Jennifer Beals' trend-setting collarless sweatshirt came about by accident. The sweatshirt, which Beals brought from home, had shrunk in the wash and she had to cut the collar off in order to get it over her head.
Marine Jahan was Jennifer Beals' body double for the dancing scenes. Jahan was kept hidden from the press because the filmmakers did not want to ruin the illusion. Alex's leap through the air in the audition scene was done by gymnast Sharon Shapiro and the break-dancing was done by Crazy Legs. Jahan appeared in the music video for "Maniac".
In 1982, Maureen Marder, whose life the film loosely is based on, signed an agreement with Paramount releasing it from any claim regarding her life story. In return she received a cheque for $2,300. The movie later grossed over $150 million.
In the early years of home video, Paramount tried an experiment in which this film was given a heavily promoted home video release while the film was still playing in some cinemas. The box office was expected to drop off to nothing as soon as the tape became available for rental. Instead, the heavy promotion caused an increase in box office receipts.
There is a cutting-room-floor scene between Alex and Hanna, which finds Alex admitting that she was too insecure - not too busy, as she claimed earlier - to apply for membership in Pittsburgh's Repertory Dance Company. Hanna then tells Alex that "Everybody runs sometimes...Eventually, you'll understand that - and then you'll stop running." This scene can be found in certain TV edits of the movie.
Adrian Lyne and talent scouts had narrowed the female leads down to four women which included Jennifer Beals. They each had their favorite one and could not decide. Lyne brought in a few secretaries from the front office and had them choose. This is straight from Lyne's interview in the 2007 Blu-ray copy. Oddly enough, Beals does not appear in the biography of the film.
Before Kyra Sedgwick auditioned for a role here, she was instructed by her agent to wear a leotard, heels and no tights. She wore, instead, a miniskirt and heels and auditioned for director Adrian Lyne whom she berated when he took a call during her audition.
Paramount Pictures gave production rights to the original script for the film to Don Simpson after he was fired from his executive job with the studio, and many observers felt Paramount deliberately gave him a terrible property in hopes he would fail and his career would be ruined. In addition, Paramount had so little faith in the box office potential of the film that they sold off 25% of the project days before it opened.
Earlier drafts of the screenplay included Alex having a gay man for a best friend. Director Adrian Lyne liked this story because it was rare at that time for films to show straight women having close friendships with gay men. The story line was cut from the final script.
Director Adrian Lyne decided that Alex's back story included her having been molested when she was a child. Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was horrified, saying it would "sink the entire story", and fought furiously with Lyne. The producers later sided with Eszterhas and Lyne gave up on the idea.
A nationwide search for a young actress was narrowed down to three finalists: Leslie Wing, Demi Moore, and Jennifer Beals. Reportedly, a Paramount executive took pictures of the three actresses to a group of construction workers on the studio lot, asking them "Which of these women do you most want to fuck?" and being given the answer "Jennifer Beals".
This movie has been widely acknowledged as the first film ever to become a smash hit largely due to MTV. When it opened in the spring of 1983, it had a decent but modest $6 million+ weekend, but the soundtrack immediately became a best-seller in the U.S. The film's music producers and credited artists like Irene Cara then worked very quickly to film videos for songs such as "What a Feeling" and "Maniac" to get them on MTV. The huge draw of MTV with younger viewers led to the film sustaining its audience well beyond what was then expected for films that were released outside of the summer or winter holiday periods, were rated R, or didn't have major stars involved. And the cycle of songs-videos continued for several months, resulting in "Flashdance" having a wide-for-1983 release slate until that September and becoming a massive hit with over $90 million box office receipts.
Crazy Legs was willing to wear a wig and shave his legs to assume the role of Alex's stunt double for the break-dancing move in her audition dance, but absolutely refused to shave his mustache. If you pause at the end of the backspin, you can clearly see Alex with a mustache.