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Airplane! (1980) Poster

(1980)

Trivia

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For the argument between announcers concerning the white and red zones at the airport, the producers hired the same voice artists who had made the real-world announcements at Los Angeles International Airport. At the real airport, the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only, and there's no stopping in the red zone (except for transit buses). They were also married to each other in real life.
Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker chose actors such as Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film, these actors had not done comedy, so their "straight-arrow" personas and line delivery made the satire in the movie all the more poignant and funny. Bridges was initially reluctant to take his role in the movie, but his sons persuaded him to do it.
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The "I gotta get out of here!" scene where a stewardess tries to calm down a hysterical passenger was actually improvised on the spot. The original scene, based on a scene from Zero Hour! (1957), only called for the stewardess to try to calm her and then another passenger tells the stewardess that he'll handle this and then slaps her, the joke was supposed to end there. Lee Bryant, playing the hysterical woman, suggested to the directors that the gag should be extended to bring in other annoyed passengers forming a "slap line". Although they liked the idea, they were hesitant to do it, fearing Bryant might get hurt. However, they agreed to try it and even added in props (boxing gloves, tire iron, revolver, etc.) for the passengers. After briefly rehearsing it they kept it in the film after one take. According to Bryant, Leslie Nielsen's second slap was not rehearsed or expected and he really hit her, though not intentionally. Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) star William Shatner would play a panicked airline passenger in The Twilight Zone: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963)(#5.3). The two would later star in T.J. Hooker (1982)
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Aeromexico was the only airline to buy the film for their in-flight entertainment.
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The doctor role was Leslie Nielsen's first comedic part. He later said he was delighted to get the offer, fearing that he was getting too old for anything but "elderly grandfather" parts. The studio actually wanted to cast Dom DeLuise as the doctor, but directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams prevailed. It led to Nielsen gaining a whole new career in wacky comedies, particularly other Zucker Abrahams Zucker (ZAZ) productions.
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The first two days of the film's gross covered its entire production budget.
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In a 2008 interview on the Today (1952) Show, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told the story of being on a European flight and asked to sit in an empty seat in the cockpit during takeoff so the crew could say they flew with Roger Murdoch.
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For the famous scene of the Boeing 747 crashing through the large windows inside the terminal, producer Jon Davison mentions (in the DVD extras) that after the movie, he received numerous letters from various pilots telling him that they have come very close to re-enacting that very scene in real life, with some pilots admitting that they had come so close as to touch the glass with the noses of their airplanes.
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To get the film green-lighted by Paramount, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker pitched it as "National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) on a plane" which of course, was far from the truth, but was the only way they could get the studio execs to understand it was a zany comedy.
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Stephen Stucker ad-libbed all of his lines as Johnny.
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According to the DVD commentary, the song "Stayin' Alive" was sped up by 10 percent for the dance scene of the film. Permission from The Bee Gees had to be obtained to speed it up.
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The picture of the boy in the spinning newspaper that has the headline, "Boy Trapped In Refrigerator Eats Own Foot" is Billy Koch, the grandson of producer Howard W. Koch. His grandfather called him up one day and asked him for a photo of himself, so Billy grabbed his second-grade school photo. It was only after the film came out that he found out why his grandfather wanted the photo.
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In the scene where the husband turns on the air for his sick wife, you see in the background a man wearing a large beard, which was supposed to fly off in the wind, but the adhesive they used wouldn't let the beard come loose. The man can be seen scrunching his face trying to help it come off.
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Peter Graves, known mostly for playing ostensibly conservative leading man, paternal, and authority figures, said he initially dismissed the script as "disgusting crap". After rejecting the offer to his agent, Graves said he received a call "within an hour" from producer Hawk Koch asking to meet to discuss the film, which Graves accepted. By the end of the meeting Graves had lightened his tone once he understood that, like Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack, he would really be playing a spoof of himself and nothing about the absurdist comedy was to be taken seriously. However, he still objected to playing a character who was attracted to young boys and did not commit to the film. He later signed on because his family and friends who had read the script, and thought the role was hilarious, eventually talked him into accepting the part.
