Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted this movie to be PG-13, so it would appeal to a broader audience. Being Executive Producer (for the first time) he approved script, director, cast, studio financing, distribution, marketing, budget, PR firm, planning a foreign release, et cetera. Schwarzenegger enjoyed the added responsibility, because he could be involved in every facet of production.
The merchandising people came up with some Jack Slater action figures with guns. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the idea because this movie was a warmer, more cuddly action movie. Merchandising included seven video games, a twenty million dollar Burger King promotion, a thirty-six million dollar theme park ride, N.A.S.A.'s first paid ad in space, and a four-story inflatable Jack Slater at Cannes. Schwarzenegger gave forty television interviews and fifty-four print interviews in twenty-four hours, setting a new personal record.
Just after Frank's house explodes, the black cop says, "Two days to retirement" as a nod to Danny Glover's character in Lethal Weapon (1987). At that point, a soundtrack excerpt from the Lethal Weapon theme plays in the background.
When Danny is arguing with Slater over checking to see if Benedict is dead after the two play chicken, he makes a reference to a villain in Die Hard (1988) (also directed by John McTiernan) who comes back at the end of the movie after being presumed dead. Shortly afterwards, a soundtrack excerpt from the Die Hard theme plays in the background.
One major reason for this movie's box-office failure was the unforgiving process needed to have it ready for the studio-mandated June 18, 1993 release date, which left almost no time for follow-up editing, or fine-tuning after a disastrous May 1 sneak preview. There were discussions about moving the release into July or August 1993, especially when Universal deliberately chose to open Jurassic Park (1993) on June 11, but it was decided that doing so would turn off potential moviegoers. When this movie was released and received widespread criticism, an anonymous movie worker said "We shouldn't have had Siskel and Ebert telling us the movie is ten minutes too long."
Steven Spielberg was offered the chance to direct this movie, but he turned it down to go make Schindler's List (1993) instead. He worked with writer Zak Penn for the movie adaptation of Ernest Cline's novel "Ready Player One".
John McTiernan said this movie began as a wonderful Cinderella story, with a nine-year-old boy and a pretty good script. But the movie didn't end as it began, referring to the movie's troubled production, and the fact that it opened in theaters a week after Jurassic Park (1993). After its failure, McTiernan retreated to his house in Wyoming, and took a break from his career.
Jack Slater, when trying to pose as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the real world, keeps getting the name wrong, and calling himself "Arnold Braunschweiger". The first part of Arnold's real name, "Schwarz", means "black" in German, while the first part of his wrong name, "Braun", means "brown" in German. Also, a "Braunschweiger" is a type of liverwurst made in Braunschweig (or Brunswick), Germany. In the German dub, he calls himself "Arnold Beckenbauer" ("Pool Builder"), which creates additional comedy, since it is also the name of one of Germany's most famous soccer players.
The original screenplay was developed by Adam Leff and Zak Penn with Arnold Schwarzenegger in mind for the lead, and was titled "Extremely Violent". After Columbia purchased the script, the studio independently approached Arnold about the movie. Arnold's decision came down to either the now-titled "Last Action Hero" or a Penny Marshall-directed Columbia comedy called "Sweet Tooth". The script was later re-written by Shane Black and David Arnott to rev up the action sequences. William Goldman did a one million dollar polish when Arnold made it clear he would not begin filming until Goldman added depth to the characters.
Before the Hamlet sequence, wherein the Sir Laurence Olivier version Hamlet (1948) is shown to the class, the teacher is Joan Plowright, Olivier's third wife and widow. Noting her students' apparent ignorance of Olivier's storied career, she tells them they may remember him as Zeus in Clash of the Titans (1981), one of Olivier's final roles, or from his Polaroid television advertisements.
During the shooting of the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger gave an interview on the set to Dagmar Koller, a famous Austrian musical-star, for an Austrian television show. After the interview, Schwarzenegger invited her to appear in the movie. She can be seen in the police headquarters as Danny talks to her.
