The picture has inspired many marriage break-ups according to the film's lead female actress Julie Walters. While receiving the Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Film at the Moet British Independent Film Awards in 2013, Walters said: "I get people who come up to me and say 'I left my husband because of you, because of that film', or 'I got an education'. So many."
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.
Julie Walters has said of this film to UK's Guardian newspaper: "Making the film was utterly different (to the 1980 stage production, in which Walters also starred). I made Rita a bit rougher round the edges and toned my performance down. The director, Lewis Gilbert, wanted me, but I'd never done a feature before, only a bit of telly, and they needed a star. There was talk of doing it with Paul Newman and Dolly Parton. But then Michael Caine came on board as Frank, and I was in. I remember his wife saying: 'You are very lucky it's Michael'. She was thinking of other people of that ilk, who were starry and not that easy. But Michael was lovely, so generous to me."
When Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) 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. That movie features major story elements relating to alcoholism as well.
Michael Caine has said that knew he wouldn't win the Academy Award for Best Actor, as soon as he saw that he was seated away from the front row at the ceremony. He was still given a standing ovation afterward anyway.
When Dr. Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) is drunk in the lecture hall, he says, "Not many people know that". This was an in-joke for a catch-phrase, initiated by Peter Sellers, when he appeared on BBC's Parkinson show on October 28, 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 Caine. "Not many people know that" is also the title of a best-selling collection of trivia anecdotes which Caine compiled in 1984 for a book for the charity the National Playing Fields Association.
The source stage play, by Willy Russell, of the same name, on which this film is based, only featured two characters, Frank and Rita, and hence is what is known in the theater world as a "two-hander". The stage production is set entirely in Frank's academia office. The other characters in the film are only mentioned in the theater play.
The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Michael Caine), Best Actress (Julie Walters), and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Willy Russell), but the picture failed to win a gong in any of this trio of Oscar categories.
According to an article published in 2015 by the Liverpool Echo, "the (source) Willy Russell play has remained in production somewhere in the world every year since it received its premiere at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) in London (in 1980)".
In 2002, director Lewis Gilbert thought about remaking the film with Halle Berry with Denzel Washington, who both had won Best Acting Oscars that year, for Monster's Ball (2001) and Training Day (2001) respectively. However, the project never got off the ground. England's newspaper "The Guardian" reported that Gilbert referred to both of these Oscar winners when he spoke of this proposed production: "There are so many good black actors in America. You only have to think of the two black actors who took the Best Actor awards at this year's Oscars".
First of two major British movies of the 1980s, both comedy-dramas, that featured the name "Rita" in the title. Educating Rita (1983) was the first, and Rita, Sue and Bob Too! (1987) was the second. Ironically, Susan (a name which can be abbreviated as Sue), is Rita's real first name in Educating Rita (1983).
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's (Royal Shakespeare Company's) biggest successes.
Author and academic Geoffrey Sampson, Professor of Natural Language Computing in the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex, has stated that the title of his book "Educating Eve: The 'Language Instinct' Debate" (1997) is a deliberate allusion to "Educating Rita", and utilizes the story-line of Willy Russell's "Educating Rita" source stage play to argue his thesis.
The name of the educational institution is never mentioned and the college, which is stated to be an open university campus, is situated in an unspecified English town. In the stage play, the setting is Liverpool. However, filming took place entirely in Ireland, and the college seen onscreen is Trinity College in Dublin. While care was taken to remove or cover up all Gaelic language signs during filming, the film makes no effort to hide various easily recognizable Dublin landmarks and city views. It can be presumed that Rita is a young Liverpudlian working-class ladies' hairdresser, but viewers not familiar with the original stage play, are presented with an unspecified university town.
Michael Caine sports a beard in this picture, portraying Professor Frank Bryant, just as thespian Mark Kingston had done, while playing the part in the original West End Royal Shakespeare Company production in 1980.
Frank, surprised at Rita's new personality when he picks her up at the train station, says: "My God, what is this vision I see before me?" That's a clear reference to the line "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" from Macbeth which is Rita's favorite play.
The original Off-Broadway production of "Educating Rita" opened upstairs at the Westside Theatre on May 7, 1987, and ran for ninety-four performances until it closed on July 26, 1987. This was four years after this movie had first launched, and seven years after the source stage play had premiered in London's West End. In this two-hander staged Off-Broadway, Laurie Metcalf played Rita, while Austin Pendleton portrayed Frank.
The photographic still, used for many of the movie posters for the film, featuring Rita sitting in front of Frank, who is holding open wide a book with lots of text, is a shot that doesn't appear in the movie itself.