Al Pacino has stated that Madonna flashed him during rehearsals for this movie, opening her coat to reveal that she was naked underneath. Pacino joked that when he is old if he is observed with a beatific smile on his face, it will be because he is recalling the incident.
A two hour and fifteen minute version of the film exists, as confirmed by Warren Beatty in a 2002 interview. He was forced to cut the film to the current one hour and forty-five minute version at the insistence of then-chairman of Walt Disney Pictures, Jeffrey Katzenberg, prior to the release.
Al Pacino designed Big Boy Caprice's make-up, and completely re-imagined the character, who was originally big and fat in the comics with a little nose. Caprice's resulting film counterpart is of average height with enlarged hands, nose, and cheekbones, hence his street name.
One of the hardest characters for the make-up artists to create was "Littleface" Finney, one of the hoodlums killed in the garage shoot-out at the beginning of the film. The character, as created in the comics, has a normal sized head, with a face no bigger the average adult nose. In order to create this effect, a child was cast as Finney and then fitted into an over-sized body and made-up head as shown by behind the scenes photos. His voice was dubbed in the film, and cut-away shots where you only see his back were done with an adult actor.
Macaulay Culkin was considered for the role of The Kid, but turned it down, as he preferred to do Home Alone (1990) over this film. Catherine O'Hara, who played Culkin's mother in Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) has a cameo as Texie Garcia.
Make-up designer John Caglione, Jr.'s final design of Big Boy Caprice matches the intended design conceived by Al Pacino. Since then, Caglione, Jr. became Pacino's personal make-up man in all of his films.
Right before the five villains at the poker game are killed, The Brow gets two pair, aces and eights. This is widely known as the "dead man's hand", since famous sheriff Wild Bill Hickok of Deadwood, South Dakota was holding it when he was shot and killed in 1876.
Dustin Hoffman wore a bald cap and wig, rubber eyelids, rubber lips, and a rubber chin to play Mumbles. When Hoffman was in the make-up chair having his make-up applied, he used that time to practice his lines for his role as Shylock in the London and Broadway productions of "The Merchant of Venice". Make-up artist John Caglione, Jr. commented about Hoffman in an interview to Entertainment Weekly, "We had a real drama class. He was riotous."
Twenty-one villains from the Chester Gould comic strip appeared in the movie: "Stooge" Viller, Shoulders William, "The Rodent" Wilson (originally Rhodent), The Brow, "Littleface" Finny, "Flattop" Jones, Jake "Itchy" Rossi (originally Itchell Oliver), Patricia "Breathless" Mahoney, 88 Keys (originally Keyes), "Lips" Manlis (originally Manlus), Steve "the Tramp" Brogan, Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice, Lorenzo "Pruneface" Prunesti, Mumbles, Texie Garcia, Influence (originally The Influence), Ribs Mocca (originally Mocco), Ben "Spud" Spaldoni, Johnny Ramm, and The Blank DeSanto.
Sean Young was originally cast as Tess Trueheart, but was fired after a few days of filming by Warren Beatty. Afterwards, Young publicly accused Beatty of firing her because she "wouldn't sleep with him", though Deborah Ruf, Charlie Korsmo's mom, later disputed this saying that "the rumor was that she had become too demanding, and they just decided not to put up with it". Beatty issued a statement saying, "I made a mistake casting her in the part, and I felt very badly about it."
The garage shooting that opens the movie was inspired by the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre", in which Al Capone's gunmen killed a group of rival hoods in a garage. In the Dick Tracy comics, Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice was originally was inspired by Alphonse "Al" Capone.
At one point, John Landis was set to direct. He hired Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. to write the screenplay, with Clint Eastwood in the title role. His orders to the writers were to do the screenplay for the film centered on Big Boy Caprice as the main villain, and in a 1930s atmosphere. But Landis, after an on-set accident on Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), left the project.
Was originally set to be released by Walt Disney Pictures, as indicated by the presence of the Walt Disney Pictures logo on the film's teaser trailer, but was passed on to Disney's Touchstone Pictures label, as the film was deemed too racy for the Disney reputation.
Madonna and Warren Beatty were dating in real life during filming. When he proposed to her, and she stalled on the question of marriage, he ended their romance and claimed what he had given her was just a "friendship ring." That was in August 1990. They had been an item since February 1989.
According to his autobiography, comedian Gilbert Gottfried was nearly cast in the role of Mumbles based on his distinctive voice. He was perplexed that he and Dustin Hoffman would even be considered for the same role, joking that "the only way our names would appear together in the same Hollywood conversation would be in the sentence, 'I've seen Gilbert Gottfried's acting, and he's no Dustin Hoffman'."
