Barry Levinson had the main actors arrive in Baltimore a week before filming began to get to know each other and build rapport. Predictably, the young male actors went out on the town to clubs and tried to pick up women. Sometimes they would use bogus stories about what they were doing in Baltimore. Tim Daly says he came up with the most popular one, that they were engineers working on a rotating rooftop restaurant.
MGM was reluctant to release the film, which they believed would be a commercial flop. But when they found out that critic Pauline Kael had written a glowing review in the New Yorker, they immediately released it.
The greatest source of competition among the actors came about when they were called on to improvise, a skill in which they each had different abilities. Kevin Bacon, by his own admission, was the least adept at it. Tim Daly said it was hardest to top Paul Reiser's improv dexterity because "he's the sharpest, fastest guy alive."
Kevin Bacon was sick on the day of his screentest to play Fenwick. But he had previously decided that his character would probably be half-drunk during the entire movie, so he went ahead and auditioned, and got the part.
Just like his character Shrevie, Daniel Stern (a Maryland native) was the only main actor who was married when Diner was filming, and thus missed out on much of the nightclub action with the other guys.
The name of the diner was the "Fell's Point Diner". Its physical location was situated on a hilltop setting at the junction of Rogers Avenue and Reisterstown Road in Baltimore. The diner used in the movie was moved further downtown in Baltimore, and by 2002 was an on-the-job training school for at-risk youth. According to Wikimapia, "In 1981, the production rented and moved a diner from Paramount Diner Company of New Jersey to this location. In the movie, it was called the Fells Point Diner, but when production ended, the structure was returned to New Jersey. After the movie came out, the local radio station started a successful campaign to bring the diner back to Baltimore. Today, it sits behind city hall. Condominiums later were built on the filming location".
Steve Guttenberg said he brought a lot of himself to the role, both his outward macho swagger and his inner conflict and insecurity. Barry Levinson thought he was perfect as the guy who gives his fiancée a football test before their wedding. "He could be thickheaded, stubborn, appealing and likable, like Eddie."
Kevin Bacon has said he was never very good at improvising like several of the other actors, so he would just sit and listen and grin, which turned out to be right for his character, who he considered "a reactive sort of character, someone who's kind of on the outskirts."
While many have speculated about which character actually represented Barry Levinson himself, the answer is none according to Barry Levinson. Levinson says that each of the main characters represent a small part of his youth. Though of the five guy characters, it has been speculated by some of the actors who played them, that the character most resembling Levinson was William "Billy" Howard (Tim Daly).
Kevin Bacon had just decided not to renew his contract with the soap opera Guiding Light (1952), and the audition for the film was all he had on the horizon. But on the day he was scheduled for a screentest, he was very ill with the flu, and had a fever of 104. It was his intention to read for the part of either Boogie or Billy, but the illness gave him just the right "spaced out, not-all-there aspects of the character," as he later put it, to get him the role of Fenwick.
Barry Levinson wrote and directed this movie, having started writing the screenplay during mid 1980, after the suggestion of Mel Brooks, who Levinson had collaborated with during the mid to late 1970s on both Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977) as a screenwriter. The Executive Producer of Diner (1982) was Mark Johnson who had been an Assistant Director on Brooks' High Anxiety (1977). Johnson later teamed up with Producer Jerry Weintraub at MGM, which is where Weintraub and Johnson decided to collaborate as producers on making this movie, as Producer and Executive Producer respectively.
In an interview with TCM years later, Kevin Bacon said that Steve Guttenberg used to eat "incredible amounts of food" and drink milk all the time, and that he looked up to Mickey Rourke as a kind of mentor or teacher. Bacon felt Rourke was very intense and skilled at being "very, very small" in terms of his subtlety, doing work "that you almost are unable to see being shot at the time, and then it gets on camera and it just, you know, explodes into something great."
The answer to one of the College Bowl questions was that the planet Mercury rotates once for every revolution about the sun, which is what astronomers believed in 1959. (In 1965, radar observations showed that the planet actually rotates three times for every two revolutions of the sun.)
Like Catch Me If You Can (2002), Spider-Man (2002) and Sister Act (1992), Diner will be transformed into a Broadway musical. Barry Levinson will also write Diner's book, and Sheryl Crow will write the music and lyrics. Kathleen Marshall, a recent Tony Award-winner for her choreography of "Anything Goes", will direct and choreograph the production which is set for theater try-outs by summer 2012.
Although not part of the "boys' club," Ellen Barkin got along well with the male actors. Steve Guttenberg later noted how she was "really cool to talk to" and would set him straight about his own problems with women.
