The size of the gigantic zoo set measured 83 feet wide by 350 feet long and was almost six stories high. The DVD production notes state that the movie's massive zoo set was the "largest studio set ever built in Vancouver". It was constructed at the Bridge Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Production designer Philip Harrison said that the zoo set was "a once in a lifetime" undertaking.
Producer Rob Cohen has said of this movie: "There have been other films with car chases, helicopters, motorcycle rides through impossibly narrow alleys, rooftop escapes, etc. But this picture's specialty was the zoo climax and the difficulty shooting it".
The final negotiating point to convince Mel Gibson to do this film was the offer of a use of a producer's house for the summer, allowing Gibson to shoot the film and give his large family an excellent summer vacation home.
The walls of the cages of the zoo set were made of just plaster so the production had to be especially careful that animals, like the big cat tigers, did not put a foot through any of the plaster-set walls.
There were two major bridges which spanned the rain-forest central sixty foot crevasse. Both of them were more than three stories high. The main suspension bridge had to be engineered and reinforced to be able to withstand crew and equipment weighing 1200 pounds.
Three kinds of sand were brought in for the movie's enormous zoo set. This included sixteen truckloads that were transported from Oregon. The three sand types were mixed together and then sifted three times so as to filter out and remove any glass particles that could possibly hurt any of the big cat's paws. The mixed sand was used to put on the concrete floors of the animal cages which were cushioned with four inches of the sand so as to protect the big cat's paws.
Animals in the zoo sequence included a lioness, one baboon, an iguana, a seven foot monitor lizard, a twelve foot python, three jaguars, four alligators, six tigers, six chimpanzees and twenty-five kinds of parrots.
Dirctor John Badham has said of working with wild animals on this movie: "No animals are easy to direct. They don't read the script. It's kind of like controlled chaos - you have to be really ready to catch something exciting that may happen, and you have to be ready to deal with things that are dangerous because these are wild animals and they will hurt you".
Though he has acted since in other major movies, and though he had directed for television, Bird on a Wire (1990) was the last big cinema movie that Bill Duke appeared in as an actor before Duke directed his first major motion picture which was 1991's A Rage in Harlem (1991).
There were three waterfalls constructed in the rain-forest set with the largest of them being about three stories high. This waterfall and its two companion waterfalls, according to the film's production notes, were the first ever built on a soundstage in Canada.
The movie's "Bird on a Wire" title was derived from the Leonard Cohen song "Bird on the Wire" which features on the film's soundtrack. The production though did not chose to title the film exactly as the song's title, replacing the word "the" with the word "a".
One of three 1990 movies starring Mel Gibson which were first released in that year. The other pictures were Hamlet (1990) and Air America (1990). Bird on a Wire (1990) though was shot in mid-1989 but did not debut in theaters until 1990.
When Stephen Tobolowsky's character goes to check on Ricks last places of employment, you get a brief glimpse of the name David Puttnam and Columbia pictures. A reference to Puttnam's brief and turbulent time as head of Columbia pictures in the 80's.
The make and model of the crop dusting plane was a Piper J-3C-65 Cub light aircraft whilst the make and model of the black chopper that chased it was a Hughes 369D helicopter. Both aircraft are seen flying upside down and even doing a 360 degrees loop, something which had also been seen in this film's director John Badham's earlier movie Blue Thunder (1983).
The name of the hairdresser's salon was "Raun of Racine Hair Styling" whilst the cropdusting company name on the plane was "Hauman's Speed Kill Cropdusting Services". Both "Raun" and "Hauman" had similar sounding names.