Another story considered by Steven Spielberg for the film was one concerning a bully who has the tables turned on him during Halloween night, but problems with the story ensued, and it was eventually scrapped.
William Shatner at one point was in consideration to reprise his lead role in the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment. He had to turn it down due to prior commitments. Ultimately _John Lithgow (I)_ was cast in the role.
This is the first collaboration between composer Jerry Goldsmith and co-director Joe Dante which would last for another seven films - one of the longest director/composer relationships on record. These collaborations would also include several productions by Steven Spielberg's companies Amblin Entertainment and Dreamworks Pictures.
For each of the four segments, each director (Steven Spielberg, John Landis, George Miller and Joe Dante), would use their regular production teams, with Spielberg and Landis acting as producers of the film as an independent production financed by Warner Bros. Richard Matheson was hired to adapt and expand the three stories from the original series.
Jerry Goldsmith's recording sessions for the score took place from February 28 to March 3, 1983, with each recording day devoted to each segment of the film. Steven Spielberg attended most of these sessions. However, it was Joe Dante who mainly supervised the entire session, filling in for George Miller and John Landis, who were not involved in the post-production of the film which included the music. Dante and Goldsmith would become good friends and begin a fruitful collaboration that would last over the next two decades (1983-2003).
John Landis's segments were the first to be filmed, and Steven Spielberg considered canceling the entire project after the deadly helicopter crash. Ultimately the remaining segments were completed in this order: It's a Good Life, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and Kick the Can (Spielberg's segment).
Exterior footage of the airplane on which John Valentine (John Lithgow) believes that he sees someone trying to sabotage the wing is of the Global Airways Boeing 707, from Skyjacked (1972) with added storm effects.
Known for his meticulous preparation, John Lithgow had worked out certain scenes in his airplane seat in conjunction with the manufactured lightning outside the window. However, during filming, the crew member in charge of the lightning flashes would activate it too soon or too late, throwing off Lithgow's timing. Although initially annoyed, he later came to value the experience after viewing the film, seeing that it added to his anxious, fearful character as he looked genuinely startled by the lightning.
The segments "It's a Good Life" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" are both parodied in two Treehouse of Horror specials of The Simpsons (1989) (II & IV), and in both of them, Bart Simpson is the main character. Nancy Cartwright is the voice of Bart, and, she has a small role in this movie.
Technically, this is the second collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and composer Jerry Goldsmith. Spielberg "allegedly" had a big hand in Poltergeist (1982) and oversaw the post-production on that film and this film. This film would be the only time that Goldsmith would work with director John Landis, who had worked with the late Elmer Bernstein during that time period and was his composer of choice. He would later work with George Miller on Babe (1995), and his score was ultimately replaced by Australian composer Nigel Westlake when the film's tone changed from its original dark overtones to family fare. Goldsmith and Joe Dante would work together frequently over seven films spanning two decades before Goldsmith's untimely death in 2004. Goldsmith and Spielberg would not work together again except in a producing capacity, as John Williams is his personal composer.
Before this movie became an anthology of four stories, Warner Bros. initially explored a single story film idea with the cooperation of Rod Serling's wife Carol Serling. One of these ideas was Miracle Mile (1988) written by Steve De Jarnatt, who went on to make that film in 1988.
Steven Spielberg briefly considered Rod Serling's Twilight Zone: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (1960) about neighborhood paranoia that's set off by a force of invading aliens from the original Twilight Zone series as a potential segment which he canceled because it involved nighttime filming with children and special effects. This was mainly due to the tragedy that occurred on the "Time Out" segment. He finally chose "Kick the Can" from the original series.
The spotting sessions for Jerry Goldsmith's landmark score began on December 22, 1982 and did not finish until January of 1983, as each segment was completed. Usually each music track has a slate number listed but in this case it was the initials of each director (Spielberg, Landis, Miller and Dante) for the music in their segment.
Joseph Williams, who contributed the song "Anesthesia" for the film, is the son of legendary composer John Williams, who is Steven Spielberg's personal friend and collaborator for the last four decades. Also Jerry Williams, who is John's brother, was the percussionist on the score.
The vehicles depicted in the Ku Klux Klan scene provide the dating. With the exception of a Chevrolet, most of them are part of the first generation of the Ford F-Series. This "generation" was in production from 1948 to 1952.
When the time-traveling character Bill Connor finds himself targeted by the Ku Klux Klan, his first question is "Where Am I?". Nobody replies to him. A short while later, the license plate of a car provides the answer: Alabama.
During the prologue (or opening scene), the duo begin to mark their favorite Twilight Zones, soon they reach Time Enough at Last starring Burgess Meredith, funny as it is, Meredith starred in that show and supplied the voice of the narrator in the film.
as the woman who asks "Is there something wrong?" when the flight attendants knock on the airplane restroom door, holding a copy of the Twilight Zone magazine in her arms. She was the wife of Twilight Zone (1959) creator Rod Serling.
The Second Assistant Director. Second Assistant directors work primarily on action scenes or getting exterior filler shots, and the tragedy on Segment #1 might have had something to do with this "Smithee" credit.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Just prior to filming, Dan Aykroyd, who plays The Passenger in the film's prologue, married Donna Dixon, who is featured in the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" segment, which ends with Aykroyd's appearance as an ambulance driver who comforts John Lithgow's character.
The original conception of the film ending was that, after the segments had been completed, each character would intersect with one another. This idea was mainly scrapped, but it briefly appears as an "epilogue", as Dan Aykroyd's character appears at the very end of the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" segment and comforts John Lithgow's character from the segment by playing "The Midnight Special" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, which was also used in the prologue of the film.