The police station is the lobby of an administration building on the Sony Pictures lot. It was also used as the lobby of the television station in The Running Man (1987), which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger
The movie ran so far behind schedule that they had just one test screening, which ran for two hours and twenty minutes with a lot of inaudible dialogue, boring the audience. The studio refused to delay the opening, so as not to send the message the movie was in trouble, a decision Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed with.
At one point, Danny produces a piece of paper with a word (presumably the "f" word or some variation) written on it and asks Slater to say it. Slater refuses, and Danny cites this as yet more evidence that they are in a movie, as the "f" word was not allowed in PG-13 movies at the time that this movie was made. However, the "f" word does appear in the movie, spoken by Lieutenant Dekker during one of his rapid-fire rants at Slater. Due to the nature of the scene, it is hard to discern, but it is definitely there.
When Danny and Jack are looking in the video store for the action section to find a "Schwarzenegger" movie. Danny is surprised and confused to see that Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)'s poster features Sylvester Stallone, and that apparently Schwarzenegger movies do not exist. However, as Jack walks towards Danny to compliment Stallone's work, on the shelf alongside several other known Hollywood movies of the time, a VHS tape of one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's earlier movies Raw Deal (1986) is clearly visible, with Arnold featuring prominently on the cover.
Filming involved a seven-day, 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. shutdown of Times Square in New York City. Originally, a seventy-five-foot balloon of Arnold Schwarzenegger held three sticks of dynamite. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Richard Brick, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting, and Gary Martin, President of Production at Columbia Pictures, agreed to change the prop to a badge.
Due to delays with Hook (1991), this was the first movie released in SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound). With five front channels and two rears, it was also the first movie to include a 7.1 channel SDDS mix, rather than the more common 5.1 SDDS.
Some trailers show a few deleted and alternate scenes, such as an extended Hamlet action scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger is in some water shooting at someone, Danny being blown away into the movie after dynamite pops out of screen, and an alternate take and angle for Slater's "I hate when that happens" line after he gets out of the tar pit. A couple of other deleted scenes are from the original two hour and twenty minute long rough cut, include a dialogue scene between Danny and Jack in which Danny says how his father died from cancer, and a scene where a group of kids see Jack while he is walking across the street in the rain with Danny looking for Benedict and they think he is Schwarzenegger, so they ask him for his autograph, which he signs.
In this movie, the characters are able to enter and leave the movie world via a magic ticket which is credited to famous stage illusionist and escapologist Harry Houdini. However, in real-life, Houdini was firmly opposed to the idea of supernatural powers, and spent his time debunking fake spiritualists and phony mediums.
The fact that Jack Slater was out to avenge the death of his second cousin Frank in "Jack Slater IV" was an intentionally ridiculous element. The idea was that having gone through so many epic conflicts with supervillains that got increasingly personal during the first three movies (undoubtedly a nod to many 70s and 80s action movies that had "This time it's personal!" as a tagline), Jack Slater was left to battle the mob due to the death of a very minor character. It would also allow the Danny Madigan character to start listing the flaws of the Jack Slater movies, as well as how they were running out of good ideas.
The movie's disappointing box-office result has often been contributed to the fact that the fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger did not appreciate their hero effectively spoofing himself, as well as the action genre that had made him great. However, time apparently seems to have made audiences much kinder to this movie and its type of self-aware humor. Schwarzenegger's next movie, True Lies (1994), which had a more subtle form of self-parody, did much better critically and financially, as did The Expendables (2010) and The Expendables 2 (2012), where Schwarzenegger parodies some of his famous trademarks. In fact, characters becoming aware of their own movie conventions became a big thing in the Scream (1996) franchise, and Danny's observation that villains often make the mistake of laying out their entire plan in a lengthy monologue was effectively re-used in The Incredibles (2004).
