According to the book 'Bronson's Loose' by Paul Talbot, the original working title "Death Wish III" was changed to "Death Wish 3" because The Cannon Group, Inc. conducted a survey and found that nearly half of the U.S. population could not read Roman numerals.
Charles Bronson uses a Wildey .475 Magnum hand cannon in this movie. It was his personal handgun in real life, and he suggested it as a means to make the film unique. In a 2005 interview in 'American Handgunner' magazine with Wildey Moore, the gun's creator and a technical consultant to the production, Moore said that sales for the weapon increase each time this film is aired on cable television. Moore said: "To this day there is a spike in Wildey Magnum sales every time 'Death Wish 3' appears on cable TV."
This was the first 'Death Wish' movie to be made after the Bernard Goetz vigilante shootings in New York. After this, Charles Bronson publicly stated that he recommended that people not imitate his character Paul Kersey from the 'Death Wish' movies.
As principal photography was mostly filmed in London, the movie featured extras and background artists playing a variety of characters including police officers and gang members. Their audible dialogue, however, was in various English accents. This movie was set in New York City, and required American accents. As such, during post-production, director Michael Winner enlisted the assistance of the military personnel of the U.S. Air Force stationed in England to dub over the various English accents.
Oddly enough, two ideas from the original novel Death Wish actually made it into this sequel; the vigilante rents a car to use as bait for street thugs, and a giggling Puerto Rican male appears. According to the book 'Bronson's Loose' by Paul Talbot, a movie novelization of Death Wish 3 (1985) was announced, but was never published when it was pointed out that 'Brian Garfield' retains the literary rights to the series, and he refused to allow a movie novelization.
Charles Bronson rarely granted interviews, or commented on his own films. However, he plainly stated his unhappiness with this film at least a few times, and was especially angered when he discovered that the director filmed extremely gory shots with extras (as nameless thugs) when he was off-set.
After Death Wish II (1982)'s setting was transposed from New York City in the original Death Wish (1974) movie to Los Angeles, this next sequel returns the setting to New York City. Though, ironically, most of this picture was filmed in England.
A variety of weapons were seen in this movie's grand action finale. They included a German Second World War MG-42; a Wildey .475 caliber handgun; a Browning .30 caliber machine-gun; a .38 caliber snub-nose revolver and an anti-tank rocket launcher.
Alex Winter recalled filming a scene where Charles Bronson hits him with a lead pipe took longer than anticipated because Bronson didn't show up to do so. After a while, Michael Winner said, "Charlie, we all want to go home, would you please hit this man so we can go home?" Bronson replied, "I can't hit this kid, he looks like a fucking choirboy. I'll lose my audience".
Alex Winter's character was originally going to be part of the rape scene, but Winter didn't want to be part of that, so he met an extra who was clamouring for a bigger part in the film and let him take his role.
Final 'Death Wish' movie to not have a subtitle as part of its film title. Both the next two sequels included title subtitles: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) and Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994). An intended but unfilmed sixth movie was also to have a subtitle: 'Death Wish 6: The New Vigilante'.
Screenwriter Don Jakoby objected to changes to his script and had his name removed from the movie in favor of pseudonym "Michael Edmonds". However, Jakoby's name and writer credit remained on the trailer, which is included on the MGM Region 1 DVD.
The phrase "Dr. Davis telephone please, Dr. Davis telephone please" (when Bennett is in the hospital) was used in the intro "T.n.T. (Terror 'n Tinseltown)" of the the album "Dr. Feelgood" by Mötley Crüe.
The concept of Paul Kersey facing a street gang which terrorizes elderly citizens was developed by screenwriter Don Jakoby. He specialized in science fiction films, having developed scripts for other upcoming Cannon films such as Lifeforce (1985) and Invaders from Mars (1986). His screenplay reportedly turned Kersey into an urban version of John Rambo, displeasing Charles Bronson in the process. The producers then tasked Gail Morgan Hickman to write other potential versions of the script. Hickman came up with three different script samples and submitted them for approval. He learned weeks later that they were all rejected in favor of keeping Jakoby's version. He considered the whole process a waste of time.
Charles Bronson said the film was "nearly the same as the first two Death Wishes that came before except this time he's not alone... It is a very violent picture but it all falls within the category of the story." Bronson did add however that "there are men on motorbikes, an element that's threatening - throwing bottles and that sort of thing - and I machine gun them. That to me is excessive violence and is unnecessary."
According to Marina Sirtis, her rape scene was shot in a very cold garage and Michael Winner wouldn't let her sit up. The director of photography put a coat over her and Winner yelled at him to remove it, as he was trying to light the scene.
The film includes a scene involving punks attempting to rape a black, topless woman. She was the only black rape victim in the film series. The role was played by Sandy Grizzle, the then-lover of Michael Winner. She would subsequently report of this relationship in the tabloids Daily Star and News of the World. She claimed that Winner whipped her and used her as a sex slave.
Originally filming was to begin fall 1984, with Don Jakoby listed as the screenwriter, although it was reported that principal photography would begin 18 Mar 1985, in New York City, and put rumors to rest that Chuck Norris would take on the starring role. Charles Bronson was reportedly unhappy with scripts that Cannon presented to him, and threatened to drop out of the production. Both parties finally agreed on a script by Jakoby. However, Jakoby's name does not appear in the film credits. Final screenwriting credits went to Michael Edmonds.
Filming began in East New York City on April 19, 1985. The picture was filmed for three weeks in New York City, followed by seven weeks in London, England's Lambeth borough, which began May 8, 1985. Michael Winner explained his move to England was a financial decision, and a New York City street was recreated at a deserted hospital site. The picture, with a fifty-one day shooting schedule, anticipated a release date on October 25, 1985, but was pushed back one week to November 1, 1985.
Michael Winner's most recent films, The Wicked Lady (1983) and Scream for Help (1984), were box office flops and he was in need of a "surefire hit". He decided against retaining the grim tone of the previous two films, in favor of going gung-ho for the third film.
Critics generally found nothing redeeming about this picture, and the release was reportedly rushed into theaters to capitalize on the 1984 "subway vigilante" shooting that took place in New York City, when four men attempted to mug Bernhard Goetz. The rush to open this movie in theaters resulted in lack of color correction in the final print. The film grossed 10 million dollars after its first ten days of release.
The screenplay included a male-on-male prison rape in its early scenes. It was rejected and never filmed, but a similar scene was later included in another Charles Bronson film, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989). There were several other cut scenes.
According to Alex Winter, Charles Bronson had a jaguar that would drive him from his dressing room to the set, which was about three feet away. He noted that it was "more like watching a man golf than act".
According to Alex Winter, Michael Winner walked around onset smoking a big cigar and an assistant walked behind him with a cigar box. If the assistant went over a certain line, he was fired. Winner had a new assistant every day.
According to Alex Winter, Michael Winner hired him because he was born in England and therefore had a British passport. They also, coincidentally, have last names (surnames) that are different by only one letter.
According to Alex Winter, he and the other actors playing the gangmembers would do their own stunts and improvise their own lines. Winter volunteered to do the stunt where he falls off a moving car. After numerous takes, Michael Winner said, "I thought you wanted to do your own stunts?"