According to Kevin Bacon, Barry Levinson hadn't yet learned to hone his skills in talking to actors. According to various cast members, he was so green, and perhaps so caught up in the process, that on the first day he forgot to say either "action" or "cut."
First of two movies that Kevin Bacon has made with Barry Levinson. The second and final movie (to date, August 2013) was Sleepers (1996). According to the TCMDb, "In a 1990s interview with TCM about the picture, Kevin Bacon said he always wanted to work with (Barry) Levinson after Diner (1982), but that he thought he was too identified as Fenwick in the director's mind to ever get another shot at a role. He did, however."
The song Shrievie is listening to after having a fight with Beth about "the flipside" of records is Clarence 'Frogman' Henry's "Ain't Got No Home". That song was a flipside song before being discovered by Leonard Chess of Chess Records. He released it as a single and its familiar chorus is still popular today.
The movie got Oscar nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for Barry Levinson, but did not win, losing out to John Briley for Gandhi (1982). The nomination, the only one for the picture, was Levinson's second, his first having been for the script for ...and justice for all. (1979). Levinson would later win an Oscar for Rain Man (1988), for best Director.
All the lead characters had nicknames. They were "Eddie", "Shrevie", "Boogie", "Billy", and "Fen"/"Fenwick" which were respectively the nicknames for the characters Edward Simmons (Steve Guttenberg), Lawrence Schrieber (Daniel Stern), Robert Shefteil (Mickey Rourke), William Howard (Tim Daly), and Timothy Fenwick, Jr. (Kevin Bacon).
MGM was initially disappointed that the movie was not like Porky's (1981). The executives did not rave about the picture, did not want to release it, and wanted to shelve it. The studio executives did not support the picture in the market, didn't make it a priority, and didn't know what to do with it.The film ended up getting Oscar nominated for the Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Academy Award for Barry Levinson.
According to Allmovie, "Diner (1982) was the first part of (Barry) Levinson's 'Baltimore Trilogy', followed by Tin Men (1987) and Avalon (1990)'. It has also been said that Diner (1982) is the first film in Barry Levinson's series of four "Baltimore Films" . The others being Tin Men (1987) , Avalon (1990), and Liberty Heights (1999).
Barry Levinson got all his cast down to Baltimore a week or so before shooting, but didn't really rehearse them more than an hour or so a day. The idea was for them to just start hanging out together, and getting to know each other. Levinson also said that for him rehearsal takes the edge off things. "I prefer to let the actors be almost struggling with their lines and worrying about how they are going to cope with certain things," he said in Levinson on Levinson (Faber & Faber, 1993). "If, as in the case of Diner, you are selecting certain actors who are not so far removed from their characters, then they are in the ball park already. So you want them to sneak up on that behavior without feeling they have to do lots of acting."
The character referred to in the movie as "Elyse", is billed as "Bride" during the closing credits. She was played by Sharon Ziman, and the role was not a speaking part, though the actress' voice is apparently heard in a voice-over during an earlier scene.
Barry Levinson auditioned over six hundred young actors in a casting call for the five lead roles of the five guys. The auditions were held in New York City, Los Angeles, and Maryland. Moreover, about thirty to forty actors were auditioned for the remaining smaller parts.
Paul Reiser's character of Modell is never seen outside the diner except in the first and final scene along with the football test scene. His character, unlike the other five leads, has no arch. He also was not a groomsman in the wedding, and was not included in the final shot with the other five leads.
According to the American Film Institute, the March 22, 1984 edition of The Hollywood Reporter "announced that actor Richard Egan had filed a lawsuit against MGM for neglecting to pay him for using scenes from his 1959 Warner Brothers film, A Summer Place (1959) . . . in Diner (1982). Egan requested $12,844.56 in compensation for the footage, in addition to $100,000 exemplary damages."
The January 31st edition of The New York Times reported that the diner featured in the film, The Westbury Grill restaurant, had previously been located in Long Island, New York, and then had been re-located to Oakland, New Jersey prior to again being re-located to Baltimore for this film production. After principal photography, the diner was sold to radio station WBAL for 34,000 dollars, and its use was re-adapted as a training room for cooking students.
The movie's closing credits state: "Filmmakers also extend thanks to the following: Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, Ms. Fontaine Sullivan of the Office of the Mayor, Mr. Jack Smith of the Maryland Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, and "especially" the People of the City of Baltimore "for their generosity and assistance in the making of this motion picture."
Another comedy, Best Friends (1982), first debuted in cinemas in the year of 1982, which was the same year of first release of Diner (1982), which was soley written and directed by Best Friends (1982) co-screenwriter Barry Levinson.