Some of the actors who auditioned for the part of Remo Williams claimed to be proficient in the martial art of Sinanju, not realizing it was a fiction derived from the Destroyer novels on which the movie was based.
Although the Statue of Liberty was undergoing renovation in preparation for its centennial when the film was made, the filmmakers shot on and around the actual statue and its scaffolding as well as on a full-sized replica (from just below Liberty's book to the top of her torch) which was constructed in Mexico City. Because of weather and scheduling, the sequence required additional photography during the summer following the original mid-December (New York) and late-February (Mexico) shoots. Two different locations photographed during three separate time periods illustrates the value of storyboards and thorough pre-visualization.
Joel Grey was offered the role of Chiun several times before accepting it. He kept turning it down because he didn't think he was the right kind of actor for the part, and he had no previous martial arts experience (and received none once he was cast). What changed Grey's mind was a meeting with Carl Fullerton, the film's make-up artist. Grey said he would take the part if he could successfully make Grey look like an 80-year-old Korean. Fullerton gave it his best shot. Fullerton got an Oscar nomination for his work.
The producers were hoping to create a James Bond-style franchise by adapting The Destroyer novels and therefore hired Bond screenwriter Christopher Wood to pen the script. Bond director Guy Hamilton was hired to direct. Remo was considered a "blue collar James Bond".
Even though Christopher Wood was credited with writing the screenplay, director Guy Hamilton admitted in an interview with American Cinematographer magazine that he rewrote the screenplay when he was hired to make the picture. He also came up with the Statue of Liberty chase when he saw the statue undergoing renovation and realized the potential of the location.
Charitable organizations to which George S. Grove has donated, according to his tax return in the movie: The Boy Scouts of America, Maryknoll Missions, The Campfire Girls, The Policeman's Benevolent Fund, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Remo's pleased reaction to Chiun calling him "my son," and responding in kind by calling him "little father," is based in part on an earlier scene that was cut from the film in which Remo calls Chiun "little father" for the first time, provoking a strong negative reaction from Chiun. At that point, Remo was still unaware that Chiun was contractually obligated to kill him if CURE were ever in danger of being exposed.