Director Sam Peckinpah was in ill-health throughout the shoot. The long-term toll of his drug and alcohol abuse suggested to many in the production that he was dying. Peckinpah would go off and take opportune naps but still completed and delivered his initial cut of the film on-time despite sickness and exhaustion.
Sam Peckinpah was fired when he refused to re-edit the film after it was screened for a test audience on 25 May 1983 and met with a confused and extremely mixed reaction. Producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer took over the editing with the assistance of editor Edward M. Abroms, drastically altering opening and ending sequences.
According to Jason Robards, Robert Ludlum offered to rewrite the overly complex and confusing script for free, but differences between the producers and director Sam Peckinpah, who'd expressed his concern from the beginning, prevented this from happening.
First ever feature film adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel. It was the second Ludlum adaption overall for any filmed production, as _The Rhinemann Exchange (1977) had been made for television in 1977. The picture was the first of three 1980s features based on Ludlum novels, the second followed about two years later with The Holcroft Covenant (1985) and the decade ended with a tele-movie feature of The Bourne Identity (1988).
The film marked some story element similarities with director Sam Peckinpah's earlier film Straw Dogs (1971). Peckinpah once said: "Same thing. Here we have a dead dog in the refrigerator, in Straw Dogs (1971) there was a dead cat in the closet. Both involve a house under siege".
A cut made by director Sam Peckinpah which was shown to a test audience is now available on the Anchor Bay DVD release. A number of people walked out of the test screening due to the film's infamous opening sex scene between Fassett (John Hurt) and his wife. The producers wanted Peckinpah to cut the scene out. When he refused he was fired. Deleted scenes in this DVD include: 1) The sex scene is more extended and shot more wobbly to express how Fassett's breaking point for revenge had occurred. 2) Deleted scene of Osterman and Joe talking on the phone about their deal. 3) Extended scene of Virginia flirting with Dick on the phone. 4) There a deleted scene of John Tanner of having an affair with his director Marcia and wakes up to find her dead. 5) The scene where Tanner and guest are arguing by the dinner table, in the theatrical cut Fassett switches on a Swiss ad, the Peckinpah's cut he has like a big image of Danforth. 6) Alterative ending is juxtapositioned between Tanner searching for his family and the TV studio.
Final film of director Sam Peckinpah. The picture was also Peckinpah's big "comeback movie", it was his first in five years, his last film having been at the time Convoy (1978) in 1978. The movie is also Peckinpah's only feature film of the 1980s.
Chris Sarandon's wife was pregnant throughout the filming of this movie. He said that the added tension provided his character with a little more depth. His wife gave birth shortly after filming wrapped.
Director Sam Peckinpah asked the producers to do re-write work on the script, was given permission to do so, but after submission of his first few pages, the producers relented, and forbid Peckinpah any more re-writes.
According to the documentary Alpha to Omega: Exposing 'The Osterman Weekend' (2004), director Sam Peckinpah hated Robert Ludlum's novel and he did not like the screenplay for the movie as well. But regardless of his dislike for the book, Peckinpah still accepted the director's job as Peckinpah was desperate to re-establish his legendary director position within the Hollywood film community.
According to the 30th December edition of "The Gettysburg Times", producer William N. Panzer acquired the Ludlum property with partner Peter S. Davis "after a chance encounter with the previous owner of the screen rights". The movie's budget "was raised by selling foreign, home-video and pay TV rights, with an assist from private investors". Panzer said: "Sam's name was a big help in selling the foreign rights. He's even more known abroad than he is here".
According to "The Espionage Filmography", director Sam "Peckinpah claimed the film was botched in the final edit". In the February 1984 edition of Photoplay (UK), Peckinpah said he was happy with the final cut despite six minutes of scenes with humor being cut out which he said balanced the violence. According to Wikipedia, "The producers changed the opening sequence and deleted other scenes they deemed unnecessary. Peckinpah proclaimed that producers had once again sabotaged his film, a complaint he made after filming Major Dundee (1965) and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973). He was less vocal this time, mindful that studios and producers were keeping an eye on his behavior".
The movie's main movie poster featured a woman archer with a bow-and-arrow, and was a very similar image to what had appeared on the cover of some editions of the paperback dust-jackets of Robert Ludlum's source novel.
The movie's signature house setting was a 1950s ranch located in upper Mandeville Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. It was a property once owned by Robert Taylor and has been frequently been known by the names the "Taylor Estate" as well as "Robert Taylor Ranch".
The movie's video sequences caused a number of problems for the production. The film's story calls for scenes with the actors watching various television screens. Problems arose in capturing the video images for film.
No damage, special effects or action work was meant to be done on location at Robert Taylor's former ranch residence, the filming location for the house seen in the movie, but the production just went ahead and shot out windows, conducted a pool-side shoot-out and damaged the swimming-pool.
Horror film maker William Castle was the first owner of the film rights to author Robert Ludlum's source novel. Castle asked Ludlum to write the screenplay but Ludlulm was reluctant and declined. Castle once said: "I didn't leave that crowd of ocelots to go back into it".
Larry Jones sold the film rights to Robert Ludlum's novel "The Osterman Weekend" to the film's producers, Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer, due to dissatisfaction in being able to have a suitable screenplay developed. In the book "Bloody Sam" (1991) by Marshall Fine, the film's scriptwriter Alan Sharp said that he didn't like his own script for the film and thought it incredible that producers used his draft for filming. The producers bought the film rights due to the marquee value of the project that they thought would elevate them out of the B-movie scene they had been making movies in.
According to David Weddle's book on Peckinpah, "If They Move, Kill 'Em", despite the extensive surveillance sequences and Peckinpah's declining health, the film wrapped production on January 17, 1983, on time and on budget.
This was the first Ludlum to hit the big screen. Lew Grade had announced " The Scarlatti Inheritance " , to star Ingrid Bergmann, and " The Gemini Contenders " at the Cannes film festival several times during the late 70's but a string of flops led to the demise of his brief filmmaking empire.
Director Sam Peckinpah nicknamed actor Craig T. Nelson "Fish" because he had to stay under water a lot in the night-time swimming pool shoot-out sequence. Co-star Burt Lancaster once starred in a movie called The Swimmer (1968) where his character swam various swimming pools but Lancaster does not appear in the pool in this film.