When this film premiered at the 1986 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, reels three and four were sequentially reversed by Sundance staffer and IATSE projectionist David Nelson. Most critics and viewers said that they didn't notice the mistake in what they called an otherwise disappointing film. One of the film's makers demanded that the incomplete premiere be stopped, and it wasn't rescheduled, the only such film in festival history to do so.
Writer David Himmelstein said that one day, he saw a row of television monitors, playing political commercials, for different candidates. He said the spots all looked the same to him, so he did research to find out why, and what he discovered, he put into the script.
Paul Newman was supposed to star in the film, but asked director Sidney Lumet if he could delay filming for a few months. Newman wanted to focus on his race-driving career during the summer and did not want filming a movie to conflict with that. Lumet refused.