Early on during pre-production, Edgar J. Scherick suggested that Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper could play "Joanna Eberhart" and "Bobbie Markowe" respectively. This was vetoed immediately by William Goldman who deemed it as a "very gimmicky publicity stunt", as both actresses were very popular at the time starring in top-rated sitcoms. The idea was dismissed before casting ever began.
When Joanna goes to the city to show her photos at a gallery, the large black and white photo in the gallery window is of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. Under his real name (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), he was a well-known Victorian photographer, especially of children.
Jordan Peele's social thriller megasmash Get Out (2017), which has become one of the most successful debut movies by a director ever, was directly influenced by "The Stepford Wives". Peele has openly acknowledged as much in interviews, citing "The Stepford Wives" and Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) as two of his favorite movies.
The original draft of the screenplay called for the women to wear miniskirts. Supposedly, once director Bryan Forbes cast his wife, Nanette Newman, as one of the wives, this changed. Ms. Newman did not have the figure for such revealing clothing, and the women were dressed instead in feminine but modest wardrobe. The remake may not have been completely successful, but it attempted to correct this design problem.
When Bobbie Markowe says "I don't want to squeeze the goddamn Charmin!", this is a reference to a television advertisement for Charmin, a brand of toilet paper, which was heavily promoted in the US in the 1970s.
Critics speculated at the time of its publication that The Stepford Wives was inspired by an old short story by Ray Bradbury, entitled "Marionettes Inc". The story is about a man who rents life size robotically powered marionette duplicates of both him and his wife, in order to solve his marital problems. Eventually the marionettes destroy their masters and wind up replacing them, much as the Stepford Wives did.
Brian De Palma was approached to direct in early 1974, due to the surprise success of his first feature, Sisters (1972); however, negotiations fell through and he ended up filming the suspense melodrama Obsession (1976) instead.
Neither film version of The Stepford Wives was very successful at the box office, although the 1975 version was well-reviewed and continues to develop a cult following. The 2004 version was pummeled by the critics and roundly despised by everyone, even some of the people who made it.
It's ironic that the Stepford Husbands, who turn out to be a bunch of misogynistic sociopaths who turn their wives into wind-up toys, talk about "Toys for Tots" and doing charities for underprivileged children during their meeting at the Eberhardt's house.
Bryan Forbes claimed that he found screenwriter William Goldman very high-handed and rude, and reluctant to change anything in his script, which several previous directors had turned down. Goldman, in turn, insisted that Forbes rewrote his script extensively, mostly during shooting.
After the movie was released, there was a feminist demonstration against it, decrying it as being sexist. One of the protestors hit director Bryan Forbes over the head with her umbrella. Katherine Ross commented on the incident in the documentary "A Stepford Life" about the making of the movie, stating that this was a powerful testimony to how the movie affected the protestors.
Screenwriter Bill Goldman originally wrote an ending that was much more explicit than the ending of the Ira Levin novel, where the Joanna robot violently kills the real Joanna. Director Bryan Forbes felt this undermined the Feminist themes of the rest of the movie, so he rewrote the ending. Goldman was furious that they rewrote his ending, and never spoke to Forbes again. He even criticizes the director and the movie in his classic Hollywood behind-the-scenes book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, saying that the movie was hurt by Forbes' insistence on casting his wife Nannette in the role of Stepford Wife Carol Van Zant.
Feminists criticized his movie as being misogynistic for portraying a town full of women who are turned into docile robotic sex slaves. Cast members like Peter Masterson insist that this was "exactly the point", that the movie was presenting society's sexism, not endorsing it. The critical community was torn on this issue. The book itself, when judged on its own merits, seems to be a straightforward feminist allegory. But then again, when judged in comparison with other writings in Levin's canon, like Deathtrap and Rosemary's Baby, it becomes clear that Levin does dwell on -- and seems to revel in -- descriptions of housewives being victimized.
