Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson met for the second time while filming this movie. The pair married three years later. Wilson originally met Hanks in 1981 on the set of Bosom Buddies (1980) when she guest-starred as Peter Scolari's Satan-worshiping girlfriend. But their relationship wasn't kindled until they were reunited on the set of this movie.
The film was mildly controversial for its Coca-Cola drink scene, which played like a very deliberate product placement. The movie was made by TriStar Pictures, which was a division of Columbia Pictures, which was owned by the Coca-Cola Company. Just recently, home video cassettes of Ghostbusters (1984) had been released with an advertisement for Coke on the tapes. The film's co-Screenwriter Ken Levine has explained this on his blog by saying: "We wrote that Coke scene in the first draft, 1980. It stayed in every draft and wound up on the screen. Originally, the movie was set up at MGM. After a couple of years, it went into turnaround, finally landing at HBO Silver Screen in partnership with TriStar. This was 1984. TriStar was a division of Sony, as was the Coca-Cola Company. No one from the studio ever asked that that scene be in. No one from the studio ever mentioned that scene period. A year later, the film was released, and we walked into a major shitstorm. I look back and think, all of this could have so easily been avoided if he just offered her a joint".
For authenticity, director Nicholas Meyer wanted two elephants to appear in the picture "on the grounds that two elephants look like Thailand while one elephant looks like you can't afford two elephants" Meyer once said.
According to an August 18, 1985 article in The New York Times, Nicholas Meyer stated that the Peace Corps director Robert Sargent "Sarge" Shriver, Jr. (a.k.a. Sargent Shriver) said this movie's screenplay was "like spitting on the American flag". The story reported that three changes were requested: "The (Peace Corps) agency asked Mr. Meyer to make three alterations in the script. Change Thailand to Burma, because the Peace Corps never was in Burma. Don't mention the C.I.A. in the same breath with the Peace Corps. And please change the name Peace Corps to something else". None of these were done. When the picture got released, Shriver was no longer the Peace Corps head and the Peace Corps organization endorsed the movie.
Tom Hanks based his performance as and characterization of Lawrence Bourne III on the actor who played his character's father Lawrence Bourne, Jr., actor George Plimpton. Hanks payed much attention to Plimpton and listened to his diction very astutely. Hanks was able to mimic his vocalizations by mimicking certain words and putting stress on certain vowels. Hanks once said: "I tried to cull from him that air, not of superiority, but of a kind of confidence he exudes. He has one of the most distinctive voices ever. It was the most fun I've ever had as an actor. As soon as I put on that double-breasted white tuxedo, I was in character. It was a situation of the clothes making the man. Lawrence is a guy who refuses to take life on anything but his own terms. He is consistent to the end".
The character of Tom Tuttle played by John Candy was, according to the film's writers, "was a creation we enjoyed, like someone I knew in college. He is a true believer who buys all the myths and 60's rhetoric without question. But at the first sign of trouble, he changes. He is a person who lives by ideals instead of by emotions".
Nicholas Meyer once said of this movie: "Anyone can see this is an affectionate spoof, and that the people who made this movie went out of their way to endorse the Peace Corps, and if you can twit the Army in movies, why not the Peace Corps? There are silly little things I kept throwing in . . . But the popular culture references are affectionate reflections on part of the great contributions to the literature of the cinema. Civilized, educated people will recognize these things."
The NBA championship game Tom Hanks' character is listening to on the transistor radio during the Yale University graduation reflects the actual final score of that game, Boston Celtics 110- Los Angeles Lakers 107. President John F. Kennedy did give the commencement speech at the 1962 Yale University graduation ceremony. However, the NBA championship was played on April 18, 1962, while the graduation at Yale University was June 11, 1962, nearly two months AFTER the NBA championship game. Therefore, Tom Hanks' character could not have been listening to the game during the graduation ceremony.
When John Candy attempts to destroy the bridge he says "What have I done?". This is the same line Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) says before the bridge is destroyed in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
The name of the volunteering organization, to which the film title refers, is "The Peace Corps". According to Wikipedia, "The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. The stated mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals: providing technical assistance; helping people outside the United States to understand American culture; and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries. The work is generally related to social and economic development. Each program participant, a Peace Corps Volunteer, is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of 24 months after three months of training. Volunteers work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment. After 24 months of service, volunteers can request an extension of service".
The first of two movies where John Candy plays a passenger who gets on the nerves of a passenger sitting next to him., he would do so again in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987). In fact in both movies, he is sitting in a window seat on the right side of the aircraft and his victim was to his left in the aisle seat. And in this film on the airplane he led the other passengers into song (Puff the Magic Dragon (1978) to be exact). In Planes & Trains he led everyone into song (The Flintstones (1960)) on board a passenger bus.