When Frank is drunk in the lecture hall, he says, "Not many people know that". This was an in-joke for a catchphrase, initiated by Peter Sellers, when he appeared on BBC's Parkinson show on October 28th, 1972 where he did a Michael Caine impression in which he claimed that Caine had a habit of always quoting from the Guinness Book of Records and saying things like "Did you know that it takes a man in a tweed suit five and a half seconds to fall from the top of Big Ben to the ground? Now there's not many people know that!". This quickly became a catchphrase often repeated by many other impersonators when imitating Michael Caine. It is also the title of a best-selling collection of trivia anecdotes, which Caine compiled in book form for the National Playing Fields Association charity in 1984.
At the train station, there is an unusual black rectangle above the word "Platform" on the platform sign hanging from the ceiling. Its purpose is to cover up the Irish (Gaelic) word "Árdán", which would have been out of place in an English railway station. A slightly different tactic was employed in another scene showing a double-decker bus. Its destination is listed as Beaumont, a real suburb of Dublin. It was most likely chosen partly as a could-be-anywhere sort of name, but mostly because practically every other destination on a Dublin bus is listed bilingually.
When Frank is getting the hidden liquor bottle from his bookshelf, he gets it from behind a book titled The Lost Weekend (1945), a clear reference to the 1945 film of the same name. The movie features alcoholism as well.
When the film was in the hands of American producers, they originally wanted Dolly Parton and Paul Newman to take the lead roles. However, it would have required the film to have been relocated to the United States. Writer Willy Russell stated "A more cynical and a more commercially-minded human being than myself might have said, 'What a great idea. Go down that route.'" Russell wanted Julie Walters for the role.
When the original theatrical production premiered at London's Donmar Warehouse in 1980, Julie Walters played opposite Mark Kingston with direction by Mike Ockrent. The play went on to become one of the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company)'s biggest successes.