This script was being developed at Columbia at the same time as another script about an alien visitation. The studio did not want to make both, so the head of the studio had to choose which film to make; he decided to make this one and let the other script go to a rival studio. The other script was for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). After ET became such a huge hit Starman sat on the shelf for almost 3 years before Columbia agreed to release it.
When Jeff Bridges walks outside the house naked and uses a 'marble' his hair seems to stand on end. This effect was actually created by shooting Bridges hanging upside-down and then matting the shot onto the background the right way up to give him a surreal look.
According to John Carpenter in the audio commentary on Big Trouble in Little China (1986), the main reason for which he directed 'Starman' was that after the box-office disaster of The Thing (1982), he needed to make a movie that was the complete opposite of what 'The Thing' was so he could continue to work in Hollywood.
The alien visitor character of "Starman" or "The Starman" played by Jeff Bridges has no personal name and is billed in the credits only as such. However, the human form he takes did have an actual name which was Scott Hayden.
Actress Karen Allen is seen drinking a can of Coke in her car in this movie. This appeared to be a very deliberate product placement. Columbia Pictures was owned by the Coca-Cola company around the time the movie was made. In 1985, home video cassettes of Ghostbusters (1984) were released with an advertisement for Coke on the tapes.
Actor Jeff Bridges studied ornithology and the behavior of birds to prepare for his role as an alien in human form for this movie. Bridges, particularly used the sudden jerky head movements, amongst other nuances and mannerisms, of birds for his Starman character. Bridges figured that the alien would not have human characteristics and being encased in a human body, would act with base primitive animal instincts.
When director Tony Scott was attached to the movie, Scott wanted to cast Philip Anglim as the Starman. And in true Scott fashion, he was more interested in style than the film's story and its narrative momentum.
According to director John Carpenter on the film's original 'Making-of featurette', the production on the road in Tennessee was marred by a lot of very difficult conditions whilst the production went cross country. This was mainly bad weather which included rain and mixtures of both fluctuating hot and cold temperatures.
Some movie posters for this film featured a long text preamble that read: "He has traveled from a galaxy far beyond our own. He is 100,000 years ahead of us. He has powers we cannot comprehend. And he is about to face the one force in the universe he has yet to conquer. Love."
According to Nathaniel Thompson in an article at the TCMDb website, the picture was developed "around the same time as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) . . . (also originally a Columbia project) but took longer to reach the screen due to extensive talent assignments behind and in front of the camera".
The film's two leads, Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges, sang a duet in a new rendition of "All I Have to Do Is Dream" which was included on the movie's soundtrack. The song is heard in the film in an abridged acoustic version. The song was also recorded and filmed as a music video which is available on the DVD.
In an interview with 'Starlog' magazine, actress Karen Allen said: "The role is a complete study in imagination. I spend the film building and sustaining an emotional state. What happens to Jenny never has and won't happen to me . . . [director John Carpenter] is a really nice guy. The people working with him have a really nice thing going. They've developed this strong support system. He has chosen a good group of people. They stay with him film after film. They can bounce things off of each other in order to get the film made. I had a good time making Starman (1984)".
In an interview with 'LA Weekly', director John Carpenter once said: "It's all the classic stories of star-crossed lovers, the lovers who can't really make it together but have a bond of love, like in Brief Encounter (1945). It really works on that level, because it touches a little thing inside of us. It was easy for me to tap into that, real easy. It's a departure, because people haven't seen something like this from me before".
Writer Dean Riesner wrote seven uncredited re-writes of the movie's screenplay working with six different directors. Writers Diane Thomas and Edward Zwick also wrote for the film uncredited. According to Riesner, he did not get a screen credit because "the Writers Guild, in their infinite wisdom, decided I didn't contribute 50 percent of the screenplay".
The rendez-vous crater location where the Starman was to meet and return to the mother ship is a place situated just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. According to the National Geographic, the site is one mile wide, 570 feet deep, and about 49,000 years old.
"Starman" is also the name of a song sung by David Bowie but the tune was not used for this movie. The song was first released in April 1972 and was a late inclusion for Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" album. The song though was not included in the movie Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973) either. Bowie, like Jeff Bridges in this Starman (1984) movie, has also played an alien visitor to earth, in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), which had been made and released about eight years earlier.
Writer Dean Riesner removed the film's political story elements, what he has called the film's ''heavy political implications'', from the original script at the request of director John Carpenter. Riesner also took out some of the more outrageous story elements such as scene where the Starman makes his metamorphosis into replicant human form by way of genital cloning.
According to a January 1985 edition of the 'Chicago-Tribune' newspaper, science-fiction experts accused the movie of plagiarizing the "final mother-ship encounter from an obscure 1982 release" called Wavelength (1983).
The movie features a clip from the earlier Columbia Pictures studio film From Here to Eternity (1953) which was at the time about thirty years old. The segment shows the famous beach love scene that featured Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster passionately embracing on a beach with the ocean waves tiding in. In the same 1984 year that this movie was released, this film's lead star Jeff Bridges, also starred in another Columbia Pictures film called Against All Odds (1984). That picture's main movie poster has been likened to From Here to Eternity (1953). The Against All Odds (1984) love beach shot on the movie poster also became very famous though it did not feature sea water like the earlier picture.