In one scene, Jack says to Danny, regarding his ex-wife, "Do you think I would marry someone so stupid that doesn't know the real voice from a taped one?" In Arnold Schwarzenegger's next movie, True Lies (1994), he uses a taped voice to fool his wife.
While Danny is in the movie, he says John Practice (F. Murray Abraham) killed Mozart, a reference to the movie Amadeus (1984), where Abraham played Antonio Salieri. Later in the movie, when Slater and Danny's mom are talking, the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro can be heard, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Premiere Magazine ran an article in 1993 in which stated that there were nearly two hundred intentional "gaffs". "Gaffs" are what the industry used to call mistakes, some intentional, some actual mistakes. In other words, every scene has a mistake purposely inserted to make the audience feel as if they are in the movie.
There are similarities to Die Hard (1988), like Jack Slater falling from the building and elevator, like John McClane and Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988), which was also directed by John Mctiernan. Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the part of John McClane, but rejected it, before Bruce Willis got the part. Arnold and Bruce worked on The Expendables (2010) and The Expendables 2 (2012).
These are the following guns in the movie. Slater: Desert Eagle .50 caliber Action Express; Benedict: Custom Dan Wesson Revolver .357 Magnum; Danny: SIG-Sauer P230; Vivaldi: Walther PPK custom engraved; Criminals: MP5K-PDW, M3A1 Grease Gun, and Intratec TEC-9 sub-machine guns; Slater/Hamlet: Switches from MAC-11 to MP5K; Van: Short Barreled Minigun. Whitney: Colt Python .357 Magnum; S.W.A.T. member: Colt Commando.
When Jack kills The Ripper, The Ripper says, "I'll be back!", to which Jack replies, "the hell you will!" The line, "I'll be back" has traditionally been used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in many movies since he first said it in The Terminator (1984).
The real City Coat of Arms for Los Angeles has the American federal shield (a white field with six red thin vertical stripes on the field - creating the illusion of seven white, and six red stripes, for a total of thirteen stripes, and thirteen white stars in the blue Chief) in the first quarter (upper left quadrant of the field); the California state flag (A five-point star in the upper right corner of the field, a grizzly bear, and a horizontal stripe in the base; all in red) in the second quarter (upper right quadrant of the field); the Mexican eagle atop a green cactus (from the Mexican flag) in the third quarter (lower left quadrant), and the parted arms of alliance for Castile and Leon (representing Spain) in the fourth quarter (lower right quadrant of the field). When Jack Slater pulls into the parking lot at Police Headquarters (actually a Sony Pictures office building), the Los Angeles Coat of Arms out front has the American eagle (with a federal shield with four stars in the Chief in escutcheon) instead of the Mexican eagle in the third quarter, and a black rhinoceros (instead of the red Bear) in the California state flag in the second quarter.
Tom Noonan playing a serial killer called "The Ripper" may be a nod to Noonan playing serial killer "The Tooth Fairy" in Manhunter (1986). Coincidentally, that movie had the first appearance of the infamous fictional serial killer, Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), who is later mentioned by Benedict as a possible ally.
Shortly after Danny finds himself in Jack Slater's backseat, the famous motorcycle outfit in George Michael's "Too Funky" music video, is seen on one of the models during a photoshoot when the shooters drive through the pink building.
The Region 2 PAL United Kingdom DVD includes German, Italian, French, and Spanish audio tracks as well as the original English. It also features a "Making-of" documentary and an AC/DC music video for their song, "Big Gun".
When Danny Madigan says to Jack Slater, "They always look dead. Like in Die Hard. The guy's hanging there by his neck and at the end of the movie he comes back", after the car crash scene in New York City involving Benedict and the Tough Asian Man, Danny referenced Die Hard (1988) previously directed by John McTiernan. In addition, Professor Toru Tanaka's bad guy in this movie was killed by Arnold Schwarzenegger's good guy, just like in The Running Man (1987). Tanaka yet again came to a sticky end with Schwarzenegger.