When director Brian De Palma submitted the film to the MPAA, they gave it an "X rating". He then made some cuts and resubmitted it a second time; again the film was given an "X rating" (one of the reasons apparently being that Octavio the clown was shot too many times). He yet again made some further cuts and submitted it a third time; yet again it was given an "X". De Palma refused to cut the film any further to qualify it for an R. He and producer Martin Bregman arranged a hearing with the MPAA. They brought in a panel of experts, including real narcotics officers, who stated that the film was an accurate portrayal of real life in the drug underworld and should be widely seen. This convinced the 20 members of the ratings board to give the third submitted cut of the film an "R rating" by a vote of 18-2. However, De Palma surmised that if the third cut of the film was judged an "R" then the very first cut should have been an "R" as well. He asked the studio if he could release the first cut but was told that he couldn't. However since the Studio execs really didn't know the differences between the different cuts that had been submitted, De Palma released the first cut of the film to theaters anyway. It wasn't until the film had been released on videocassette months later that he confessed that he had released his first unedited and intended version of the film.
The word "yeyo" is used by Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as a slang word for cocaine. This word was not in the script, and was ad-libbed by Pacino during the first drug deal scene (chainsaw scene), and Brian De Palma liked it enough to keep using it throughout the film. Pacino learned the word while learning the Cuban accent.
The cocaine used throughout the shooting of the film was supposed to be dried milk, but that couldn't be used because it didn't fit well when the scene was shot. Director Brian De Palma refuses to admit what substance was ultimately used for cocaine out of fear that it would destroy the illusion of realism.
The prop firearms were equipped with electronic synchronizing devices so that they would only fire when the camera shutter was open. The result was that the guns' muzzle flashes are much more visible and consistent than in most movies.
Gina Montana (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) actually makes her first appearance during the beach scene. At around 44 minutes, Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer) is seen observing a woman from behind. That woman is Gina Montana. Director Brian De Palma states that the appearance is supposed to be the first indication of Gina's promiscuity.
A majority of the film was shot in Los Angeles, California, standing in for Miami, Florida. This was done because production would have been endangered by protests from angry Cuban-Americans over the film's reported subject matter. Streets and buildings used for shooting were redressed by the art directors to have the "feel" of Miami.
During filming F. Murray Abraham was notified that he had won the part of Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984) by director Milos Forman. Abraham later noted that he immediately noticed that he immediately began being treated with a great deal of respect by the crew on "Scarface" because it was a highly coveted part for which many top actors had auditioned.
There was a huge controversy in the city of Miami during the making of the film over whether the producers should be allowed to shoot in the city. The Miami Tourist Board decided not to allow filming, as they were afraid the movie would discourage tourism to Miami, particularly as it showed Miami's latest Cuban immigrants as gangsters and drug dealers.
According to producer Martin Bregman, the only shot removed from the "chainsaw scene" was that of a dismembered arm hanging from the shower curtain rod as the camera pans over to Hector, thereby establishing his line "And now the leg, huh?" The arm is visible in a production photo of actor Al Israel (Hector).
Al Pacino worked with experts in knife combat, trainers, and boxer Roberto Duran to attain the body type that he wanted for his role. Duran also helped inspire the character, who had "a certain lion in him", according to Pacino. Steven Bauer and a dialect coach helped him learn aspects of the Cuban Spanish language and pronunciation
In the opening sequence with Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and the immigration officers, Charles Durning's voice has clearly been used to overdub an actor playing one of the officers. Another of the officers is dubbed by Brian De Palma's regular Dennis Franz. If you listen carefully, Al Pacino also had to overdub his own voice at three or four different points in the same scene.
Lana Clarkson is credited as one of the women in the Babylon Club scene, which features an intense gunfight. Twenty years later in 2003, she would be shot to death by legendary music producer Phil Spector at his home in Los Angeles. Al Pacino portrayed Spector in Phil Spector (2013).
During the scene where Tony and Elvira are sitting in the Cadillac at the car dealership, Al Pacino surreptitiously slips on the hat that Michelle Pfeiffer was wearing while she was looking away, which was not scripted. When she turns back and sees him wearing it, her amused reaction was genuine and to her credit, she stayed in character and ad-libbed a line. Brian De Palma decided to keep that unscripted exchange in the movie to show Elvira's gradual warming up to Montana.
Producer Martin Bregman, in the book 'Scarface Nation', revealed that Glenn Close was the original choice for the role of Elvira, but he was dissatisfied because he thought she would be "only half a hooker".
