The role of Professor Louis Levy, the subject of director Cliff Stern (Woody Allen)'s documentary in this film, is played by a non-actor and a therapist friend of Woody Allen, the world-renowned Martin Bergmann, Clinical Professor of Psychology in the New York University's post-doctoral program.
Lester is based on Larry Gelbart, whom both Woody Allen and Alan Alda worked with and reportedly disliked because of his despotic ways. Lester's various comments such as "Comedy is tragedy plus time" and "If it bends, it's funny; if it breaks, it isn't" were actual Gelbart quotes. In spite of this reputed dislike for Gelbart, Allen called him "the best comedy writer that I ever knew and one of the best guys" in a statement shortly following Gelbart's death, whilst Alda said in the Los Angeles Times obituary, "Larry's genius for writing changed my life because I got to speak his lines - lines that were so good they'll be with us for a long, long time; but his other genius - his immense talent for being good company - is a light that's gone out and we're all sitting here in the dark".
One-third of the film had Woody Allen's character shooting a documentary on old vaudevillians, with Mia Farrow as the head of the institute to which they belonged. Allen didn't like the scenes in the final cut. During postproduction he cut an entire third of the film, then rewrote and re-shot that section from scratch. As a result, Sean Young's scenes were cut out, and Daryl Hannah's role was reduced to a brief cameo.
Woody Allen has said of this film: "Crimes And Misdemeanors is about people who don't see. They don't see themselves as others see them. They don't see the right and wrong situations. And that was a strong metaphor in the movie".
Originally, Alan Alda was only supposed to appear in the opening party scene with Daryl Hannah. Woody Allen expanded Alda's part after he asked Alda to improvise and Allen liked the improvisation. Allen wrote Alda's part as they went along.
Woody Allen has said of the public reaction to this picture: "When I put out a film that enjoys any acceptance that isn't the most mild or grudging, I immediately become suspicious of it. A certain amount of positive response makes me feel comfortable and proud. Then beyond that, I start to feel convinced that a work of any real finesse and subtlety and depth couldn't be as popular as it is".
Clifford's sarcastic remark to Halley Reed that he loves Lester like a brother; David Greenglass refers to the fact David Greenglass was the brother of executed atomic spy Ethel Rosenberg and that his testimony at their trial help convict her and her husband Julius.
Woody Allen commented on a private screening of the film to a group of Hollywood celebrities who praised the picture: "I know I must be doing something wrong if my film is being viewed in some Hollywood character's screening room and a group of people there are saying, 'It's his best film,' when many of the things I attack are what they stand for".
According to Brian Cady at the TCMDb website, "leaving one screenplay barely begun, Woody [Allen] left for a tour of Europe in the summer of 1988. It wasn't long before another script idea popped into his head. Rather than abandon the earlier idea, Woody decided to combine the two scripts into one and began scribbling a new screenplay on the stationery of the various hotels at which he stayed. The collection of drafts imprinted with the logos of Stockholm's Grand Hotel, the Villa d'Este on Lake Como, the Gritti Palace in Venice and Claridge's in London became the basis for one of Woody's most popular and critically acclaimed movies".
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1990, for Best Supporting Actor for Martin Landau, and Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Woody Allen, but the picture failed to take home an Oscar in any category.
This cinema movie featured at least three significant film directors in acting roles, with one of them actually portraying a film director. They were Alan Alda, Nora Ephron, and Woody Allen, the latter of whom portrayed director Cliff Stern.
According to the Wikipedia website, "the character of both Judah and his gangster brother [Jack] were said to be influenced by a Jewish medical student who attended NYU [New York University] with one of Marshall Brickman's relatives".