Originally developed at Columbia, studio boss Mark Canton and Tim Burton fell out when the former objected to the film being made in black and white. Burton walked off with the project, shopping it around various other studios, until Disney decided to make it through its Touchstone banner.
One day Kathy Wood, the wife of Edward D. Wood Jr., visited the set and asked to meet Johnny Depp. That day they were filming a scene where Wood would look really messed up, which made Burton nervous for what Kathy would think of the movie. When Depp exited his trailer she said, "That's my Eddie."
Initially, Bela Lugosi Jr. didn't want to see the film because he thought it wouldn't portray his father correctly, but upon further persuasion he saw the film, and agreed that Martin Landau honored his father in the performance. The two later became friends.
Martin Landau's winning of the 'Best Supporting Actor' Academy Award for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi marked the first time in Oscar history that a performer in any category won for playing an actual movie star. A decade passed before this happened again; when Cate Blanchett took the 'Best Supporting Actress' trophy for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004).
During the bar scene with Wood, Orson Welles (Vincent D'Onofrio) complains that Universal Pictures wanted him to make a film with Charlton Heston cast as a Mexican, a reference to Touch of Evil (1958). In reality, Welles was first approached by Universal only to act in that film; Heston was the one who insisted that Welles be allowed to direct it, too. Furthermore, the film was based on a novel, Badge of Evil, where Heston's character was an American, and since Welles also wrote the screenplay, it doesn't appear that casting Heston as a Mexican was anybody else's idea but Welles himself.
In the early scene in which Ed Wood and his friends look at the review of his play (this is the scene in which he enthusiastically says, "Look, he's got some nice things to say here. 'The soldiers' costumes are very realistic.' That's positive!"), they are looking at a newspaper review in the "Los Angeles Register," at a column entitled "The Theatrical Life by Victor Crowley." The opening paragraphs read: "World War II, a time for brave men with 'guts,' forms the backdrop for 'The Casual Company,' which opened last night in Hollywood. Let me tell you this is definitely a play about 'guts.' It certainly took 'guts' to stage this disappointment. Penned by one Edward D. Wood, Jr., who also has the 'guts' to take credit for directing this foxhole piece, 'The Casual Company' takes place on a barn stage with only rudimentary lighting. ..." Wood really did produce this play, which was based on some of his experiences in the Marines, and which really was a flop.
Dolores Fuller has disputed her depiction in the movie, recalling how she helped raise money for Glen or Glenda (1953) and helped pick out Ed's wardrobe for the movie, which included some of her own clothes. Fuller also states that her leaving Wood was not for the reasons given in the film, but because of his alcoholism, which was not depicted.
Wood's line, "They're driving me CRAZY! These Baptists are stupid. Stupid. STUPID!" is modeled on a line from Wood's film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), in which Eros says "Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!"
The character of Bela Lugosi continually puts down Boris Karloff and the Frankenstein monster, then later laments that he turned down the role of the monster himself. In reality, Lugosi did play the monster (years after Karloff), in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Incidentally, he also played the role of Ygor in Son of Frankenstein (1939) against Karloff's final portrayal as the monster.
During the bar scene with Wood, Orson Welles (Vincent D'Onofrio) complains of how the finances keeps falling through for his Don Quixote picture. In August 2000, Johnny Depp took part in the filming of "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" with Terry Gilliam directing. Unfortunately, the movie was never completed due to budget cuts, among other problems.
In the scene where Ed is frantically typing a script, and begging Bunny Breckinridge on the phone to get him some transsexuals, he spends more time separating jammed type-bars inside the machine than actually typing. This was a very common annoyance with aging, portable typewriters. However, this may also be due to the format of writing screenplays.
In the final shot of the epilogue with Criswell in the haunted house, before he retreats into the coffin, he says, "My friends, you have seen these incidents based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn't happen?". These are the real Criswell's closing remarks from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). The film was originally supposed to end with Criswell delivering these lines, but his speech was muted when the filmmakers decided to add the epilogue.
The producers requested that George 'The Animal' Steele submit an audition on video for his role as Tor Johnson. Steele made a comedy short and sent that to the producers. A second audition tape was requested. Steele's wife produced and directed the second audition tape which used dialog from the script.
Michael Lehmann was originally set to direct. Tim Burton was approached to produce and wanted to direct the film as well, but only if this could be his next project instead of Mary Reilly (1996), which he was set to officially sign on to in days. A first treatment of this script was written in six days and Burton accepted. Lehmann moved on to direct Airheads (1994).
Korla Pandit, who plays the Indian keyboard player, was a real-life local Los Angeles TV star in the early 1950s. His show, "A Musical Evening With Korla Pandit", aired on station KTLA in Los Angeles, and consisted of Pandit gazing into the camera while playing the Hammond organ. He never spoke nor smiled. Audiences found this highly intriguing, and the show was a major hit.
Early in the film, Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) tells Ed (Johnny Depp) "If you want to make out with a young lady, take her to see Dracula (1931)". Later in the film, during Ed's first date with Kathy (Patricia Arquette, they ride the haunted house attraction at a fair, during which Dracula shows up both as a dummy and as a topic of conversation.
When Ed Wood talks to film backer Old Man McCoy (Rance Howard) in the meat packing scene, Mr McCoy says "I got a son, he's a little slow, but a good boy ...". In real life, Rance Howard's son is Producer / Director Ron Howard.
Orson Welles didn't look the same in the mid 50's. The movie he was making by the time he spoke to Ed Wood was Touch of Evil (1958). At that time, his body would have been much fatter and with all gray hair. Instead, his appearance is how he looked in the early 40s with a slimmer body and all brown hair.
Interestingly, both Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette's first movies were from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Johnny Depp debuted in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Patricia Arquette was in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987).
Both Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette had their big break in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise; Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Arquette in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987).