James Belushi went to producer Edward S. Feldman's office and trashed his desk in protest of this film. Feldman was not in his office at the time but Belushi told Feldman's secretary "Tell him I was here".
Michael Chiklis was chosen over 200 other candidates for the role of John Belushi. Chiklis first auditioned in 1985 and was finally cast in 1988 after numerous rounds of auditions. This was the first film Chiklis auditioned for.
Because the film is an "unauthorized" biopic, many of the skits and song numbers performed on Saturday Night Live (1975) were copyrighted by NBC, so in the film, some were made-up and not in fact actual skits and numbers John performed (i.e. "The Samurai Baseball" skit and the "634-5789" Blues Brothers number). Similarly, where Belushi famously mocked Joe Cocker's performance of "With a Little Help from My Friends" at Woodstock, in the film Cocker's later hit "You Are So Beautiful" is performed.
Michael Chiklis claimed that it took the producers three years to cast the role of John Belushi. Then aged 25, Chiklis heard about auditions for the part when he was weeks away from picking up his theatre arts degree at Boston University: "I rushed down to try out... In the first 24 hours, I was called back 57 times to see different people. It was the first movie I ever read for. I was called back three times at first, then six to eight months would go by and I'd be called again, asked to perform two to three times, then nothing for maybe 10 months. I'd just about given up hope, then I'd get another call for more auditions."
Principal photography commenced in May 1988 and finished in the autumn of that year. The film was completed by the end of 1988; however, it did not receive a theatrical release until August 1989. The producers had problems finding a distributor for the film, as many of the major studios refused to distribute it. Several independent studios such as New Visions (then headed by Taylor Hackford) backed away from it. Atlantic Entertainment was about to distribute the film, but financial problems prevented that from happening, so Taurus Entertainment agreed to distribute the film.
In his book Tell Me How You Love The Picture: A Hollywood Life (2005), producer Edward S. Feldman recalled the film's difficulties securing a distributor. Feldman accused Hollywood powerbroker Michael Ovitz - whose Creative Artists Agency had represented John Belushi, as well as Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray - of using his influence to sabotage the production and distribution of the film.. Ovitz himself claimed that "The film will rise or fall based on its own merits... We have nothing to do with the movie." Some studio executives claimed that their reluctance to distribute Wired (1989) was due to the film's dubious quality, rather than its subject matter. Bernie Brillstein accused the filmmakers of generating the controversy around the film themselves, in an attempt to improve its commercial prospects: "The only thing that the producers have to hang on to is the image of Wired as "the movie that Hollywood tried to stop"... I think this is a very good plan to get some excitement for the movie."
Michael Chiklis' participation in Wired derailed the actor's career for 18 months: "After Wired (1989), everyone was afraid to touch me for fear of reprisal... It was a bittersweet situation. All of a sudden, I was starring in a major motion picture and the next thing you know, I'm being asked by reporters, 'Do you think you'll be blackballed?'"
The film was criticised due to the addition of several fictional elements that were not present in the book, such as the guardian angel character, and the addition of Bob Woodward himself as a character.
Bob Woodward sought to sell the book's film rights as early as 1984 - the year the book was published - but he found little interest in Hollywood for the project. Woodward later claimed, "A large portion of Hollywood didn't want this movie made because there's too much truth in it."
Producers Edward S. Feldman and Charles R. Meeker bought the film rights to the book for the relatively modest sum of $300,000, and, lacking major studio funding, put up $1 million of the film's $13 million budget themselves. The rest of the film's funding came from the New Zealand conglomerate Lion Nathan.