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The three directors had a long battle with the Directors Guild of America (DGA). The DGA initially refused to allow for a three-director credit. Jim Abrahams legally changed his name to "Abrahams and Zuckers" in order to insure credit was given to all three directors in the credits. The Guild ultimately allowed the three director credit.
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Most of the jive talk between the two black passengers was improvised by the actors, Al White and Norman Alexander Gibbs, as the ZAZ team weren't sufficiently "conversant" in black street language. In a bonus vignette for the "Don't Call Me Shirley" edition of the DVD, White and Gibbs explain how they came up with the dialect for the ZAZ team. Whenever the participants speak in regular English, the scene is subtitled in jive.
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The Jaws (1975) spoof in the beginning of the film was made of layers of cotton on a piece of plywood with a hidden wire track for the airplane to "fly" around.
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The part of the Jive Lady was originally intended for Harriet Nelson, who had played the mother in the 1950s sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952). She turned it down because she was concerned about the film's adult language. She was replaced with Barbara Billingsley who played the mother in the 1950s sitcom Leave It to Beaver (1957). Nelson later admitted to Robert Hays that she regretted not taking the part.
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The casting of professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a member of the flight crew was a reference to pro football player Elroy 'Crazylegs' Hirsch's role as a pilot in the serious airplane disaster film Zero Hour! (1957)
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The film is mostly a parody of Zero Hour! (1957), a film that had a main character named Ted Stryker and such famous "not meant to be funny" lines like "We have to find someone who can not only fly this plane, but who didn't have fish for dinner."
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The directing trio passed on the opportunity of making Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) as they felt that they'd exhausted every airport gag with this film.
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This was Ethel Merman's final film before her death on February 15, 1984 at the age of 76.
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The movie's dialog between Striker and Rumack ("Surely you can't be serious" "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley") was voted as the #79 movie quote by the American Film Institute.
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Lee Bryant plays the wife who thinks aloud "Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home," a parody of a real Yuban Coffee commercial that was popular at the time. In an interview with AV Club, Bryant recounted having auditioned for the part in Airplane! without ZAZ ever knowing that she was the same woman from the real commercial. It was never brought up by anyone.
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In the scene with Johnny and Steve McCroskey, McCroskey says, "Get me someone who won't crack under pressure." Johnny responds, "How about Mister Rogers?" If you look carefully that was dubbed in after this film was shot in August 1979. Stephen Stucker (Johnny) actually said, "How about Mamie Eisenhower." The former First Lady died a few months later (in November 1979) so the producers dubbed in "Mister Rogers" out of respect for the Eisenhower family.
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Robert Hays was in real life a licensed pilot, having completed his training in 1974. Although it was an entirely different kind of flying altogether.
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In an interview shortly after the death of Peter Graves in 2010, Rossie Harris (Joey) said that Graves was extremely uncomfortable when the two were on set together; Graves avoided any contact with him when they were not filming. Harris also commented that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was "not acting" when he erupted and grabbed Joey following his relentless criticisms about Kareem's basketball performance. Harris said Kareem grabbed him very hard and Joey's fearful expression was quite real.
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The producers bought the rights to Zero Hour! (1957), the film that this movie is based on.
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Otto, the automatic pilot, ultimately disintegrated after spending several years in Jerry Zucker's garage.
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The film cost $3.5 million and only took 34 days to make.
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According to directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker on the DVD commentary, the film was originally written to be a "movie within a movie" for a sequel to The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), but when that movie was aborted they expanded the story to this full-length feature.
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The woman trying to apply makeup in the film is David Zucker and Jerry Zucker's actual mother, Charlotte. She would have cameos in The Naked Gun films as well.
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Produced for $3.5 million and took 34 days to complete. The film was the 4th highest grossing film for 1980 and has earned $171 million (as of July 15, 2002).
