This film was banned in Indonesia until 1999. The movie was banned there by former Indonesian dictator Suharto for its graphic depiction of his tumultuous and bloody rise to power in the 1960s. The picture was finally first screened in Indonesia on 6 November 2000, two years after Suharto had been forced from office after 32 years of autocratic rule.
Linda Hunt is the first actor to have won an Academy Award (Oscar) for portraying a member of the opposite sex. Hunt is also the only ever actress ever to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for playing a man with no cross dressing or gender confusion involved. Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry (1999)) received the one for playing a biological female who identifies as a man whilst Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love (1998)) received one for playing a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.
Much of the non-English dialogue in the film is in Filipino, not Javanese. For example, when Billy visits the home of a dead child in a slum area, the prayer spoken by the old man is in fact "Our Father" in Tagalog.
Vangelis's electronic tune "L'Enfant" (from his 1979 Opera Sauvage album), which is featured prominently in "The Year of Living Dangerously", was Hugh Hudson's original choice to be the theme music for Chariots of Fire (1981). It was only after Vangelis finally persuaded Hudson to listen to his new and now familiar "Chariots of Fire" tune, that Hudson changed his mind.
Filming on this picture was originally intended to take place in Jakarta. However, permission to shoot in Indonesia was denied, so the majority of the movie was filmed in the Philippines, in and around Manila. Note the presence of vehicles, such as the black Chevrolet, with left hand drive. Indonesians generally operate right hand drive.
The meaning and relevance of this movie's "The Year of Living Dangerously" title is that it refers to a famous Italian quotation, 'vivere pericolosamente', which translates into the English language as "living dangerously". Indonesian president Suharto used this phrase during his National Day Speech on 17 August 1964. E-Notes states that the novel "takes its title from Sukarno's term for 1965, the year in which the novel takes place".
Mel Gibson once said of Guy Hamilton, his character in this film, as published on 24 February 1983 in the article "Mel Gibson: Australia's new hunk": "He's not a silver-tongued devil. He's kind of immature and he has some rough edges and I guess you could say the same for me."
Mel Gibson has said of the threats to the film: "It wasn't really that bad. We got a lot of death threats to be sure, but I just assumed that when there are so many, it must mean nothing is really going to happen. I mean, if they meant to kill us, why send a note?"
According to the January-February 1983 edition of American movie magazine "Coming Attractions", during filming, "At one point, during a reenactment of the 1965 storming of the American embassy, the action became so real that pistol shots were fired over the crowd to restore order when more than a thousand extras got carried away hurling stones at the building. This incident, along with a bomb threat from militant Moslems, precipitated the crew's return to Australia ahead of schedule."
Mel Gibson received top / first billing, Sigourney Weaver received second billing, Bill Kerr received third billing, Michael Murphy received fourth billing, Linda Hunt received fifth billing and Noel Ferrier received sixth billing. Since the success of the film winning a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award (Oscar) for Linda Hunt, Hunt's credit in promotional materials is now often seen in third billing.
This film's source "The Year of Living Dangerously" novel by author C.J. Koch won the National Book Council Award for Australian Literature as well as newspaper The Age's Book of the Year Award including being the winner of the 1978 Imaginative Writing Prize and the 1978 Book of the Year, joint winner.
Filming in Manila was halted after three weeks due to death threats to the production. Reportedly, these were directed to both actor Mel Gibson and director Peter Weir. The threats alleged that the film being made was intended to be anti-Islam. For the protection and safety of the cast and crew, the whole production moved to Sydney to complete principal photography. The move was costly and put a huge strain on the picture's art department.
The January-February 1983 edition of American "Coming Attractions" magazine states that this movie marked "...the first time that an Australian movie has been fully financed and distributed by a major American motion picture company - MGM/UA." Website 'Allmovie' adds that "...the film was financed by MGM, in the first such American-Australian financial collaboration" whilst website 'Wikipedia' maintains that this film "...was the first co-production of Australia and a Hollywood studio".
Second and final of two collaborations to date between director Peter Weir and screenwriter David Williamson. The first was Gallipoli (1981). Neither films were an adaptation of one of Williamson's plays. Williamson is also well known as a playwright.
This movie represents an instance where a character in the film has the same name of a real life celebrity. Mel Gibson plays an Australian journalist character who has the same name as Guy Hamilton, a British film director of adventure, war and thriller films including four James Bond movies.