Nicolas Cage's screen test didn't impress the studio, and they wanted to get someone else to play Ronny. But Cher insisted that Cage was the one to play that role, and threatened to quit unless he was hired. After a few days, the studio relented.
The opening title sequence was originally played on the score from "La bohème" opera but was changed to the Dean Martin track "That's Amore" as the preview drew negative test audience reaction. Many shifted uncomfortably on their seats thinking that they had been lured into an art film.
Norman Jewison has stated that the climactic kitchen sequence was the most difficult scene that he ever shot in his career. The crew were dismissed and Jewison rehearsed with the cast for some time, using a stage production approach. Only after the actors perfected their timing did he decide where to put the camera.
Watch the shot where Johnny kneels down in the Grand Ticino, as he kneels down and his face nearly leaves the camera with the nervous expression, you see him burst out laughing for about one second. If you listen closely, you can hear people laughing at him, obviously the camera crew.
When Johnny hails a cab at the airport after his return from Sicily, he asks the driver to take him to "19 Cranberry Street, Brooklyn." This is a real house located a few blocks from the East River, just like the exteriors shown in the movie.
The "Old Man" is played by Feodor Chaliapin Jr. (although credited in the film as Feodor Chaliapin). He is the son of Feodor Chaliapin Sr., who was one of the greatest basses of all time - a Russian who often performed at the Metropolitan Opera in the early 1900s.
Nicolas Cage plays Ronny, a man with only one hand. In Cage's previous role in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Cage's character begged Peggy to marry him, saying he doesn't know what the future might bring: he might lose his arm.
While filming between takes, Cher motioned to Olympia Dukakis that the movie was going to be a dud. She originally thought that she was giving a bad performance. She went on to win the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actress.