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The directors were friends with David Letterman and asked him to audition for the Ted Striker role. While they liked his reading, Letterman was visibly uncomfortable at the idea of formally acting and was openly relieved when they didn't offer him the part. In fact, David Zucker had said to Letterman's manager that they thought Letterman could win the role (they planned to have him return for another audition) but was surprised when the manager said that there was no chance that would happen. His audition was shown on his talk show, much to his embarrassment.
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The shots of the planes taking off were taken by directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. As this was their first big-budget film, they didn't realize that the 2nd unit should have been taking shots like this.
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When Captain Oveur asks the young boy if he'd ever seen the inside of a cockpit before, it's not the original line which was ultimately deemed to be too risqué. (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker originally wanted the line to be "Have you ever seen a grown man's cock?") before the line was changed to cockpit.
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To get inspiration for the ZAZ Kentucky Fried Theatre skits, directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams would leave a videotape running all night, recording late night television with the aim of spoofing the commercials. One night they recorded the film Zero Hour! (1957), which ultimately acted as the main inspiration for "Airplane!".
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The Mustang used in the scene where Rex is being brought to the airport was owned by Robert Hays. He got paid $35 a day for its use and they used it for two days.
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A disco radio station in the film is called WZAZ, a reference to filmmakers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. The same initials appear on one of the microphones in the scene with the reporters in the control tower.
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Robert Stack, at age 61, did his own stunts during the fight scene in the airport ticket area.
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The credits add the words "So there." to the end of the anti-piracy warning at the end of the film. The directors said in the DVD commentary that the FBI rang them to indicate their disapproval of this, and asked for these words to be removed and the film re-issued. However, the film had already been distributed widely at this point and re-calling all copies was not feasible.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's role was originally to be played by Pete Rose, but he was playing baseball at the time of the filming, so the part went to Kareem. He was offered $30,000 to appear in the film, but he asked for $35,000 to buy an oriental rug.
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Ethel Merman could only be on set after noon because it took all morning to set her hair.
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Universal Pictures threatened to sue when it found out that the directors were trying to get Helen Reddy to repeat her role as the singing nun from Airport 1975 (1974). George Kennedy, from the original "Airport" movies, was also being courted for the film but thought better of running afoul of Universal. However, Kennedy would later work with directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, appearing in all three "Naked Gun" movies, to make up for not being in this film.
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According to his autobiography, Christopher Lee turned down the role of Dr Rumack. He described it as a "big mistake."
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Film debut of Julie Hagerty. Film debut of Jill Whelan.
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Co-writer/director David Zucker said that years after the movie's release, Woody Allen came up to him at a New York Knicks game and told Zucker how much he loved the movie. Zucker said that, since he and the movie's other writer-directors were heavily influenced by Allen's early comedies, Zucker was very touched.
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The argument between the two P.A. voice-overs about an abortion comes from "a cheap, dime-store novel", according to the trivia track of the DVD version. That "novel" is actually Arthur Hailey's "Airport", which inspired the movie Airport (1970).
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The video game played by the air traffic controllers is the Atari 2600's Basketball (1978).
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The airplane model used for the flying shots hangs in the museum at the Studios at Las Colinas (TX).
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The From Here to Eternity (1953) skit was shot on the same beach where Charlton Heston discovered the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes (1968).
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The screens and computers in the control tower are components of an IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, built in 1954 to protect the US from Soviet bomber attack. It was the largest and heaviest computer system ever built, the full system weighing 6000 tons and taking up an entire floor of a bomb-proof blockhouse. Components of decommissioned systems were sold for scrap and bought by film and television production companies who wanted futuristic looking computers, despite the fact they were built in the 1950s. The components used in this film were previously used in The Time Tunnel (1966) and The Towering Inferno (1974) among many others.
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Reminiscing about the film about twenty years later, Robert Hays, (Ted), recalls that Julie Hagerty, (Elaine), was the nicest person he had ever met. He fondly remembers that whenever she flubbed a line, she apologized; "Sorry!" Once he himself made a mistake, and when the director yelled "Cut!" she said "Sorry!" To which Robert explained that it was his mistake, not hers. She then said "Oh, sorry."
