Though actually a major significant leading role in the picture, Geena Davis won her Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award category, and was not nominated in the Best Actress section. Several years later, Davis would be Oscar nominated for the Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award in 1992 for Thelma & Louise (1991) but would lose out to Jodie Foster for The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Macon's brothers, Porter and Charles, are physically reversed in the film from their description in the book. The book describes Porter as thin and tall and Charles as overweight and shorter. In the film, Porter is played by the heavier David Ogden Stiers while the taller and slender Ed Begley Jr. plays Charles.
Kathleen Turner was second billed after first billed William Hurt for marketing purposes because Hurt and Turner had star teamed the earlier successful Body Heat (1981), which had also been helmed by writer-director Lawrence Kasdan, and had been distributed by the same Warner Bros. studio in many territories.
The movie in 1989 was the winner of the Annual Scripter Award for the Best Filmed Adaptation of a Book which is awarded by the Friends of the University of Southern California (USC) Libraries. The gong was only the second time after the Scripter Award had been awarded after the prized had been inaugurated the previous year in 1988.
The movie's source novel of the same name by Anne Tyler was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1986 but lost out to Larry McMurtry for "Lonesome Dove" (1985) which has also been filmed [See: Lonesome Dove (1989)]. The other nominee was Russell Banks for "Continental Drift" (1985).
Ellen Barkin auditioned for Muriel and had a particularly difficult time. She has said that her audition was just waiting for it to be over and was disappointed because she felt she was letting down William Hurt and Lawrence Kasdan. She told Entertainment Weekly that her audition was terrible and that she thought the part was difficult to read for.
Many movie posters for the film featured a long blurb that read: "Macon Leary was set in his ways. The way he lived, thought and worked. He imagined it would always be like that. Until an unusual woman showed him the way it could be".
"The Accidental Tourist" (1985) source novel is one of the best known works of source authoress Anne Tyler. Others are "Breathing Lessons" (1988), which has been filmed (see: Breathing Lessons (1994)), and "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" (1983).
The movie was Oscar nominated for four Academy Awards in 1989, including Best Picture, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Of the noms, the film won one, a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, for Geena Davis.
The later American film "Hero" was re-titled "Accidental Hero" in a number of territories [See: Hero (1992)]. One of this movie's stars, Geena Davis, had recently only about four years earlier starred in The Accidental Tourist (1988), winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and with both pictures sharing the word "Accidental" in their titles,
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
One of two 1980s films written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan where the characters of Kathleen Turner and William Hurt are a couple who don't end up together with each other at picture's finish. The other film where a similar situation occurs is Body Heat (1981).