The movie is based on the true story of Phyllis Penzo and Officer Robert Cunningham. For twenty-four years, Penzo served as a waitress at Sal's Pizzeria in Yonkers, New York. Cunningham, a thirty-year veteran of the police force in nearby Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., was a regular customer at the restaurant, well-liked by the staff there. (His favorite dish was linguine with clams.) One day in March, 1984, Cunningham asked Penzo for help picking his weekly lottery numbers. Penzo suggested three numbers, and Cunningham came up with three more numbers on his own. Cunningham jokingly promised that if he won, he would split the winnings with Penzo as a tip. The next day, to Penzo's surprise, Cunningham and his wife came to the diner with the winning lottery ticket in hand. Cunningham's ticket had won $6 million, which he split with Penzo, giving her $3 million. In real life, however (as stated in a disclaimer at the end of the movie), Cunningham and Penzo were both happily married to other people for many years.
At Charlie and Muriel's divorce proceedings, Muriel has had a breast augmentation. They are Rosie Perez's real breasts. She had to have them bound down for the first half of the movie, to appear smaller.
Yvonne tells Officer Lang in the diner that her luck is so bad that she had a puppy die of"parvo," but she doesn't even know what that is. Parvo is a virus that afflicts puppies, and is marked by severe intestinal and heart problems. It is readily preventable by making sure puppies get all their vaccines, although Yvonne probably lacked the money to pay for them.