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The singing nun is Maureen McGovern, who sings the theme song to the sitcom Angie (1979), which Robert Hays was co-starring in at the time of filming. McGovern's appearance in the film is a poke at her having sung the Oscar-winning theme songs for two classic disaster movies: "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno (1974).
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The only real source of tension between the filmmakers and then-Paramount head Michael Eisner were two key parts of the original filming plan: the movie was to take place on board a small prop plane instead of a larger Boeing 707 jetliner (forerunner to the Boeing 747), and it was to be filmed in black and white. Eisner told ZAZ that he respected their views but the movie would not be green-lit unless it was set on board a larger aircraft and filmed in color. He gave them a weekend to think it over, and on that Monday the filmmakers agreed to Eisner's requests. (The Boeing 707 was the world's leading commercial jet transport at the time, introduced in 1958.)
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In the German version, the talk between the two black passengers was dubbed in heavy Bavarian dialect (with subtitles in standard German). This changed the joke to being a ludicrous situation, as it would have been unheard of in 1980 to meet two black people who conversed in Bavarian. The directors said on the commentary that this got one of the biggest laughs from the German audience.
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In the DVD commentary, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker had all expressed disappointment that some of the in-movie jokes (such as the thrown spear and the watermelon falling on the desk) did not get as much of a reaction from audiences as they were hoping for.
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Despite featuring a spoof of the beach scene of From Here to Eternity (1953), none of the three directors had actually seen the original film.
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Ethel Merman insisted on bringing her own hairdresser to set.
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Lloyd Bridges had a lot of questions trying to understand his character, his motivation, and his dialogue, and Robert Stack pointed out that the visual gags were so frequent and nonsensical that no one in the audience was going to care. "Lloyd, we are the joke," said Stack to Lloyd.
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According to the soundtrack album cover (Regency Records, 1980), Johnny's last name is Hinshaw. This can actually be heard clearly in the movie, when McCroskey is speaking to the reporters and tells "Hinshaw" to take over. Johnny then steps in and describes the "pretty white airplane" to the press.
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In the television broadcasts in Turkey, Captain Clarence's "Ever been in a Turkish prison, Billy?" line is dubbed as "Ever been in a Greek prison, Billy?"
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All the exterior shots of the plane while flying use a sound effect of a propeller plane, despite it being a jet. This was a deliberate jab at the studio who would not let the producers use a propeller plane in the movie.
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Robert Stack was apparently offered a percentage of the film or an extra $20k, and he chose poorly.
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1970s TV star Jimmie Walker of Good Times (1974) fame makes a cameo as the windshield wiper man who falls from the plane after "checking the oil". Walker had co-starred in The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979) just the previous year. That same year, in a chance encounter with producer Hawk Koch, Jimmie was asked if wanted to appear in Airplane. Although Walker did not actually take Koch seriously he was indeed contacted by Koch shortly after to play a small walk on role. Koch thought it was a subtle inside joke about Jimmie Walker's career decline in airport disaster films. Walker was reportedly paid $600 for his appearance.
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When discussing whether the flight is in radar range, an air traffic controller is instructed to "check the radar range". He immediately stands up and opens a microwave oven. This is a nod to the Amana Radar Range, one of the first successful in-home microwave ovens.
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The character "Dr. Rumack" was named after a neighbor of the Zuckers', Dr. Barry Rumack, who is now a noted toxicology expert.
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The first draft for the movie was written in 1974. Even then, Robert Stack was first choice for the part of Rex Kramer.
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This was the fourth most popular 1980 movie at the U.S. and Canada box offices.
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In an interview, Kitten Natividad revealed that her uncredited cameo was for the shot showing gelatin dessert wiggling on a tray below her jiggling breasts. She is not the nude who jumps into camera range.
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Sigourney Weaver auditioned for the role of Elaine Dickinson.
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According to directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker in the DVD commentary, when pitching the movie to Robert Stack, they told him to do "Eliot Ness" in reference to Stack's signature character on The Untouchables (1959). Capt. Kramer's speeches were specifically written with the intention of hiring Stack and mocking Ness' "big speeches". Rather than being offended, Stack understood the joke and took the role. Coincidentally, Barbara Stuart, who plays Kramer's wife, had a guest role in an episode of "The Untouchables", The Untouchables: The George 'Bugs' Moran Story (1959).
