Director Sam Peckinpah was in ill-health throughout the shoot. The long-term toll of his drug and alcohol abuse suggested to many in the production that he was dying. Peckinpah would go off and take opportune naps, but still completed and delivered his initial cut of this movie on time, despite sickness and exhaustion.
Sam Peckinpah was fired when he refused to re-edit this movie after it was screened for a test audience on May 25, 1983, and met with a confused and mixed reaction. Producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer took over editing, with the assistance of Editor Edward M. Abroms, and drastically altered the opening and ending sequences.
According to Jason Robards, Jr., Robert Ludlum offered to re-write the overly complex and confusing script for free, but differences between the producers and Sam Peckinpah, who'd expressed his concern from the beginning, prevented this from happening.
This movie marked some story element similarities with Director Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971). Peckinpah once said: "Same thing. Here we have a dead dog in the refrigerator, in Straw Dogs (1971) there was a dead cat in the closet. Both involve a house under siege."
A clip, which was shown to a test audience, is now available on the Anchor Bay DVD release. Several people walked out of the test screening, due to the infamous opening sex scene between Fassett (Sir John Hurt) and his wife. The producers wanted Director Sam Peckinpah to cut the scene out. When he refused, he was fired. Deleted scenes on this DVD include: 1) The sex scene is extended, and shot more wobbly, to express how Fassett's breaking point for revenge had occurred. 2) A deleted scene of Osterman and Joe talking on the phone about their deal. 3) An extended scene of Virginia flirting with Dick on the phone. 4) There a deleted scene of John Tanner of having an affair with his Director, Marcia, and wakes up to find her dead. 5) The scene where Tanner and guest are arguing by the dinner table. In the theatrical cut, Fassett switches on a Swiss ad. In the Peckinpah cut, he has a big image of Danforth. 6) Alterative ending is juxtapositioned between Tanner searching for his family, and the television studio.
According to the documentary Alpha to Omega: Exposing 'The Osterman Weekend' (2004), Sam Peckinpah hated Robert Ludlum's novel, and he did not like the screenplay for the movie either. But regardless of his dislike for the book, Peckinpah still accepted the director's job, as he was desperate to re-establish his legendary director position within the Hollywood film community.
According to "The Espionage Filmography", "(Sam) Peckinpah claimed the film was botched in the final edit." In the February 1984 edition of Photoplay (U.K.), Director Sam Peckinpah said he was happy with the final cut, despite six minutes of scenes with humor being cut out, which he said balanced the violence. According to wikipedia.com, "The producers changed the opening sequence, and deleted other scenes they deemed unnecessary. (Sam) Peckinpah proclaimed that producers had once again sabotaged his film, a complaint he made after filming Major Dundee (1965) and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973). He was less vocal this time, mindful that studios and producers were keeping an eye on his behavior."
No damage, special effects, or action work was meant to be done at Robert Taylor's former ranch residence, the filming location for the house seen in the movie. But the production just went ahead, and shot out windows, conducted a poolside shoot-out, and damaged the swimming pool.
First feature film adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel. It was the second Ludlum adaption overall for any filmed production, as The Rhinemann Exchange (1977) had been made-for-television. This movie was the first of three 1980s movies based on Ludlum novels. The others being The Holcroft Covenant (1985) and The Bourne Identity (1988).
Chris Sarandon's wife was pregnant throughout the filming of this movie. He said that the added tension provided his character with a little more depth. His wife gave birth shortly after filming wrapped.
Final movie of Sam Peckinpah. It was also Peckinpah's big "comeback movie". It was his first in five years, his last movie having been, at the time, Convoy (1978). This movie is also Peckinpah's only feature film of the 1980s.
Sam Peckinpah asked the producers to do re-write work on the script, and was given permission to do so, but after submission of his first few pages, the producers relented, and forbade Peckinpah from doing any more re-writes.
According to the December 30th edition of "The Gettysburg Times", Producer William N. Panzer acquired the Ludlum property with partner Peter S. Davis "after a chance encounter with the previous owner of the screen rights." The movie's budget "was raised by selling foreign, home video, and pay television rights, with an assist from private investors." Panzer said: "Sam's name was a big help in selling the foreign rights. He's even more known abroad than he is here."
The movie's signature house setting was a 1950s ranch located in upper Mandeville Canyon, in the Hollywood Hills. It was a property once owned by Robert Taylor, and has frequently been known by the names "The Taylor Estate" and "Robert Taylor Ranch".
The movie's video sequences caused several problems for the production. The story calls for scenes with the actors and actresses watching various television screens. Problems arose in capturing the video images for film.
Larry Jones sold the movie rights to the novel to Producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer, due to dissatisfaction in being able to have a suitable screenplay developed. In the book "Bloody Sam" (1991) by Marshall Fine, Screenwriter Alan Sharp said that he didn't like his own script for this movie, and thought it incredible that the producers used his draft for filming. The producers bought the movie rights, due to the marquee value of the project, that they thought would elevate them out of making B-movies.
According to David Weddle's book on Peckinpah, "If They Move, Kill 'Em", despite the extensive surveillance sequences, and Director Sam Peckinpah's declining health, this movie wrapped production on January 17, 1983, on time and on budget.
This was the first Robert Ludlum novel to hit the big screen. Sir Lew Grade had announced "The Scarlatti Inheritance" to star Ingrid Bergman, and "The Gemini Contenders" at the Cannes Film Festival several times during the late 1970s, but a string of flops led to the demise of his brief filmmaking empire.
Horror filmmaker William Castle was the first owner of the movie rights to the novel. Castle asked Robert Ludlum to write the screenplay, but he was reluctant, and declined. Castle once said: "I didn't leave that crowd of ocelots to go back into it."