The picture was shot in freezing cold temperatures. The production had to simulate the heatwave of the film's story, the actors having to act hot in cold conditions. For example, the thesps had to suck ice cubes before speaking to eliminate foggy breath and had water sprayed on their skin and shirts to simulate body sweat.
William Hurt and Kathleen Turner wanted the crew to feel comfortable filming their love scenes, so they lined up the crew and both actors introduced themselves to each crew member. When they did this, both stars were naked.
The Matty Walker character was modeled on film noir legend Lauren Bacall. Kathleen Turner was cast in the role due to her similarities to Bacall, including a distinctive husky voice and distinguishable long, shapely legs.
Ted Danson's mother went to see the film and walked out due to the picture's provocative sexuality. According to the documentary on the film's DVD, she never told him this, and pretended for many years that she had seen the movie, which she hadn't, until it was revealed to him many years later.
Kathleen Turner was compared to '40s film-noir icon 'Laurel Bacall' because of her performance in this film. Other Bacall/Turner similarities are that Bacall's debut film, To Have and Have Not (1944), has been called one of the most sensational debuts in film history and made her a star. Turner's debut in this film, playing a similar character to Bacall's, has also been hailed as one of the most sensational film debuts, and also made her a star.
When Kathleen Turner did her second reading for writer-director Lawrence Kasdan, he said that it was the first time that someone had read the part of Matty Walker that sounded exactly the way he had heard it in his head when he wrote the script. In an article in Photoplay (UK) magazine published in April 1982, it stated that the screen "test was too good to ignore and Kathleen coincided exactly with director Lawrence Kasdan's idea of Matty".
This movie was originally slated to be shot in the New York/New Jersey area. It was moved to Florida because of a Teamsters strike. When the script was changed to Florida, the technical director failed to switch to Florida laws.
The Ladd Company head Alan Ladd Jr. didn't like the mustache on William Hurt, feeling that it looked sleazy, and wanted it removed. Despite getting his big directorial break from Ladd, director Lawrence Kasdan refused to do this.
Lawyer Peter Lowenstein (Ted Danson) states that oral sex is not illegal in Florida. However, Florida statute 800.02 made "unnatural and lascivious acts", which included oral-genital contact, a misdemeanor. In 2003 the US Supreme Court struck down all sodomy laws.
Director Lawrence Kasdan wanted a woman editor (who was Carol Littleton) so as to have a female perspective on the erotic sensuality that the movie contained. He hired Carol Littleton, who has edited many of Kasdan's films ever since.
In New York doing Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull" on stage, Kathleen Turner was turned down for an audition for this film because she had no film credits. She has since said, "All I knew was that the role, Matty Walker, was the best part written for a woman in so many years. I tried to get an audition but I had no film experience and was unable to get one". About four months later, Turner was in Los Angeles pursuing a part in another picture when, with the part still not cast, she was granted an audition. She said, "They gave me a copy of the script and I immediately wanted it. After that reading they set up a screen test [with William Hurt]. I'd never tested for a film before, and it was pretty scary . . . walking into a studio, having make-up men and everybody turn you into their idea of what Matty should be".
Kim Zimmer (Mary Ann) had previously succeeded Kathleen Turner (Matty) in the role of Nola Dancy on the soap opera The Doctors (1963). The role of Matty had originally been offered to Zimmer, but the producers of "The Doctors" wouldn't give her time off to shoot the film.
One of the film's main movie posters featured a long text preamble that read: "It's a hot summer. Ned Racine is waiting for something special to happen. And when it does . . . He won't be ready for the consequences. BODY HEAT. As the temperature rises, the suspense begins".
The first of three historically significant but unrelated adult thriller movies in an unofficial Hollywood trilogy of erotic suspensers, each with a two word title, and each made around half a dozen years apart. The film's are Body Heat (1981) (1981), Fatal Attraction (1987) and Basic Instinct (1992) (1992).
In the Delux Edition DVD Extras of "Body Heat", Ted Danson tells a story about how, just before shooting, William Hurt came up to him and asked "Do you trust me?" and then proceeded to grab Danson by the balls and ask him again, "Do you trust me?" In 2008, The National Enquirer reported how Hurt apparently recounted and "demonstrated" the same story on a customer while at a tavern in New York City.
When classified by the Australian Censor for theaters and videotape during the early 1980s, the picture garnered an "M" rating both times, suitable for persons 15 years and older. Years later, when classified for DVD in that country in the late 1990s and 2000s, the film garnered the higher MA 15+ rating again both times, which restricts audiences to fifteen years and older. After a period of thirty years, it is more likely for a film to be re-classified with a lower age restrictive rating, but in this instance down under, as with The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the picture achieved the unusual feat of getting a higher age restrictive classification rating.
The film was largely influenced by Double Indemnity (1944). Richard Crenna appeared in the remake Double Indemnity (1973), as Walter Neff, the man lured into murdering his lover's husband. In this film, he plays the doomed husband.
According to "Halliwells Film Guide", the movie was an "uncredited revamp of Double Indemnity (1944)", while "The Virgin Film Guide" said that the movie "incorporates a plot reminiscent of 'Double Indemnity'. "The Thriller Film Guide" said that the "plot (although not credited as such) is a virtual reworking of 'Double Indemnity'."
William Hurt plays racy, promiscuous lawyer Ned Racine, who beds at least three women. In The Big Chill (1983), the subsequent film Hurt made with this film's director Lawrence Kasdan, he played a character who is impotent.
First of two major significant thrillers of the 1980s which had the first word of the film's title being "BODY". The movies are Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (1981) and Brian De Palma's Body Double (1984) which were both made and released around three years apart.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The text of the letter that Ned received with the yearbook read: "Mr. Ned Racine 69906753 Florida State Penitetiary Tallahassee, Florida 33104 - Dear Mr. Racine, Here is The Wheaton Cougar you asked to see. We were very intrigued by your most unusual request. Many former graduates have requested a look a our old yearbooks, but yours was our first correspondence from a state penitentiary. We hope that you will respect our desire to have the book returned at the soonest possible time. Good luck in your rehabilitation. I hope this satisfies your curiosity about your departed cousin. Very truly yours, David Morris Assistant Principal Wheaton High School".
The real name of Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) was Mary Ann Simpson. Moreover, the real name of Mary Ann (Simpson) (Kim Zimmer) was Matty Walker. Despite this, the characters the two actresses are billed for are their known, albeit 'false names', that the viewer has been familiar with throughout the film, and not their true identities.
In the last scene, there is no indication where Matty Walker is, other than on a beach. However, the gentleman, that you only see part of, says to Matty, "Muito Quente." (pronounced "MUY-too QUEEN-chee"), which is Portuguese. When Mattie says "What?", he says "It is hot.", which is the general English translation (the literal translation is "Very Hot."). So one would assume they are on a beach in Brazil.
The film's screenplay originally contained a failed first murder attempt. This sequence was actually shot but was cut out because it was felt it slowed down the movie's pace. However, footage from this botched attack was merged with filmed material from the successful kill, to form the one successful job on the husband in the movie. If one looks closely, one can see the design on the bedsheets is different--footage from the first crack used tighter shots so that this would not be noticed.
According to "The Wheaton Cougars" 1968 College Yearbook, the nickname of Kathleen Turner)'s Matty Walker character, published under her real name of Mary Ann Simpson, was "The Vamp" and the nickname of Kim Zimmer's Mary Ann Simpson character, published under her real name of Matty Walker, was "Smoocher". In the same publication, Zimmer's ambition was "To Graduate" while Turner's ambition was "To be rich and live in an exotic land".