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Captain Oveur's suggestive and inappropriate questions to Joey are a direct parody of similar scenes in Zero Hour! (1957). Peter Graves portrayed a "father figure" to a troubled young boy, also named Joey, in the 1950s TV series Fury (1955), adding yet another level of satire.
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The bar fight scene in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), when picking up Billy the Kid, matches the Girl Scout fight scene in this film. They begin over a poker cheat (extra ace), have the same punches and bar stool hit and end with one being slid across the bar until breaking through a wall or jukebox.
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The bulk of the film was shot at Culver Studios, and they recall that back then the people running the sound stages didn't want money - they wanted drugs. "If you gave them drugs you could use their studio for whatever you wanted."
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Viewers who are familiar with Airplane will find it impossible to watch Zero Hour without bursting out laughing every few minutes because of the many scenes and dialog that are repeated almost exactly in the 1980 comedy. Such famous jokes as, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up smoking", and the hysterical female passenger who gets slapped by different people, are all delivered in dead earnest in Zero Hour. Furthermore, the climactic crash landing in Zero Hour uses an obvious miniature airplane which slides along the runway on it's belly with sparks flowing out beneath it, looking just as comical as the scene in Airplane.
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The man in the taxi who spends the entire film waiting with the meter running is Howard Jarvis. Jarvis led the 1978 push for Proposition 13 in California, which was a money-saving and tax-cutting initiative that led to major cuts in public services (especially in schools and libraries) in California. Jarvis saved California home owners thousands of dollars per year by cutting residential property taxes in half.
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Zero Hour! (1957) was so obscure that Warner Bros. sold ZAZ the rights to use it as a resource for this film for only $2,500. This actually played a large part in the film getting made because the 1957 deal for Zero Hour! (1957) had been chopped into smaller segments that included a share of the film being owned by Paramount, which was how it got onto the radar of the studio's readers and eventually got Michael Eisner's attention and support.
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Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty rehearsed their "Stayin' Alive" dance routine for a month before filming it. Coincidentally, Hays had been playing the husband of Angie (1979) in the TV series headed by Donna Pescow who co-starred in Saturday Night Fever (1977) which opened with the song "Stayin' Alive".
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While recovering at the VA Hospital, Ted Striker learns of the death of George Zipp, who was under Striker's command (and who previously told Dr. Rumack that his captain, Striker, had made the right decision in making the attack run). Just before this is revealed, you can hear Dr. Rumack being paged on the VA Hospital's PA system.
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Abrahams met his wife on the film. She's the blonde extra walking by Robert Hayes at 3 minutes.
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"Premiere" Magazine voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.
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ZAZ originally wrote in several spoof TV commercials similar to what they had done in The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). However, as the project began to take on a life of its own, they were advised by proofreaders to shorten the satirical ads in favor of developing a more linear, concentrated (albeit absurdist) plot line. All of the commercials were eventually removed. However, they retained the spoof of the Yuban Coffee commercial "Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home." They worked it into the final script as a running joke rather than as a stand alone commercial.
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Elmer Bernstein composed the score, and the producers recall an early struggle trying to convince him that they wanted "a B movie score. We didn't actually want like a really good score."
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The plane model crashing through the airport window at the start cost $40k.
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Peter Graves only agreed to do the movie because his wife loved the script. He didn't understand why they wanted him for the role and instead suggested they cast some funny people.
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One big misconception people often have about the film is that it's filled with improvisation, but barring one or two exceptions they actually shot the script "religiously." There were dozens of drafts before reaching the final script.
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Rex Kramer and Steve McCroskey were also character names in The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977).
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Craig Berenson, who played Paul Carey, who picks up Kramer and gets mauled by his Golden Retriever, went on to become a film producer. Ironically, his most successful film is Snakes on a Plane (2006).
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In the Italian version, the talk between the two black passengers was dubbed in Neapolitan dialect.
