Reportedly, one of the reasons John Travolta turned it down was because he wanted final cut approval and director Paul Schrader would not give it to him. Travolta allegedly kept the Armani suits especially tailor made for him in the film. The picture is one of at least four films that Gere has done after Travolta had turned them down, the others being Chicago (2002), Days of Heaven (1978), and An Officer and a Gentleman (1982).
Debbie Harry has said the film's main title song "Call Me" was inspired by driving and she visualized the film's opening sequence when writing it. She said: "When I was writing it, I pictured the opening scene [of the movie], driving on the coast of California". Harry was first given an instrumental rough track titled "Man Machine by Giorgio Moroder and was asked to write the melody and lyrics for the song. Reportedly, this only took her a few hours to do.
Christopher Reeve and John Travolta were all offered the lead role of Julian but both in the end turned it down. Reeve was supposedly offered US $1 million to play the title role. Travolta originally accepted the part then revoked it. Reportedly, according to the 18th June 1979 edition of 'Playgirl' magazine, Reeve was offered a paycheck of US $1 million to play the part of Julian Kay which in the end was cast with Richard Gere. The same reported that Gere's salary on this picture was US $350,00 plus back-end percentage points from the picture's box-office profits. Earlier, the 18th January 1978 edition of 'The Los Angeles Times' had announced that Travolta, when he was attached to the project, would be starring in this film for a salary of US $2 million.
Julie Christie originally was to play the role of the politician's wife when Richard Gere was first attached to the project, but she backed out when Gere was replaced by John Travolta. Travolta later dropped out and Gere was hired for the film, but Christie was not offered the role that was eventually played by Lauren Hutton.
In 2012, star Richard Gere said that he was drawn to the role because of its gay subtext. "I read it and I thought, 'This is a character I don't know very well. I don't own a suit. He speaks languages; I don't speak any languages. There's kind of a gay thing that's flirting through it and I didn't know the gay community at all.' I wanted to immerse myself in all of that and I had literally two weeks. So I just dove in."
The movie's main theme song "Call Me" performed by Blondie was a massive hit and went to No #1 in both the UK and USA, staying at the top of the latter chart for six weeks. The song was the fourth No. #1 single in the UK in just over a year for band Blondie. The track was also the No #1 single on Billboard Magazine's end of 1980 year chart, being the highest selling single that year. The song is ranked as No #283 on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and No #44 on Billboard's All Time Top 100.
According to Richard Gere, the nudity was not in the original script. "It was just in the natural process of making the movie. I certainly felt vulnerable, but I think it's different for men than women."
Soundtrack producer Giorgio Moroder originally asked Fleetwood Mac' singer Steve Nicks to compose, sing and record the main title song for this picture but Nicks had to turn down the offer as she had just signed a new solo contract with Modern Records which prevented her from working with Moroder.
Paul Schrader wanted Lauren Hutton for the role of Michelle Stratton, but the studio wanted a bigger name and chose to go with Jessica Lange. In the end however, the decision was taken out of their hands when Lange turned down the role as being "too dark", and Hutton was cast.
Ferdinando Scarfiotti designed the entire look of the film. However, because of art director guild rules at the time he was not eligible for membership, so director 'Paul Schrader' credited him as a "visual consultant" instead.
Among common tropes in movies about prostitution are STDs, especially AIDS. However, in 1979, there was no public knowledge of AIDS when this film was made. There were unknowing people carrying the virus by then, but the medical community was still years away from identifying what this emerging virus actually is.
The 18th June 1979 edition of 'Playgirl' magazine reported that star Christopher Reeve was offered the lead male role but turned it down. Reportedly, Reeve was offered a paycheck of US $1 million to play the part of Julian Kay which in the end was cast with Richard Gere. The same reported that Gere's salary on this picture was US $350,00 plus back-end percentage points from the picture's box-office profits. Earlier, when John Travolta was attached to star, the 18th January 1978 edition of 'The Los Angeles Times' had announced that Travolta would be starring in this film for a salary of US $2 million.
Nina van Pallandt, who plays Anne, had become a public figure during the early 1970s when she was the mistress of Clifford Irving, who erroneously claimed to have access to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, and who forged what he claimed was an "authorized" Hughes biography. In 2006,Richard Gere, the star of this movie, played Clifford Irving in The Hoax (2006) with French actress Julie Delpy portraying Nina van Pallandt.
Writer-director Paul Schrader first conceptualized this film whilst teaching screenwriting at the Film & Television School of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). During a class exercise, Schrader conceived of the idea of a male character working as a gigolo and that such a character could be called an American gigolo. Moreover, Schrader characterized his American gigolo character as an affection giver rather than one interested in just self-gratification. The title of the film ended up being "American Gigolo".
The 24th February 1980 edition of 'The Los Angeles Times' stated that this film was one of five screenplays that writer-director 'Paul Schrader' wrote during his twenties in 1976. Others produced were _Hardcore_, Blue Collar (1978) and Taxi Driver (1976). The subject matter of American Gigolo (1980) was about "the elite" and "the world of Beverly Hills" compared to the others which were about "street life".
The main protagonist of the film Julian Kay(played here by Richard Gere) is seen to be a sexually ambiguous character. On the one hand he is seen to fall in love with Michelle Stratton(Lauren Hutton),while at the same time working as a predominantly gay male esort,also dabbling in S&M /bondage and "Rough tricks". Perhaps this is the reason a lot of mainstream actors turned down the role,as they saw the character as too sordid and distasteful. The excellent soundtrack by Gorgio Moroder compliments the darkness of the film with its classic 80's synth harmonies, portraying the sadness in the character of Gere.
Star John Travolta, who was originally attached to play the lead male role of Julian Kay, had recently starred in a film with Lily Tomlin called Moment by Moment (1978) which had failed at the box-office. Reportedly, it's story-line of a relationship between an older woman and a younger man was believed to be too similar in subject matter for Travolta to do another picture with this kind of plot, especially given the commercial failure of Moment by Moment (1978). Moreover, it is also believed that the then current illness of Travolta's father and the then recent death of Travolta's mother contributed to Travolta leaving the picture. Reportedly also, one of the reasons Travolta in the end turned down the movie was because he wanted final cut approval and director Paul Schrader allegedly would not give it to him.
According to the 15th April 1979 edition of 'The Los Angeles Times', when attached star 'John Travolta' left the project, the budget for the picture was decreased by about US $3.5 million to US $5.5 million which was down from the earlier US $9 million.
The film's closing credits state: "Principal costumes for Ms. Hutton [Lauren Hutton] furnished by Basile", "Footware for Mr. Gere [Richard Gere] provided by Roots Footwear", and "Our thanks to Giorgio Armani, S.p.A. for assistance with Mr. Gere's wardrobe".
The film in 1981 was Golden Globe Award nominated for two music gongs - Best Original Score for a Motion Picture and and Best Original Song for a Motion Picture for the track "Call Me", both for composer Giorgio Moroder, and the latter for singer Debbie Harry. But the movie failed to win a Golden Globe in either category losing song to Fame (1980) and score to The Stunt Man (1980).
Actress Lauren Hutton's wardrobe of fashionable costumes included thirteen outfits designed by Italian designer Aldo Ferrante' according to the the May 1979 edition of women's fashion magazine 'Vogue'. These clothes were especially selected from the boutique designer's Basile Spring line. The fashionable clothes were worn with Right Bank Clothing Company shoes which were four-inch high heels.
Richard Gere replaced John Travolta in the lead male role of Julian Kay on this film. Travolta turned down the lead role after originally accepting it. Apparently, Gere had earlier been offered the starring role before Travolta was.