When Clint Eastwood made the comedy Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Burt Reynolds reportedly said to him, "Clint, you're getting into my territory [comedy], and if it's a success, I'm going out and make 'Dirty Harry Goes to Atlanta'!". When Sharky's Machine (1981) went into production, Eastwood sent a telegram to Reynolds saying, "You really weren't kidding, were you?" Reynolds has described this movie as 'Dirty Harry Goes to Atlanta' whilst many reviewers and critics have likened it to the 'Dirty Harry' film series.
Most people think the scene with the person falling from the very tall hotel was filmed at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. It in fact was filmed at the Hyatt Regency Downtown which has a very similar, though not near as tall, tower as part of the hotel.
A remake of this movie, Sharky's Machine, was announced in April 2006. Show-business trade paper 'Variety' reported that it was not expected that the remake would be set in Atlanta. Phil Joanou was slated to direct with Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg acting as executive producers, with the latter possibly starring. Earlier, the 2nd April 2004 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety' stated that original studio Warner Bros. with producer Basil Iwanyk planned a remake and had contracted screenwriter Jerry Stahl to write the film's script.
Burt Reynolds replaced John Boorman as the film's director. Boorman was originally attached to direct Reynolds in this movie after having both worked together on Deliverance (1972). According to the 26th July 1979 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety', Boorman would be directing the picture, making the movie a reunion and a second collaboration of Boorman with Reynolds who had both previously collaborated on Deliverance (1972). In the end, according to the 16th October 1980 edition of the same publication, due to much "elaborate" post-production work on Excalibur (1981), Boorman withdrew from Sharky's Machine (1981), reportedly suggesting that Reynolds should direct the film himself instead.
The meaning and relevance of the term "machine" in the movie's title is that it refers to the fellow cop colleagues of central character Sharky (Burt Reynolds). The characters and actors who are the members of "Sharky's Machine" include Burt Reynolds as Tom Sharky, Brian Keith as Papa, Bernie Casey as Arch, and Richard Libertini as Nosh. Sharky's boss, Friscoe, played by Charles Durning, is the character who pen's the name "Sharky's Machine" and is arguably a member of the group as well.
Though Burt Reynolds has made numerous police thrillers and played a cop or private detective numerous times, it is this one only movie that is filmed with a very similar tone and style to the "Dirty Harry" series.
The American Film Institute reports, according to the 25th February 1981 edition of show-business trade paper "Variety", "Lynn Stalmaster and Associates filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Deliverance Productions Inc. in Los Angeles, CA, superior court. The suit claimed that the casting director was hired in Jul 1980 to provide 'all Screen Actors Guild (SAG)' actors for Sharky's Machine (1981) for a fee of [US] $25,000, but only received [US] $10,000 before his services were terminated in Nov 1980. Stalmaster wanted the remaining [US] $15,000 payment, plus [US] $924 in expenses."
The picture often played on a double-bill, such as in second runs and at drive-ins, with Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury (1982), as both had 18+ classification certificates, and both were distributed by Warner Brothers in certain territories.
The Orion Pictures studio acquired the film rights to William Diehl's source novel of the same name for a reported US $400,000 according to the 10th January 1979 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety'.
According to Turner Classic Movies, "the 'resurrection' of Domino ('Rachel Ward') and her first angry words with cop Sharky (Burt Reynolds) are a direct quote from Laura (1944)'s initial confrontation between Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews".
Actress Stephanie Beacham was reportedly going to be tested for the lead female role of Dominoe in this film by director Burt Reynolds according to the 22nd December 1980 edition of show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter'. The part in the end was cast with actress Rachel Ward.
The film was the only picture to be released in theaters in the 70mm format during the 1981 Christmas season according to the 15th December 1981 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety'. The film was distributed in both 35mm and 70mm film formats with six-track Dolby stereo sound.
The movie's Charity World Premiere, as reported in the 13th August 1981 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety', was held in the city of Atlanta in the American state of Georgia, where the picture was filmed, with proceeds going to benefit the Police Widows and Orphans Fund.
French actress Clio Goldsmith was considered for the lead female role of Dominoe in this film by director Burt Reynolds according to the 10th February 1981 edition of show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter'. The part in the end was cast with actress Rachel Ward.
Source "Sharky's Machine" (1978) novelist William Diehl was in negotiations to pen the movie's screenplay from his own novel according to the 27th September 1978 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety' but in the end the film script for the picture was written by screenwriter Gerald Di Pego.
The film's closing credits state: "The Producers gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the State of Georgia, the City of Atlanta and the Georgia State Film Commission in the making of this film."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Stunt man Dar Robinson, doubling for Henry Silva at the end of the film, dropped 220 feet, setting a record for the highest wireless free fall jump from a building in a film. However, only a brief part of the start of the jump is included in the final film as the next shot clearly shows a dummy falling.
Dar Robinson doubled for Henry Silva in the dramatic conclusion to this movie where Silva's hit-man character is blasted by cop Sharky (Burt Reynolds) through a plate glass window and falls to his death from an Atlanta, Georgia skyscraper. In reality, Robinson took the dive out the window and landed an on an airbag many floors below to break his fall.
In the Adult Swim show The Venture Bros. (2003), this movie is reference in the "Careers in Science" episode [See: Episode 2 of Season 1: The Venture Bros.: Careers in Science (2004)]. Manstrong mentions the movie when telling the story of Phantom Spaceman. One of the crew smaps and herds most of the crew into the hangar of the space-station Gargantua 1 for "Movie Night" and opens the airlock killing most of the crew of "Sharky's Machine" as with what happens in this movie.