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The song "River of Jordan" is a real song composed by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. Yarrow wrote and performed the song for a friend's wedding in 1972. The production had of course obtained the necessary permissions to use the song in the movie but Peter Yarrow was apparently unaware how it would be used. Upon seeing the film he reportedly expressed deep disappointment that his wedding song had been "mocked in a silly comedy".
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ZAZ had sought "Airport" franchise mainstay George Kennedy for the role of air traffic controller McCroskey, but he and Universal felt that appearing in the spoof would damage the franchise.
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Lloyd Bridges as Steve McCroskey spoofs his role as airport manager Jim Conrad in the TV series San Francisco International Airport (1970). Also, Robert Stack appeared as an airline pilot whose nerve fails him during an in-flight disaster in The High and the Mighty (1954). Peter Graves appeared in a similar "airplane disaster" TV movie, SST: Death Flight (1977).
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The script had the two "jive dudes" saying "mofo" this and "mofo" that, but when Norman Alexander Gibbs and Al White came in to audition they invented their own take on it.
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The music for the love scenes with Elaine and Ted was taken from The Hunters (1958) where Robert Mitchum plays a fighter pilot and May Britt his lover.
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Vincent Price was offered the role of Dr. Rumack, which went to Leslie Neilsen, but Price turned it down. He said it is the biggest regret of his career.
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Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were considered for the role of Ted Striker.
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In a recent interview, Fred Willard revealed that he was offered the role of Ted Striker, who was ultimately played by Robert Hays. Fred read the script which was filled with jokes and puns, but he didn't quite understand the role or the film. So, he turned it down. After "Airplane!" became a huge hit, he instantly regretted turning it down, but his wife told him that if he had starred in it, it would've been a different film and may not have worked nearly as well.
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The 1988 house record "Break 4 Love" by Raze interpolates a sample of what sounds like a woman having an orgasm when in fact it's Lorna Patterson's character Randy crying when she confesses to Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) that she's 26 and never been married.
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CASTLE THUNDER: Heard every time lightning flashes during the storm sequence.
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The film's title in Germany was "The Incredible Trip in a Crazy Airplane".
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Paramount executives realized too late that they had neglected to lock in the filmmakers for a sequel, and by the time they went back asking for a follow-up they were unable to convince the directors to sign on. Paramount made a sequel anyway, and these three have still never seen it.
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Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker ran early screenings on college campuses, and they noted whenever a gag or joke failed to get a laugh - and then immediately cut it from the film before the next screening.
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You can see a technician pulling cable in the corner of the shot at (4 minutes) "The picture was so cheap." They later point out some visible Scotch Tape holding the plane set together at (14 minutes).
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Someone throws a baby in the air in sheer panic after the plane breaks through the terminal glass windows.
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William Tregoe, who plays Jack Kirkpatrick, the TV anchorman ("I say, let 'em crash"), plays an almost identical character in the "Count/Pointercount" segment of The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). His character name is the similar-sounding John Fitzsimmons, and he is arguing for "count." Both roles parody James J. Kilpatrick on 60 Minutes (1968).
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This movie effectively killed off the disaster movie. For about 15 years anyway, until Speed came along to resurrect it. (Speed is just another variation on the Airport formula just like Airplane is). After the success of Speed came another slew of disaster movies: Twister in 96, The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, Outbreak; etc.
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The Boeing 707 used in the movie was a re-painted TWA airliner.
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Robert Stack (with an open microphone) says to Lloyd Bridges, "Drown them in Lake Michigan, at least that'll save innocent lives." Stack played a stunt pilot in The Tarnished Angels (1957) who died when he crashed the plane he was piloting into a lake away from the spectators in the grandstands.
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The runway visible outside the cockpit during the landing near the end of the movie is Runway 30 at Long Beach (LGB), CA.
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Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) dates the ill-fated Flight 209 to Chicago depicted here to [Wednesday] 5th March 1980.
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Jill Whelan, who plays the sick child, also played the daughter of Capt. Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) on The Love Boat (1977). Joyce Bulifant, who plays her mother, played MacLeod's wife on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970).
