A man impersonating Gary Oldman discussed the project with an unsuspecting Danny DeVito for months and even submitted an audition tape to Milos Forman. The real Gary Oldman had passed on the role of Andy Kaufman months earlier, and became aware of the scam after he found his name listed as one of the actors auditioning for the part.
The core cast of Taxi (1978) played themselves, with the notable exception of Tony Danza, who was doing "A View from the Bridge" on Broadway, and could not fit the movie in his schedule, and Danny DeVito, who was already playing George Shapiro. When DeVito was asked who would play him if he was playing Shapiro, he suggested that the simplest option was to simply scratch himself from the cast shown in the movie.
During filming, it was widely reported that a fight ensued between Jerry Lawler and Jim Carrey. It was later reported the whole story was fabricated to promote the movie. But Lawler has since revealed that the story was true. Carrey was so into his character that he constantly harassed Lawler off-camera. At one point, Carrey spit in Lawler's face and Lawler grabbed Carrey's neck. The altercation was broken up, and Carrey demanded that Lawler be fired, and that his scenes be re-shot. But Carrey later relented. According to Lawler, when they later filmed the scene in which he slapped Kaufman on Late Night with David Letterman (1982), he slapped Carrey much harder than he ever slapped Andy, as revenge.
In a podcast interview, Jerry Lawler stated that Jim Carrey was a handful, with which to work. This stemmed from Carrey's insistence on staying in character constantly on and off-set. Several years later, Carrey sent Lawler some old 1980s records of hits that wrestlers recorded from his personal collection, saying it was a great pleasure working with him.
This was Doris Eaton's (Eleanor Gould's) only role in films after 1929. Her previous film appearances were in Street Girl (1929) and The Very Idea (1929). Although she is sometimes considered to have been in Reckless Decision (1933), her role in that was comprised of recycled footage from Tell Your Children (1922). Jim Carrey spotted her at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights A.I.D.S. benefit and offered her a role in this film.
The opening credits sequence mentioning that certain facts were changed and some events were in a different order, was written in by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski in anticipation of fickle audience members pointing out historical inaccuracies used for dramatic effect. They received numerous letters from Andy Kaufman fans regarding "mistakes" nonetheless.
The wrestling match between Lawler and Kaufman, was filmed at Los Angeles' Olympic Auditorium, which was standing in for the famed Memphis Mid-South Coliseum, the site of the real-life Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman matches. When Lawler arrived at the Olympic Auditorium to film the match, he was shocked to find hundreds of "Southern" extras dressed in straw hats and overalls, not at all resembling the real Mid-South crowds of the early 1980s. An exasperated Lawler pulled the filmmakers aside and reminded them that Memphis is a blues town, not a backwoods one, and that he never saw anybody dressed like that at the real Mid-South Coliseum. The extras were then instructed to remove their straw hats.
The superb Elvis Presley routine performed by Andy Kaufman in the movie was not only based on real life work (which Elvis publicly stated was "by far" the best impersonation of him he ever saw) but based on the way Andy arranged many of his performances. The fact that his pre-Elvis "impersonations" were terrible and unfunny, was intentional on the part of Kaufman. He would "reward" audiences who didn't leave or curse at him after he did awful work, with things he rightly thought they would find hilarious and entertaining.
The ring announcer in the movie who introduces the wrestling match between Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman is Lance Russell, one of the real-life promoters of the historical match, as well as the ring announcer and ringside commentator. The ringside commentator in the film is Jim Ross, who was Jerry Lawler's broadcast partner at the WWE commentator's table for many years.
The 8x10 glossy of comedian Bruce Smirnoff is clearly visible behind Andy when he is first gigging and bombing at the Melrose Improv. Bruce was a hard luck comic who bombed for many years, and finally became a successful touring professional comedian.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
It is revealed in the film that the feud between Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler had been fabricated as a publicity stunt. It was proven to have been a fabrication several years before this movie came out. The "feud" was widely regarded as being genuine.
Sam Simon, executive producer on Taxi series, stated in a 2013 interview with Marc Maron for the WTF with Marc Maron podcast that the portrayal of Andy on the show was "a complete fiction", that Kaufman was "completely professional" and that he "told you Tony Clifton was him". Simon also stated that sources for these stories were mostly from Bob Zmuda and "a little bit of press hype", but in the end he conceded that Kaufman would have loved Zmuda's version of events.
After its release, the film attracted some criticism over various events in Kaufman's life that were left out. Max Allan Collins maintained that the filmmakers did not understand Kaufman at all, and that the film "does not give Kaufman the credit for his genius, that he had a complete intellectual grasp of what he was up to and a showman's instincts for how to play an audience". Significantly, these critics included Kaufman's own father (Stanley Kaufman), who was displeased that little of Andy's early life (before show business) and early career was portrayed.
A subject not portrayed in the film but important at the time was that Kaufman and Zmuda wrote a screenplay for a Tony Clifton biopic. However, this was sidelined after Kaufman's first major motion picture Heartbeeps (1981) was a failure at box offices and got mostly negative reviews. In the screenplay, Clifton dies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from cancer. In a eerie turn of events, Andy died in that same hospital five years laters, from lung cancer.
The film implies that Carol Kane was a member of the Taxi cast during the show's first season, which in real life was 1978 or 1979. Actually, Kane did not make her first appearance on the series until the episode "Guess Who's Coming for Brefnish", which first aired on ABC in January 1980 during the show's second season. The film also implies that Taxi was canceled only once. However, the show went on for one more season on NBC.