In an interview in a Belgian magazine, Viggo Mortensen said that he was very proud to have played a small role in this movie during a difficult time of his life. When he proudly took his entire family to a movie theater to see it, he was extremely disappointed to find out that all of his scenes were cut from the final movie.
Jeff Daniels replaced Michael Keaton in the lead male role. Keaton was originally cast footage was shot for ten days. Director Woody Allen decided it wasn't working feeling, that Keaton, despite a good performance so far, was miscast being too contemporary for the part and was not fitting well into this period movie. Keaton had taken sizable salary cut to do a film with Allen. Apparently, Keaton was to appear in another later Allen film to make-up for this disappointment, but to date [June 2013], this has yet to occur.
According to the Cannes Film Festival website, Woody Allen said of this film when it played there in 1985: "The seduction of fantasy, as opposed to the pain of real life, is a theme that has appeared in my work time and time again. This was something I never realized. It was pointed out to me by critics and friends over a period of years. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) is apparently my latest expression of this idea. (Some others were Play It Again, Sam (1972), Zelig (1983), Stardust Memories (1980) and my short story "The Kugelmass Episode"). I think this time I really did this subject the most entertainingly that I ever have and if you agree, I will not bother you with this theme again. Thank you".
Part of this movie was filmed at the now-demolished Kent movie house where as a child Woody Allen would frequent the 12 cent picture shows there, and which Allen has said was "one of the great, meaningful places of my boyhood".
According to the book 'Woody: Movies From Manhattan' (1996) by Julian Fox, Woody Allen demanded the film shoot in Piermont Village which is "a bleak town on the Hudson River....The shoot there stretched from a scheduled ten days to a chaotic three-and-a-half weeks. This was due to the early arrival of winter blizzards, just after the storm windows had been removed from the main street shops, ready for filming. For the sake of authenticity, storefronts and window displays had been altered in advance, the shopping area was sealed off and many locals suffered huge financial losses. Even seven months after the crew's arrival, reported Nick Rosen in London's Sunday Times, contractors were still trying to put the town back to normal".
About eight years after the picture debuted, the film's premise was used for the later Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Last Action Hero (1993) where a screen idol comes out of reel life and into real life.
For the amusement park scenes, filming was brought to the classic and now closed amusement park Bertrand Island which was located in Mount Arlington at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. The park was quite a famous one in its heyday, and had closed shortly before filming commenced on the site. Some rides seen were the originals from the park, but others were props brought in by the film crew.
Woody Allen does not appear in this movie which he wrote and directed. This was the second Allen picture where he directed but did not star, the first had been 1978's Interiors (1978) around seven years earlier.
Woody Allen has frequently said that Eve Arden is his favorite comedic actress, and he very much wanted to collaborate with her on this film. Allen offered Arden a part, but unfortunately she had to turn it down in order to care for her ailing husband.
Part of the movie is in black-and-white, which is all the scenes which feature the film within a film, "The Purple Rose of Cairo". The film is one of a number of pictures which were filmed in black-and-white by director Woody Allen during his immediate post-Annie Hall (1977) period between the late 1970s and early-mid 1980s. The films also include Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983) (also in color) and Broadway Danny Rose (1984). After The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Allen would then not make another b&w film for about another six years, until Shadows and Fog (1991) in 1991.
Buster Keaton's film Sherlock Jr. (1924) was one of Woody Allen's major inspirations for the film. In tribute to the silent film comedian, Robert Talmadge, the leading man of the fictional film "The Purple Rose of Cairo", was named after his son Robert Talmadge Keaton.
Whilst doing publicity for Small Time Crooks (2000), Woody Allen said of this picture: "[The] Purple Rose [of Cairo] was a film that I just locked myself in a room . . . [and] I wrote it and halfway through it didn't go anywhere and I put it aside. I didn't know what to do. I toyed around with other ideas. Only when the idea hit me, a long time later, that the real actor comes to town and she has to choose between the [screen] actor and the real actor and she chooses the real actor and he dumps her, that was the time it became a real movie. Before that it wasn't. But the whole thing was manufactured".