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The ZAZ team discovered the old 1957 air disaster movie Zero Hour! (1957) during their practice of taping late-night TV in order to find commercials worth spoofing in their sketch comedy troupe, Kentucky Fried Theater. They copied the script as an exercise in learning how to write a screenplay. But their original screenplay for "Airplane!" also incorporated parodies of late-night TV ads.
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The Australian title of this movie is "Flying High".
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In Latin American countries, the title of the movie is "Y dónde está el piloto?" ("And where is the pilot?") It is one of many unrelated comedy movies around that period of time that, for some reason, got the prefix "Y dónde está..." and a basic description within
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Singer/songwriter Barry Manilow was considered for the role of Ted Striker before Robert Hays was hired.
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The entire production took just over a month. Robert Hays was doing the television show Angie (1979) at the same time.
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In Zero Hour! (1957), of which this film is a satirical adaptation, Joey (who visits the cockpit) is the son of Ted Striker (who lands the plane).
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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The first script draft was written in 1974 while they were operating the Kentucky Fried Theater on Pico Blvd in Los Angeles where they would poke fun at television commercials. One night their VCR recording of overnight TV gave them no fun ads but did offer an airing of Zero Hour! (1957) about a passenger jet facing disaster due to food poisoning and heavy fog. These early drafts were initially titled The Late Show as they intended to include their commercial gags as well with the spoof movie itself being filler. They brought it to Lloyd Schwartz who suggested that the airplane story was "funnier and more interesting" than the commercial spoofs.
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The movie's title in Brazil is "Tighten your seat belts... The pilot is gone!" (Portuguese: Apertem os cintos... O Piloto Sumiu!)
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In Norway, the title of this movie is "Help! We're flying" ("Hjelp, vi flyr"). One of many unrelated comedy movies around that period of time that, for some reason, got the prefix "Help!" and a basic description within.
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The Italian title of the movie is 'The Craziest Plane In The World' ('L'Aereo Più Pazzo Del Mondo').
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The two kids dressed and talking like adults are speaking dialogue lifted almost directly from Crash Landing (1958). Minus the punchline, obviously.
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Bill Murray was originally offered the Ted Striker role but turned it down. He said of the role, "This is going to work, but it's not."
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There was originally a gag involving Air Poland with Jose Feliciano and his seeing eye dog piloting the plane. Complaints led to its removal.
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The script originally included another question between the pilot and little Joey -- "Have you ever sucked a grown man's cock?" It made them all laugh, but they all knew it had to be immediately cut from the script.
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The Finnish title of the movie is "Hei me lennetään!" (Hey we're flying!)
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Bruce Jenner was auditioned for the role of Ted Striker.
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Robert Wuhl auditioned for the role of Ted Striker.
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The French title of the movie translates to "Is there a pilot on the plane?" (Y'a t-il un pilote dans l'avion?). The same form of title would be used later on for the Naked Gun movies: "Is there a cop to save the Queen?", "... the President", etc.
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The Polish title of the movie is 'Is the pilot flying with us?' ('Czy leci z nami pilot?').
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This is "Garfield" creator Jim Davis' favorite movie.
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In a flashback scene, a public-address announcer says "Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon....Manny Mota." While both players were active in major league baseball in the same time frame, they were never teammates; Mota could never have pinch hit for Borbon.
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The bar fight was the only scene filmed on the Paramount studio lot. It was filmed in two days (out of the thirty-four-day shooting schedule).
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The title of the movie during shooting in 1979 was going to be "Kentucky Fried Airplane". Obviously coming hot on the heels of The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) this became a liability issue so they just stuck with the simpler, more apropos Airplane.
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Ironically Robert Stack did star in a similar movie in 1975 called Murder on Flight 502.
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Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Jack Lord and Jack Webb were all approached about roles in the film.
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Shelley Long auditioned for the role of Elaine Dickinson.
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Marcy Goldman was originally considered for the role of Mrs. Hammond but was eventually cast as Mrs. Geline instead.
