shots like this.
"Stayin' Alive" was sped up for the dance scene of the film. Permission from The Bee Gees had to be obtained to speed it up.
The obligatory copyright notice at the end of the film which warns against piracy or unauthorized duplication ends with the comment "So there!"
Co-writer/director David Zucker said that years after the movie's release, Woody Allen came up to him at a New York Knicks game and told Zucker how much he loved the movie. Zucker said that, since he and the movie's other writer-directors were heavily influenced by Allen's early comedies, Zucker was very touched.
The movie's dialog between Stryker and Rumack ("Surely you can't be serious" "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley") was voted as the #79 movie quote by the American Film Institute.
The directing trio passed on the opportunity of making Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) as they felt that they'd exhausted every airport gag with this film.
According to directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker on the DVD commentary, the film was originally written to be a "movie within a movie" for a sequel to The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), but when that movie was aborted they expanded the story to this full-length feature.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's role was originally to be played by Pete Rose, but he was playing baseball at the time of the filming, so the part went to Kareem. He was offered $30,000 to appear in the film, but he asked for $35,000 to buy an oriental rug.
According to the soundtrack album cover (Regency Records, 1980), Johnny's last name is Hinshaw. This can actually be heard clearly in the movie, when McCroskey is speaking to the reporters and tells "Hinshaw" to take over. Johnny then steps in and describes the "pretty white airplane" to the press.
Despite featuring a spoof of the beach scene of From Here to Eternity (1953), none of the three directors had actually seen the original film.
The airplane model used for the flying shots hangs in the museum at the Studios at Las Colinas (Texas).
The film cost $3.5 million and only took 34 days to make.
The film was specially geared to spoof the "Airport" series, but chiefly spoofs Airport 1975 (1974), where Karen Black is a stewardess forced to pilot a plane after both pilots are incapacitated, Linda Blair is a girl needing a kidney transplant, and Helen Reddy plays a singing nun.
The directors were friends with David Letterman and asked him to audition for the Ted Striker role. While they liked his reading, Letterman was visibly uncomfortable at the idea of formally acting and was openly relieved when they didn't offer him the part. In fact, David Zucker had said to Letterman's manager that they thought Letterman could win the role (they planned to have him return for another audition) but was surprised when the manager said that there was no chance that would happen. His audition was shown on his talk show, much to his embarrassment.
The producers bought the rights to the movie Zero Hour! (1957), the film that this movie is based on.
Ethel Merman could only be on set after noon as it took all morning to set her hair.
The part of the Jive Lady was originally intended for Harriet Nelson, who had played the mother in the 1950s sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952). She turned it down because she was concerned about the film's adult language. She was replaced with Barbara Billingsley who played the mother in the 1950s sitcom Leave It to Beaver (1957) Nelson later admitted to Robert Hays that she regretted not taking the part.
Film debut of Julie Hagerty.
In the DVD commentary, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker had all expressed disappointment that some of the in-movie jokes (such as the thrown spear and the watermelon falling on the desk) did not get as much of a reaction from audiences as they were hoping for.
The From Here to Eternity (1953) skit was shot on the same beach where Charlton Heston discovered the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes (1968).
Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty rehearsed their "Stayin' Alive" dance routine for a month before filming it. Coincidentally, Hays had been playing the husband of Angie (1979) in the TV series headed by Donna Pescow who co-starred in Saturday Night Fever (1977) which opened with the song "Stayin' Alive".
The argument between the two P.A. voice-overs about an abortion comes from "a cheap, dime-store novel" according to the trivia track of the DVD version. That "novel" is actually Arthur Hailey's "Airport" (which inspired the movie Airport (1970)).
The woman trying to apply makeup in the film is David Zucker and Jerry Zucker's actual mother, Charlotte. She would also have cameos in The Naked Gun films as well.
A disco station in the film is called WZAZ, a reference to filmmakers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. The same initials appear on one of the microphones in the scene with the reporters in the control tower.
The Mustang used in the scene where Rex is being brought to the airport was owned by Robert Hays. He got paid $35 a day for its use and they used it for two days.
David Letterman screen-tested for the role of Ted Striker.
The video game played by the air traffic controllers is the Atari 2600's Basketball (1978).
All the exterior shots of the plane while flying use a sound track of a propeller plane although it is a jet because the studio would not let the producers use a propeller plane in the movie.
According to his autobiography, Christopher Lee turned down the role of Dr Rumack. He described it as a "big mistake."
The screens and computers in the control tower are components of an IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, built in 1954 to protect the US from Soviet bomber attack. It was the largest and heaviest computer system ever built, the full system weighing 6000 tons and taking up an entire floor of a bomb-proof blockhouse. Components of decommissioned systems were sold for scrap and bought by film and television production companies who wanted futuristic looking computers, despite the fact they were built in the 1950s. The components used in this film were previously used in The Time Tunnel (1966) and The Towering Inferno (1974) amongst many others.
