One day, Kathy Wood, the wife of Edward D. Wood, Jr. visited the set, and asked to meet Johnny Depp. That day, they were filming a scene where Wood would look really messed up, which made Burton nervous for what Kathy would think of the movie. When Depp exited his trailer, she said, "That's my Eddie."
Martin Landau's Academy Award for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi marked the first time in Oscar history that a performer in any category won for playing a movie star. A decade later, Cate Blanchett won a "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" Academy Award for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004).
Initially, Bela Lugosi, Jr. didn't want to see the film because he thought it wouldn't portray his father correctly, but upon further persuasion, he saw the film, and agreed that Martin Landau honored his father in the performance. The two later became friends.
Tim Burton said that he was drawn to the story because of the similarities between Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s relationship with Bela Lugosi, and his own friendship with Vincent Price late in the actor's life.
During the bar scene with Wood, Orson Welles complains that Universal Pictures wanted him to make a film with Charlton Heston cast as a Mexican, a reference to Touch of Evil (1958). In reality, Welles was first approached by Universal to act in the film. Heston was the one who insisted that Welles be allowed to direct it, too. The film was based on a novel, Badge of Evil, in which Heston's character was an American. Since Welles also wrote the screenplay, casting Heston as a Mexican was Welles' idea.
Dolores Fuller has disputed her depiction in the movie. She claims that she helped raise money for Glen or Glenda (1953), and helped pick out Ed's wardrobe for the movie, which included some of her own clothes. Fuller also said she left Wood because of his alcoholism, which was not depicted.
Originally developed at Columbia Pictures, studio boss Mark Canton and Tim Burton fell out, when the former objected to the film being made in black and white. Burton walked off with the project, shopping it around various other studios, until Disney decided to make it through its Touchstone banner.
In the early scene, in which Ed Wood and his friends look at the review of his play (this is the scene in which he enthusiastically says, "Look, he's got some nice things to say here. 'The soldiers' costumes are very realistic.' That's positive!"), they are looking at a newspaper review in the "Los Angeles Register," at a column entitled "The Theatrical Life by Victor Crowley." The opening paragraphs read: "World War II, a time for brave men with 'guts,' forms the backdrop for 'The Casual Company,' which opened last night in Hollywood. Let me tell you this is definitely a play about 'guts.' It certainly took 'guts' to stage this disappointment. Penned by one Edward D. Wood, Jr., who also has the 'guts' to take credit for directing this foxhole piece, 'The Casual Company' takes place on a barn stage with only rudimentary lighting. ..." Wood really did produce this play, which was based on some of his experiences in the Marines, and which really was a flop.
Wood's line, "They're driving me CRAZY! These Baptists are stupid. Stupid. STUPID!" is modeled on a line from Wood's film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), in which Eros says "Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!"
The character of Bela Lugosi continually puts down Boris Karloff and the Frankenstein monster, then later laments that he turned down the role of the monster himself. In reality, Lugosi did play the monster (years after Karloff), in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Incidentally, he also played the role of Ygor in Son of Frankenstein (1939) against Karloff's final portrayal as the monster.
In the final shot of the epilogue with Criswell in the haunted house, before he retreats into the coffin, he says, "My friends, you have seen these incidents based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn't happen?". These are the real Criswell's closing remarks from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). The film was originally supposed to end with Criswell delivering these lines, but his speech was muted when the filmmakers decided to add the epilogue.
In the scene where Ed is frantically typing a script, and begging Bunny Breckinridge on the phone to get him some transsexuals, he spends more time separating jammed type-bars inside the machine than actually typing. This was a very common annoyance with aging, portable typewriters. However, this may also be due to the format of writing screenplays.
When Ed Wood talks to film backer Old Man McCoy in the meat packing scene, Mr McCoy says "I got a son, he's a little slow, but a good boy." In real-life, Rance Howard's son is Producer and Director Ron Howard.
During the bar scene with Wood, Orson Welles (Vincent D'Onofrio) complains of how the finances keeps falling through for his Don Quixote picture. In August 2000, Johnny Depp took part in the filming of "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" with Terry Gilliam directing. Unfortunately, the movie was never completed due to budget cuts, among other problems.
The producers requested that George "The Animal" Steele submit an audition on video for his role as Tor Johnson. Steele made a comedy short, and sent that to the producers. A second audition tape was requested. Steele's wife produced and directed the second audition tape, which used dialogue from the script.
Korla Pandit, who plays the Indian keyboard player, was a real-life local Los Angeles television star in the early 1950s. His show, "A Musical Evening With Korla Pandit", aired on station KTLA in Los Angeles, and consisted of Pandit gazing into the camera while playing the Hammond organ. He never spoke, nor smiled. Audiences found this highly intriguing, and the show was a major hit.
Orson Welles didn't look the same in the mid 1950s. The movie he was making, by the time he spoke to Edward D. Wood, Jr., was Touch of Evil (1958). At that time, his body would have been much larger, and with all gray hair. Instead, his appearance is how he looked in the early 40s, with a slimmer body, and all brown hair.
Michael Lehmann was originally set to direct. Tim Burton was approached to produce, and wanted to direct the film as well, but only if this could be his next project, instead of Mary Reilly (1996), which he was set to officially sign on to in several days. A first treatment of this script was written in six days, and Burton accepted. Lehmann moved on to direct Airheads (1994).
At the time, Johnny Depp was depressed about films and filmmaking. By accepting this part, it gave him a "chance to stretch out and have some fun", and working with Martin Landau, "rejuvenated my love for acting".
Early in the film, Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) tells Ed (Johnny Depp) "If you want to make out with a young lady, take her to see Dracula (1931)". Later in the film, during Ed's first date with Kathy (Patricia Arquette, they ride the haunted house attraction at a fair, during which Dracula shows up both as a dummy, and as a topic of conversation.
Martin Landau did not want to deliver an over-the-top performance. "Lugosi was theatrical, but I never wanted the audience to feel I was an actor chewing the scenery... I felt it had to be Lugosi's theatricality, not mine."
In order to imitate Bela Lugosi's voice and mannerisms, Martin Landau watched approximately 35 Lugosi movies, and purchased Hungarian language tapes. With the latter, he would "literally practice the language and see where the tongue would go." When Hungarian-born director Peter Medak saw the film, he called Landau to praise him. Medak said that Landau's accent sounded spot-on, because, "You are not an actor trying to do a Hungarian accent, you're a character trying not to do (one)."
Johnny Depp developed a love-hate relationship with angora sweaters. He jokingly told MTV that he learned too much about women's clothing while making the film. Because angora sheds profusely, Depp joked that in certain scenes, he may have "inhaled more angora than oxygen."
In the film, Lugosi dismisses Boris Karloff's role of Frankenstein's monster as "all make-up and grunting." In real life, Lugosi himself was offered the part and turned it down because it didn't have any speaking lines and required too much make-up.
Johnny Depp and Bill Murray have both portrayed Hunter S. Thompson in separate films. Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) (as Thompsons alias Raoul Duke), and Murray in Where the Buffalo Roam (1980).
At the end of the film, when Plan 9 is being shown in the theater, the voice-over narration behind the Lugosi character lamenting his late wife is the actual voice of Criswell from the original soundtrack.