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Eisner wanted Barry Manilow to pilot the plane, and others who tested include Bruce Jenner and David Letterman.
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Frieda Rentie, the sister of actress Marla Gibbs makes an uncredited appearance seated at gate 8 in the terminal during the landing sequence.
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In Spain the title was "Land As You Can!" ("¡Aterriza Como Puedas!"). The "as you can" joke became so popular that several comedies with the ZAZ kind of humor have the same title. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) is "Catch Him as You Can!" (¡Agárralo como puedas!), 2001: A Space Travesty (2000) is "2001: Take flight as you can" (2001: Despega como puedas).
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The Czech title of the movie is "Fasten your seat belts, please!" ("Pripoutejte se, prosím!").
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The film's title in Argentina was "And where is the pilot?" (in Spanish: "¿Y donde está el piloto?")
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The wheels shown on the landing gear while the plane is skidding down the runway after landing, look a lot like DU-BRO brand Smooth inflatable tires with positive seal air valves, for Radio Control planes.
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The "gear shifter" Captain Oveur uses during takeoff is not a gag as assumed by pretty much everyone who watched this movie that didn't have the first clue about aviation. It is a real piece of equipment used for long flights to improve fuel efficiency. So it is actually a very accurate and very real part of flying in a parody film.
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They tried to get Helen Reddy to play the nun as she played a similar role in Universal's Airport movies, but the rival studio threatened to sue. The same issue prevented them from landing George Kennedy.
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Is the most reacted to movie on YouTube.
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The film's premiere happened on the Paramount Studio lot, and they accidentally played the reels out of order. It opened theatrically in Buffalo, NY where it tanked, but when it opened wide a week later a blockbuster hit was born.
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The screenplay for this was actually written before Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker's first film, The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977).
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This was Robert Stack's second comedic role; his first was only the previous year playing General Stilwell in the Spielberg comedy 1941. Like Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack re-invented himself from the hard nosed, dramatic, stone-faced characters he was customarily cast to play into a more versatile actor with a flair for deadpan humor.
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In Navy jargon, "striker" is a term for an apprentice or learner and is not used in a complimentary way.
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It's weird to think Airport, Zero Hour, The Big Bus, Airplane and Speed are all the same movie. As different as they seem ostensibly, they're all different versions of the plane we're on is about to crash or explode story; and one of the passengers needs to save us; with the guiding force of mission control. Zero Hour, set and made in the 50s, predated the disaster movie trend, and it was the first. Then Airport rebooted the same story of the imperilled airplane which is pilotted by a stewardess and a passenger with the guiding force of mission control; (and Airport 75 along with all the other Airport movies is also the same story); Airplane uses the same plot again but uses a jokey and satirical tone; and then The Big Bus and Speed are the same story again but they use a bus as the passenger vehicle in peril not an airplane.
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Stephen Stucker plays Johnny, the crazy traffic control person cracking wise at the tower in O'Hare Airport throughout the movie. Although it is never explicitly stated, it's pretty clear both Stephen Stucker and his onscreen counterpart are gay. It's pretty amazing that in an 1980s raunchy party movie and gross out comedy very much in the vein of National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live, to have a stereotype gay character in the movie who ISN'T the butt of the joke, but who is instead poking fun at everyone else. Very rare for an 1980s comedy.
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Released one day after Lorna Patterson's (Randy the stewardess) 24th birthday.
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Interesting coincidence regarding the "Don't call me Shirley" scene: in the infamous 1956 midair-collision disaster over the Grand Canyon --- the world's first commercial-airline incident to exceed one hundred fatalities --- the pilot of one of the two planes was named Robert Shirley.
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Director Cameo 

Jim Abrahams: as the second religious zealot who is pushed aside by Rex Kramer upon his arrival in the Chicago Airport terminal.
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Jerry Zucker, David Zucker: appear as the ground crew at the beginning of the film (they're the ones that direct the plane into the window of the terminal).
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Director Trademark 

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker: [Funny Ending Credits] The ending credits contain funny or joke credits (such as "Guy in Charge of Lots of Things" etc).
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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