James L. Brooks received a special gift at the end of production, to congratulate him for completing his first movie. This was a book of "Life in Hell" cartoons, drawn by Matt Groening. Brooks was so impressed with the comics that he asked Groening to create cartoon shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show (1987). This gave rise to The Simpsons (1989).
Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger were both nominated for 1983's Best Actress Oscar, which went to MacLaine. On her way to the podium, she reportedly whispered to Winger, "Half of this belongs to you", to which Winger reportedly replied, "I'll take half."
The character of Garrett Breedlove does not appear in the novel, and was written specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind by Writer and Director James L. Brooks. Reynolds loved the script, but was already committed to star in Stroker Ace (1983). Paul Newman and Harrison Ford turned down the role before Jack Nicholson signed on. Nicholson talked with several real astronauts while in Houston, in preparation.
While shooting the movie in Nebraska, Debra Winger began dating Governor Bob Kerrey, who told reporters, "She swept me off my foot", alluding to the fact that the lower part of one of his legs was amputated due to injuries sustained in his Medal of Honor action in Vietnam.
Jennifer Jones originally owned the book rights, and wanted to play the part of Aurora. Sissy Spacek was originally scheduled to play the Debra Winger role. Jones and her husband, millionaire Norton Simon, originally commissioned the screenplay from Brooks as a comeback film. The writer subsequently decided that the character of Aurora should not have to be tailored to suit a particular actress, and persuaded Paramount Pictures to purchase the rights from the Simons. On accepting the Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium Oscar, Brooks especially thanked Jennifer Jones Simon.
Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). That film also won awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium. Nicholson won an award for each film as well, but won Best Actor for the previous film, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this one.
Although not specifically stated, the bulk of the story takes place over a span of several years during the late 1970s (a 1979 wall calendar is visible midway through the movie). Interestingly, as the character Garrett is an astronaut, this particular time period was exactly when his services would be least needed by N.A.S.A. The final Apollo mission was in 1975, and there would not be another manned spaceflight until the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981.
The MPAA originally gave this film an "R" rating due to strong language. It was reduced to "PG" on an appeal (the PG-13 rating did not exist at the time), an achievement often repeated by James L. Brooks on his later films.
In interviews, Shirley MacLaine said James L. Brooks played weird head games with the cast, and liked to keep everyone terrorized, on edge, and in a state of chaos. She said it got so bad, that she drove to the airport while the movie was in production to quit at one point.
The Auguste Renoir painting given to Aurora by her mother is referenced throughout the movie, first when Aurora tells Emma she considered (but decided against) giving it to her as a wedding gift, again when Emma calls Aurora asking to borrow money, and once more when Aurora uses it as an excuse to invite Garrett to her bedroom. The exact value of a Renoir original portrait is difficult to pinpoint for a specific point in time, due to the infrequency of transactions. However, it's safe to say that had Aurora sold the painting through a reputable auction house around 1980, it would have sold for well over one hundred thousand dollars and possibly close to one million dollars.
Sachi Parker, Shirley Maclaine's daughter, recently slammed her mother in a scathing, Mommie Dearest type memoir called Lucky Me: Life With-and Without-Shirley Maclaine, in which she claims she was abused, bullied, and neglected by her narcissistic mother. Shirley has said she's devastated by her daughter's dishonest autobiography.
The character Garrett Breedlove didn't exist in the novel. The character was meant to be a foil and love interest for Aurora, and was first designed for Burt Reynolds, and then custommade for Jack Nicholson.
A big chunk of the book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", which follows the rise and fall of the auteur movement, and the Baby Boom generation in Hollywood in the 1970s, is about Jack Nicholson and his legendary exploits during that period. Nicholson bragged to an interviewer at one point that he put cocaine on his private parts during sex to heighten his own sexual arousal and sensitivity.
When Flap (Jeff Daniels) and Aurora Shirley MacLaine) are sitting together in the hospital cafeteria discussing where the children should be, Flap is wearing the same tie that Emma (Debra Winger) gave him years before that made her very happy.
This is supposed to take place in the 1970s, except we see Aurora walking by a video game arcade at one point (right after the "Give my daughter the shot!" scene) and one of the games on display is Pac-Man. Pac-Man wasn't around until 1980.
In the novel there was no Garrett, instead Aurora was involved with a General. The General with whom Aurora was involved in the book, does make an appearance in the sequel though, The Evening Star (1996).
Production Designer Polly Platt was Peter Bogdonovich's wife. Her love triangle situation with Bogdonovich and Cybill Shepherd during this whole period was described in detail in the book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", and also fictionalized in Irreconcilable Differences (1984) with Shelley Long, Drew Barrymore, Ryan O'Neal, and Sharon Stone.
This is the second Best Picture Oscar winner, in which Jack Nicholson appeared. The first one was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), for which he also won the Best Actor Award. It's also the second time he co-starred with Danny DeVito; DeVito appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). This is the second time Shirley MacLaine has starred in a Best Picture Oscar winner as well. She appeared with David Niven in Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and opposite Jack Lemmon in The Apartment (1960). Nicholson starred in another Best Picture Oscar winner after this as well, The Departed (2006).
This book, on which the movie is based, is divided into two parts. One part takes place in 1962, the rest of it is supposed to take place from 1971 to 1976. But we see Aurora walk past a Pac-Man machine at one point. (Pac-Man wasn't around until 1980).