Jorma Taccone, the films director, plays a drinking game on the DVDs commentary track where he takes a drink of beer every time MacGruber's name or any variation of it is used in a line of dialogue. He drank four beers.
Lee David Zlotoff, creator of the TV series MacGyver (1985), felt that his legal right to make a film version of his series was compromised with the release of MacGruber (2010). His lawyer sent several cease-and-desist letters to the production company and met with litigators although ultimately, no legal action was taken.
In the original SNL sketches, no on-screen explanation was provided for Kristen Wiig replacing Maya Rudolph as MacGruber's partner (the off-screen reason being Rudolph's departure from the show). The film addresses the switch by explaining that Rudolph's character died.
A major influence on the film was Die Hard (1988) which is director Jorma Taccone's favorite movie. Taccone actually located and used the prop C-4 explosives from that movie for action sequences in this one. In addition, Val Kilmer and Powers Boothe were both told in pre-production meetings with Will Forte and Taccone to act "like you're in a Joel Silver-produced film in 1988."
Val Kilmer and Will Forte almost ended up being on CBS' hit series The Amazing Race (2001) because of this film, where they became good friends. Kilmer later stayed at Forte's house for a few months while searching for a new L.A.-based home for himself, and Forte (a huge fan of TAR) introduced Kilmer to the show. They were about to apply as a team when their other work commitments led to the idea being dropped.
Will Forte refused a body double for the controversial sex scene between MacGruber and Vicki St. Elmo. However, he surprised Taccone by expressing some discomfort at the number of people who were on-set at the time. Taccone then said he didn't know Forte cared about being naked in front of strangers.