Though Al Pacino had his own slicked-down hairstyle, the make-up artists had to add a fake chin, nose, upper lip, a mole on his cheek, and plugs behind his ears to make them stick out in order to turn him into Big Boy Caprice.
Warren Beatty hired acclaimed songwriter Stephen Sondheim to write five new songs ("Sooner or Later", "More", "What Can You Lose", "Live Alone and Like It", and "Back in Business") for Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) to sing in the film.
As a fan of the comic strip, Warren Beatty was initially offered the director's job. He signed on only if he could play Tracy. The producers, having trouble casting the lead role, happily complied with his wish.
Was one of the last films to be made with paintings as backgrounds. Hollywood was ditching this for computer graphics imagery (CGI). This saves a lot of time and money, but has a massive drawback: the camera must remain still. This is why the movie has a "big budget on-stage play" feel and look. When watching the movie, notice that the camera never "pans" or swivels left or right. Warren Beatty warned his camera people to not do this, because it would make it clear to the audience that the backgrounds were paintings.
When Tracy leaps off the side of the building onto a lamp post, he smashes his face into the pole (which is actually seen in the final film). Warren Beatty was asked about the scene years later and if he felt bad for the stunt person seen on-screen injuring himself. Beatty's response was "That was me."
Make-up designers John Caglione, Jr. and Doug Drexler said they often had trouble keeping the Big Boy Caprice make-up on Al Pacino. Caglione told Entertainment Weekly that their biggest scare came when Drexler discovered Al Pacino, in full make-up, was eating a big bowl of spaghetti that could have potentially disfigured his make-up. After that incident, several production assistants were designated as MPs, or "Make-up Police", to follow the actors around and to keep them out of pasta when in full make-up.
The movie was originally conceived in the early 1980s by United Artists, and was to be written by Tom Mankiewicz, who had the movie's only villain, The Blank, with Flattop Jones as the supporting villain in a side plot. Mankiewicz's idea for the start of the movie was to have a beaten-up cop who was on his death bed having a police artist show his drawing of the killer without a face yet drawn. The beaten-up cop says "That's him!" and dies. Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould loved the idea, and wanted him to do the script, but due to Gould's demands on the picture that no one could meet, the project was shelved. After Gould's death, the demands weren't as drastic from his family members, and the project was in development again. After some new attempts with other studios and directors, Warren Beatty purchased the rights and brought the project to Disney and an earlier draft written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. was re-written by Bo Goldman, which became the final script.
As a tie-in with the movie, Walt Disney comics released "Dick Tracy: The Tommy Guns and Truehearts Trilogy", which explained the backstory leading up to this movie, with this movie's plot used as the third installment.
For the film's nationwide midnight premiere, moviegoers had to purchase t-shirts at the theater, in advance, imprinted with an Admit One ticket, and the t-shirt had to be presented to gain admission. No tickets were to be sold at the premiere showing, but some theaters cheated and sold t-shirts that evening.
The make-up used for all of of the villains was based directly on how they were drawn by Chester Gould in the original comic strip. The only exception was Big Boy Caprice, whose make-up was designed by Al Pacino.
When Big Boy shows Dick Tracy the Club Ritz's deed of sale, it lists Big Boy's address as, "Big Boy Caprice; Gratitude St.; Homeville" with no state nor zip code. It also shows the date of transfer as "December 1938".
Dick Tracy was previously the subject of the unaired television pilot Dick Tracy (1967), inspired by the success of producer William Dozier's hit Batman (1966), just as this film piggybacked on the success of Batman (1989). Ironically, Bob Kane cited the Dick Tracy comic strip as a huge influence in his initial creation of Batman as a comics character.
Bruce Campbell, an avid 'Dick Tracy' comic book fan, lobbied hard for the title role. However, director Warren Beatty though Campbell was "too TV like" and was turned down. Couple years later, Campbell tried to adapt the comic book character to TV, but Beatty (who owned the rights to the character) declined unless he'd play the role.
Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson were offered the role of Dick Tracy. Nicholson was committed to playing The Joker in Batman (1989), and De Niro refused the role, for fear of being typecast as a grim, hardened tough guy similar to his Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver (1976).
During the make-up tests, it was suggested that Warren Beatty be given the detective's famous hooked nose. But after some initial tests, the make-up artists decided that it would have been a crime to hide one of the cinema's most famous faces behind putty and latex.
Although not involved in the production, Art Linson and Floyd Mutrux were credited as co-producers, as they were responsible of purchasing the rights first. After the release of the film, Linson and Mutrux launched a lawsuit against Warren Beatty, alleging that they were owed profit participation from the film. This lawsuit prevented Beatty from producing another film for two years, but the case was eventually settled out of court.
