Studio executives were so sure this film would flop that Robert Zemeckis was pre-emptively fired from directing Cocoon (1985). It turned out to be such a success that Zemeckis was able to go forward on his own project, Back to the Future (1985).
Diane Thomas, the film's writer, only ever had one produced screenplay which was for this film. Shortly after this movie debuted in cinemas, sadly, Thomas died in a car accident while working on a new movie project with Steven Spielberg. She was a passenger, while her boyfriend was driving -- in a car that Michael Douglas had bought for her. Thomas received a dedication in the film's sequel The Jewel of the Nile (1985), "In Memory Of" her.
The Eddy Grant song "Romancing the Stone" did not feature prominently in the film (the guitar solo can be heard in the background of the scene where Joan and Jack enter the house of her "fan," Juan) and was not included on the soundtrack album. Although he was commisioned to write the song for the movie, the filmmakers chose not to use it. When the movie was released and proved to be a big hit, Eddy released the song on his own. One of the video clips of the song, however, makes prominent use of footage from various scenes from the film.
Actress Kathleen Turner once said of working with director Robert Zemeckis: "I remember terrible arguments [with Zemeckis] doing Romancing. He's a film-school grad, fascinated by cameras and effects. I never felt that he knew what I was having to do to adjust my acting to some of his damn cameras - sometimes he puts you in ridiculous postures. I'd say, 'This is not helping me! This is not the way I like to work, thank you!'".
According to Kathleen Turner's memoir, Michael Douglas originally offered the role of Joan to Debra Winger. They met at a Mexican restaurant to discuss it but, according to Douglas, she ended up biting him. She didn't get the part.
The film was originally to be filmed in Colombia, where the story takes place. However, life imitated art, in that Colombia also suffered an increase in American kidnappings, so production was moved to Mexico.
The film spurred a sequel The Jewel of the Nile (1985) which was not as successful and a second one, "The Crimson Eagle", went into development but was never made. In this unproduced third picture, Jack and Joan go with their two children to Thailand and are blackmailed into stealing a precious statue.
Michael Douglas was intrigued by the script despite some initial hesitation, but was ultimately won over by the opportunity to exhibit the rock climbing skills he'd honed as a teenager. A 16-year old Michael would join his dad in rock climbing during breaks in filming 1960's Spartacus, which was shot largely in Death Valley, Nevada.
According to the RTS DVD extra Rekindling the Romance: A Look Back at 'Romancing the Stone' (2006) mini documentary, Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito were roommates during their time in NYC when 'starting out' in show business. Additionally, DeVito notes that Douglas got his break first with the TV series The Streets of San Francisco (1972) but continued to pay his share of the rent even after leaving their apartment in NYC for Hollywood. He would later, as producer and reluctant lead character, Jack T. Colton, offer the part of 'Ralph' to DeVito which DeVito admits was helpful exposure-wise to his career.
Treva Silverman made an uncredited change to the script in an attempt to make Joan Wilder more likeable. She changed the opening scene so that the character had a cat that she adored, as opposed to being alone.
The scene in which Joan Wilder offers to pay Jack T. Colton in traveler's checks and he asks if they are American Express is a reference to the American Express commercials featuring Karl Malden, who previously co-starred with Michael Douglas in The Streets of San Francisco (1972).
In the English version of the film, Gloria speaks of "Macy's" as the department store where Joan gets sick. The German edition of this movie says "Bloomingdale's" instead of "Macy's". Gloria says "Bloomingdale's" on the English audio of the DVD.
The titles of some of the romantic fiction novels that Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) had written were "The Savage Secret"; "Love's Wicked Kiss"; "The Ravagers"; "Passion's Lovely Lie" and "Treasures of Lust".
The water taxi Joan Wilder rides to meet Ira is named "The Orca," which is also the name of Quint's boat in Jaws (1975). Jaws director Steven Spielberg produced director Robert Zemeckis' previous film, Used Cars (1980). Zemeckis also co-wrote Spielberg's 1941 (1979) which features a "Jaws" parody.
After the film's original cut scored very low with preview audiences, Fox Studios feared it would be a flop and Zemeckis was fired from his next film, Cocoon. He knew Stone could be saved and made substantial changes. The film was shortened, with material following the discovery of the crashed plane largely eliminated. New scenes were written and shot, mostly involving the prologue and epilogue, focusing on Joan needing to find a good man. The original scenes of Joan with a male publisher were replaced by the moments with Gloria as her editor, taking her to a bar, encouraging her to date and bolstering her romantic dreams and desires. Another big revision was the re-filming the scene in the crashed plane's fuselage where Joan and Jack learn about each other. Changes in Joan and Jack's appearances can be seen between the exterior shots of the plane to the studio-shot interior, which was filmed five months later, including a post-shoot weight gain by Douglas.
When Jack is rummaging through his destroyed Land Rover he throws out a couple of magazines including the July 1983 issue of Playboy, with Ruth Guerri on the cover, before finding the picture of his dream yacht.
In the scene where Joan Wilder throws her wine glass and her cat's saucer into the fireplace to celebrate the completion of her latest novel, the saucer is a vintage Theodore Haviland New York "Georgia Roses" porcelain dessert/bread plate, circa early 1950s.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At the very end of the film, Jack and Joan "sail off" down the street in Jack's new boat 'Angelina' - the name of the female character featured in the book Joan is writing at the very beginning of the film.