Second Wave feminist and "Feminine Mystique" author Betty Friedan comes to Stepford in the book and makes an appearance at a Women's Club meeting. This is ironic since the real Betty Friedan did see "The Stepford Wives", but she didn't like it. She said it was anti-woman and anti-human.
Producer Edgar Scherick offered Brian DePalma the opportunity to direct Stepford Wives after he saw his cult thriller hit "Sisters". When screenwriter Bill Goldman got wind of this he threatened to quit since he did not like DePalma's work. The producers acquiesced, and British director Bryan Forbes was hired (much to his own surprise).
The Stepford Wives was also the inspiration for the 1998 teen thriller "Disturbing Behavior", which starred James Marsden and Katie Holmes, and was put together by some of the same people behind TV's "The X-Files". Most critics just called it a ripoff, and said that the 1975 Bryan Forbes film was vastly superior.
Franklin Cover, who stars as one of the Stepford husbands, was also starring on the sitcom "The Jeffersons" at the time of the film's release. Ironically, his wife in the movie, Tina Louise, was also a sitcom star; she played Ginger on "Gilligan's Island".
Mitt Romney detractors described him as a "Stepford Husband" during the 2012 Presidential election, meaning that they took him to be docile, blandly conformist and submissive. The Stepford husbands were not described this way in Ira Levin's original novel; in fact, they were the opposite of this: loud, arrogant, pushy, domineering and predatory. But the term has taken on a life of its own since the original book came out in 1972. This is in part because of TV movie sequels like "The Stepford Husbands" starring Donna Mills and Louise Fletcher, which turn the tables on the original concept and portray a town full of docile robotic men. Perhaps the word "Stepford" itself has come to mean someone -- or something -- bland to the point of robotic, irrespective of gender.
When the casting process began, producer Edgar J. Scherick, who had secured the rights to Ira Levin's novel desiring to achieve "another Rosemary's Baby (1968)", suggested Mia Farrow for the role of Joanna. The idea was quickly dropped, and the actress, then living in England, was never approached.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Katharine Ross had become such a good friend of Paula Prentiss during the shoot, that she found the scene where she stabs "Bobbie" very disturbing. She actually got so anxious during takes, that director Bryan Forbes ended up shaving the back of his hand and doing the scene for her instead.
A "new black couple moving to town" is alluded to in the movie, and they are then shown briefly, fighting in the Stepford supermarket at the ending while all the other Stepford Wives do their shopping. They have a much bigger part in the book. In the movie the wife's name is Linda, but in the book it's Ruthanne, and she's a serious writer doing a journalistic piece about Stepford. The final chapter is told from Ruthanne's perspective, and it is she who notices Joanna's dramatic change at the ending. She's the only Stepford Wife that survives in the story, although it's implied she will be the next victim.
Another one of Ira Levin's women-being-done-in-by-a-conspiracy stories; along with Deathtrap (1982) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). And in all those stories it's the husband who conspires against the wife.
According to screenwriter William Goldman in "Adventures in Screen Writing" (Ch 6), this was the only project he has been involved with that he knew was doomed even before production began. The original concept was that if men were going to murder their wives and replace them with robots, the replacements had better "be in the form of a Playboy Bunny". The concept was tossed when director Bryan Forbes cast his wife Nanette Newman in the film, as per contract. Newman was "an English actress in her mid-40s. An attractive brunette and very talented, but a sex bomb she wasn't". As the result of casting Newman, Forbes and Goldman had an ongoing feud and out went "the parade of Bunnies walking through the A&P in shorts on their perfect tanned legs" and in came the summertime wear of "long dresses to the floor and big-brimmed hats".
In the 2004 remake, the wives' brains have a controlling computer chip inserted, and are then placed in robotic bodies. Although they're not actually killed, as in the original, they're not really themselves again when the chips short out. They're still inside robot bodies. This was the problem many people had with that version -- the fact that the internal logic didn't add up.