In the German version, the talk between the two black passengers was dubbed in heavy Bavarian dialect (with subtitles in standard German).
The man in the taxi who spends the entire film waiting, with the meter running, is Howard Jarvis. Jarvis led the 1978 push for Proposition 13 in California, which was a money-saving and tax-cutting initiative that led to major cuts in public services (especially in schools and libraries) in California. Jarvis saved California home owners thousands of dollars per year by cutting residential property taxes in half.
The first draft for the movie was written in 1974. Even then, Robert Stack was first choice for the part of Rex Kramer.
Ethel Merman insisted on bringing her own hairdresser to set.
Sigourney Weaver auditioned for the role of Elaine Dickinson.
The character "Dr. Rumack" was named after a neighbor of the Zuckers', Dr. Barry Rumack, who is now a noted toxicology expert.
According to directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker in the DVD commentary, when pitching the movie to Robert Stack, they told him to do "Eliot Ness" in reference to Stack's signature character on The Untouchables (1959). Capt. Kramer's speeches were specifically written with the intention of hiring Stack and mocking Ness' "big speeches". Rather than being offended, Stack understood the joke and took the role. Coincidentally, Barbara Stuart, who plays Kramer's wife, had a guest role in an "Untouchables" episode, The Untouchables: The George 'Bugs' Moran Story (1959).
The only real source of tension between the filmmakers and then-Paramount head Michael Eisner were two key parts of the original filming plan: the movie was to take place on board a small prop plane instead of a larger 707-type commercial airline (forerunner to the Boeing 747), and it was to be filmed in black and white. Eisner told ZAZ that he respected their views but the movie would not be green-lit unless it was set on board a larger aircraft and filmed in color. He gave them a weekend to think it over, and on that Monday the filmmakers agreed to Eisner's requests. (The Boeing 707 was the world's leading commercial jet transport, introduced in 1958.)
While Captain Oveur's suggestive (and therefore inappropriate) questions to Joey are a direct parody of similar scenes in Zero Hour! (1957), the fact that Peter Graves' portrayed a "father figure" to a troubled young boy also named Joey, in the '50s TV series Fury (1955), adds yet another level of satire.
Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.
While recovering at the VA Hospital, Ted Striker learns of the death of George Zipp, who was under Striker's command (and who previously told Dr. Rumack that his captain, Striker, had made the right decision in making the attack run). Just before this is revealed, you can hear Dr. Rumack being paged on the VA Hospital's PA system.
In an interview, Kitten Natividad revealed that her uncredited cameo was for the shot showing gelatin dessert wiggling on a tray below her jiggling breasts. She was not the nude that jumped into camera range.
In the Italian version, the talk between the two black passengers was dubbed in Neapolitan dialect.
Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were considered for the role of Ted Stryker.
Christopher Lee turned down the Leslie Nielsen part
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The music for the love scenes with Elaine and Ted was taken from The Hunters (1958) where Robert Mitchum plays a fighter pilot and May Britt his lover.
When Striker is telling the lady sitting next to him how he and Elaine met, he says he was in the Air Force but in the bar scene while he's thinking back he's wearing a Navy Uniform.
Zero Hour! (1957) was so obscure that Warner Brothers sold ZAZ the rights to use it as a resource for this film for only $2,500. This actually played a large part in the film getting made because the 1957 deal for Zero Hour! (1957) had been chopped into smaller segments that included a share of the film being owned by Paramount, which was how it got onto the radar of the studio's readers and eventually got Michael Eisner's attention and support.
Rex Kramer and Steve McCroskey were also character names in The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977).
When discussing whether the flight is in radar range, and air traffic controller is instructed to "check the radar range". He immediately stands up and opens a microwave oven - a nod to the Amana Radar Range, Amana's name for one of the first successful in-home microwave ovens.
Lloyd Bridges as Steve McCroskey spoofs his role as airport manager Jim Conrad in the TV series San Francisco International Airport (1970). Also, Robert Stack appeared as an airline pilot whose nerve fails him during an in-flight disaster in The High and the Mighty (1954). Peter Graves appeared in a similar "airplane disaster" TV movie, SST: Death Flight (1977).
This was the fourth most popular 1980 movie at the U.S. and Canada box office.
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The film's title in Germany was "The Incredible Trip in a Crazy Airplane".
Jill Whelan, who plays the sick child, also played the daughter of Capt. Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) on The Love Boat (1977). Joyce Bulifant, who plays her mother, played MacLeod's wife on Mary Tyler Moore (1970).
The 1988 house record "Break 4 Love" by Raze interpolates a sample of what sounds like a woman having an orgasm when in fact it's Lorna Patterson's character Randy crying when she confesses to Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) that she's 26 and never been married.
The Boeing 707 used in the movie was a re-painted TWA airliner.
The movie's title in Brazil is "Tighten your seat belts... The pilot is gone!" (Portuguese: Apertem os cintos... O Piloto Sumiu!)
Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) dates the ill-fated Flight 209 to Chicago depicted here to [Wednesday] 5th March 1980.
CASTLE THUNDER: Heard every time lightning flashes during the storm sequence.
The runway visible outside the cockpit during the landing near the end of the movie is runway 30 at Long Beach (LGB), CA.
Singer/songwriter Barry Manilow was considered for the role of Ted Stryker before Robert Hays was hired.
William Tregoe, who plays Jack Kirkpatrick, the TV anchorman ("I say, let 'em crash"), plays an almost identical character in the "Count/Pointercount" segment of The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). His character name is the similar-sounding John Fitzsimmons, and he is arguing for "count." Both roles parody James J. Kilpatrick on 60 Minutes (1968).
In Norway, the title of this movie is "Help! We're flying" ("Hjelp, vi flyr"). One of many unrelated comedy movies around that period of time that, for some reason, got the prefix "Help!" and a basic description within.
The Italian title of the movie is 'The Craziest Plane In The World' ('L'Aereo Più Pazzo Del Mondo').
In Latin American countries, the title of the movie is "Y dónde está el piloto?" ("And where is the pilot?") It is one of many unrelated comedy movies around that period of time that, for some reason, got the prefix "Y dónde está..." and a basic description within
The Australian title of this movie is: Flying High
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The Bill and Ted bar fight scene, when picking up Billy the Kid, matches the girl scout fight scene in Airplane!. They begin over a poker cheat (extra ace), have the same punches and bar stool hit, and end with one being slid across the bar until breaking through a wall or juke box.
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The Finnish title of the movie is "Hei me lennetään!" (Hey we're flying!)
Robert Wuhl auditioned for the role of Ted Striker.
The line "Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home" is a paraphrase of a commercial for Yuban brand coffee - which featured the same actress, Lee Bryant, who says the line in the movie.
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The Polish title of the movie is 'Is the pilot flying with us?' ('Czy leci z nami pilot?').
The French title of the movie translates to "Is there a pilot on the plane?" (Y'a t-il un pilote dans l'avion?).
The entire production took just over a month. Robert Hays was doing the television show Angie (1979) at the same time.
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Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Jack Lord and Jack Webb were all approached about roles in the film.
The film's title in Argentina was "And where is the pilot?" (in Spanish: "¿Y donde está el piloto?")
According to the DVD commentary, the song "Stayin' Alive" from the Bee Gees played in the Bar-Scene, was pitched to +10% its normal speed. As said, they had to get the permission from the record label to do so.
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Garfield creator Jim Davis's favorite movie.
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In Spain the title was "Land As You Can!" ("¡Aterriza Como Puedas!"). The "as you can" joke became so popular that several comedies with the ZAZ kind of humour have the same title. "The Naked Gun" is "Catch him as you can!" (¡Agárralo como puedas!), "2001: A Space Travesti" is "2001: Take flight as you can" (2001: Despega como puedas)... and so on
Robert Stack (with an open microphone) says to Lloyd Bridges 'Drown them in Lake Michigan, at least that'll save innocent lives." Robert Stack played a stunt pilot in The Tarnished Angels (1957), who died when he crashed the plane he was piloting in a lake away from the spectators in the grandstands.
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During the TV broadcasts in Turkey, Captain Clarence's "Ever been in a Turkish prison, Billy?" line is dubbed as "Ever been in a Greek prison, Billy?"
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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The Czech title of the movie is "Fasten your seat belts, please!" ("Pripoutejte se, prosím!").
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Marcy Goldman was originally considered for the role of Mrs. Hammond but was eventually cast as Mrs. Geline instead.
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The two "black guys" are speaking with a Bavarian accent in the German version of the movie. For Germany, this is twice as funny in cause of the Bavarian accent used for "black guys", as when the two would speak in normal German, only using harsh language and swearing all the time.
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In the film Zero Hour! (1957), of which this film is a satirical adaptation, Joey (the child who visits the pilots in the cockpit) is the son of Ted Stryker (who eventually lands the plane).
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In a recent interview, Fred Willard revealed that he was offered the role of Ted Stryker who was eventually played by Robert Hays. Fred read the script which was filled with jokes and puns, but he didn't quite understand the role or the film. So, he turned it down. After "Airplane!" became a huge hit, he instantly regretted turning it down, but his wife told him that if he had starred in it, it would've been a different film and may not have worked nearly as well.
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Director Cameo 

Jerry Zucker, David Zucker: appear as the ground crew at the beginning of the film (they're the ones that direct the plane into the window of the terminal).
Jim Abrahams: as the second religious zealot who is pushed aside by Rex Kramer upon his arrival in the Chicago Airport terminal.

Director Trademark 

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker: [Funny Ending Credits] The ending credits contain funny or joke credits (such as "Guy in Charge of Lots of Things" etc).

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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