Most of the film's "boss" villains debuted in Chester Gould's comic strip in the 1930s (such as Big Boy, Lips Manlis, Johnny Ramm, Spud Spaldoni, and Texie Garcia). Most of the film's more grotesque "hired hitman" villains debuted in the 1940s or later (such as Flattop, Itchy, the Brow, and Shoulders).
The villains in this film have an infrastructure (Big Boy is the boss of Flattop and Itchy, Lips Manlis is the boss of the five card-playing villains in the beginning), unlike in the comic, where villains each arose and fought Tracy one by one in a fashion largely independent of each other with no hierarchy.
Filming started February 2, 1989, for eighty-five days, using fifty-three interior sets, and twenty-five exterior sets. Three hundred five cast, crew, and post-production personnel were employed. Post-production took nearly a year.
In an article in Entertainment Weekly about the make-up used for this movie, R.G. Armstrong said his face was covered with a gelatinous material called alginate, which is similar to the stuff dentists use for impressions of teeth, to make a life mask for Pruneface. Then the make-up artists sculpted Pruneface's wrinkled mug over the life mask to form a second mold, from which foam-latex facial parts, also known as appliances, were cast. The appliances were attached to Armstrong's face in several sections, and the make-up session could take up to three hours long. When asked what he'd do when the make-up artists would put on his Pruneface make-up, Armstrong said, "I'd go to sleep."
John Caglione, Jr. and Doug Drexler said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that they treated the original looks for Chester Gould's comic strip as their Bible for the villains' make-up, because the screenplay for this movie didn't include any physical descriptions of the mobsters. The only exceptions were for certain self-defining villains, such as The Rodent and The Brow.
In one scene, after the incident with The Blank in the Southside Warehouse, Big Boy yells to his crew about how he wants Tracy dead. Originally, that scene began with Breathless sarcastically saying, "Tracy really gets under your skin, doesn't he?" before Big Boy starts yelling, but that line was cut. However, Breathless' line appeared in the theatrical trailer and in some television airings of the film (for a while).
The film went through a very long development, with many incarnations, including a musical version in the early 1970s, with Sonny Bono as Dick Tracy, and Cher as Tess Trueheart. Ryan O'Neal also sought to play Tracy in the early 1980s.
The comic strip gave birth to a radio series in the 1930s, and a series of films in the 1940s, the popularity of which, led to a large range of merchandise. The first was badges bearing Tracy's square jaw, followed by dolls, games, toy guns, two-way wrist radios, and books.
It was rumored that in the scenes where Big Boy abused Breathless Mahoney, the hits were real, and actually hurt Madonna. However, Warren Beatty had no knowledge of it, since Madonna never told him during production. Which shows how little Beatty paid attention while directing those scenes.
Stephen Sondheim was unable to receive his Best Song Academy Award for 'Sooner or Later' due to a broken ankle. A week after the Oscars sent him a full-size chocolate Oscar statue, which, ironically enough, arrived with one leg broken. Sondheim later commented that this meant 'Either the producers or the United States Postal Service had a sense of humor.'
John Landis was originally hired to direct this movie; but he became embroiled in trying to mount a defense in the Twilight Zone case; an on set accident in a segment he oversaw which led to the deaths of three actors; and after which he was charged with manslaughter.
Created in 1931, Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice is based on real life mobster Al Capone. Interestingly, Big Boy actor Al Pacino played the titular role in Scarface (1983) which was a remake of Scarface (1932), a movie loosely based on Capone's life and using the gangster's nickname.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Dick Van Dyke, who only worked on the film for three days, broke his shoulder when he was shooting the scene where his character is murdered by The Blank. That take was the one that was eventually used in the film.
Mystery writer Max Allan Collins, who began his career writing scripts for the Dick Tracy comics in the 1970s and 1980s, wrote the movie tie-in novel. He wrote two endings for the novels. To prevent spoiling the plot, the books released before the movie did not feature the revelation that The Blank was really Breathless Mahoney. The novels released after the film featured this reveal. Also, Collins wrote a direct sequel to the movie called "Dick Tracy Goes To War". In the novel, Nazi spies (including Pruneface's widow) take over Big Boy's Club Ritz, and use it as a base for sabotage operations. Dick Tracy, now working for Military Intelligence, battles the spies, who are also using mobsters like BB Eyes, Shakey (Breathless' dad in the comics), and The Mole as muscle.
The disguised voice of The Blank (No-Face) sounds identical to the disguised voice of Princess Leia when she is dressed as a bounty hunter to free Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
Spud Spaldoni (James Caan) is killed by a car bomb planted by Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino). Caan and Pacino previously appeared in The Godfather (1972), in which Pacino's first wife was killed by a car bomb.