The picture of Gen. Cocombre that the cocaine investigator shows during his interview that Sosa shows to Tony and the rest of his guests, is in fact of Col. Luis Arce Gómez, who was an actual member of the infamous "Cocaine Coup" that ran Bolivia from 1981-82.
This film has been an influence on hip-hop culture and rap music since the late 1980s. The Houston-area rap group The Geto Boys sampled several lines into their rap songs, and one rapper (Brad Jordan aka Scarface, now the CEO of Def Jam South) in the group took the name of this film as his stage name. Many rappers, including Sean Combs and Eminem, claim this is their favorite film.
According to AMC's "DVD TV: Much More Movie" airing, Cher loved the film; Lucille Ball came with her family and hated it because of the graphic violence and language; and Dustin Hoffman was said to have fallen asleep. Writers Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and John Irving were among those who allegedly walked out in disgust after the notorious chainsaw scene. At the middle of the film, Martin Scorsese turned to Steven Bauer and told him, "You guys are great - but be prepared, because they're going to hate it in Hollywood... because it's about them."
The signed picture of former U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew in Lopez's office is one that was commonly sent to the general public that requested one during his tenure. Very common in the collector's world, they usually sell for $20.00 or less.
In the scene at the Sun Ray where Tony Montana meets the Colombians, there is the trademark multi-colored bag of Mothers Cookies on the dresser. Mother's cookies eventually was acquired by the Kellogg Co. and this product placement is now noted on the Mother's Cookies website.
One of the incorrect stories regarding the film's battle with the MPAA over the initial X rating it received and the (ultimately successful) effort to be given an R rating instead is that the infamous "chainsaw scene" had to be heavily edited because it was the major focus of the ratings board's issues over the film's violence and gore. In fact, Brian De Palma had always directed that scene to hint at a great deal more carnage than he actually showed (he once said that the shower scene in Psycho (1960) was a main inspiration for this) and the only matter the MPAA cited was a very brief shot of a severed arm. In fact, De Palma hadn't intended for that image to be in the movie and made removing it his first cut when preparing the movie for its ratings appeal.
During the scene in Elvira's condo, and after Frank Lopez's failed assassination attempt on Tony, he looks up at a blimp which reads "the world is yours . . . Pan Am airlines". It should be noted that Scarface (1932) was produced by Howard Hughes who was majority shareholder and investor of Transworld Airlines, a notable competitor of Pan Am.
The entertainment industry initially hated the film, with Liza Minnelli asking Al Pacino what he had done to leave the insiders subdued at a post-screening meal. (Minnelli had not seen the film at the time.) However, during the meal, Eddie Murphy told Pacino that he loved the film.
In creating the Freedom Town sequence, Brian De Palma and visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti researched actual events and found that in 1980, newly arrived Marielitos were housed in a hastily constructed camp beneath a Miami freeway. For the movie, the camp was erected in Los Angeles, beneath the intersection of the Santa Monica and Harbour freeways. The final riot in Freedom town called for some linguistic agility, as many of the six hundred extras spoke Spanish; thus safety required careful translation prior to each set-up.
The beer that one of the two assassins drinks in the Babylon Club before the shootout is Bavarian Löwenbräu. The brewery is located in Munich, Germany, and was founded around 1383. Also, the box seen in the money-counting scene, where Tony Montana wants the money to be counted a second time, is a Löwenbräu box. Löwenbräu translates into English as "lion's brew".
The rapper Scarface sampled the line "All I have in this world" for the song "Mr. Scarface" from his 1991 album "Mr. Scarface Is Back." A variation of the song was released with the Geto Boys 1989 album Grip It! On That Other Level and the 1990 Geto Boys album released by Def American when Scarface was signed to the Geto Boys with its members Willie D and Bushwick Bill.
There's one shot near the end of the movie of a henchman tossing a grappling hook onto the top of Tony's mansion. Believe it or not, that one shot was actually directed by Steven Spielberg, who was visiting the set at the time.
When Tony Montana dies, the globe says, "The World is Yours", which is what flashed on a billboard when Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) died in the original Scarface (1932), as well as what the blimp displays in a previous scene.
In the narrative behind Tony killing Manny. Manny broke his promise to Tony that he wouldn't mess around or get sexually involved with Gina and that Tony wanted a better life for his sister and was explosively protective of her. It had not occurred to Manny that Tony would not be happy at all with Manny having a secret relationship with Gina and going behind Tony's back and he didn't think Tony would get mad at him for disobeying and betrayed him.