Originally director Alan J. Pakula did not want Burt Reynolds for the Phil Potter part, feeling he was not the right type; he wanted a more New York-trained actor along the lines of Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman. But Reynolds lobbied hard for the role and Pakula finally let him audition. After two auditions, Reynolds had the role, and Pakula subsequently has praised his work in the film.
Burt Reynolds's Phil Potter character walks into a shower in this movie wearing his clothes, a scene evocative of the earlier movie, Charade (1963). That movie was directed by Stanley Donen, who Reynolds worked with a few years prior to this picture, when he starred in Lucky Lady (1975).
During the school fair scene, actress Jill Clayburgh said, "Good shot, Harry," after catching a wayward throw by one of the children. Even though the child's character was named Mark, they left in Harry, the real name of the child playing the role.
Reportedly, according to the 29th November 1979 edition of show-business trade paper 'Daily Variety', the movie was a record-breaker at the American domestic box-office stateside for the Paramount Pictures studio, setting a record for the highest ever grossing release for a film released in the Fall (Autumn) season, grossing US $26.5 million after fifty-two days in cinemas.
This film stars Burt Reynolds and had a screenplay written by James L. Brooks. When the latter became a director and had Terms of Endearment (1983) in development, the character of Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment (1983) did not appear in Larry McMurtry's source novel and was written specifically with Reynolds in mind by writer-director Brooks. Reynolds loved the script but was already committed to star in Stroker Ace (1983). Paul Newman and Harrison Ford turned down the role before Jack Nicholson signed on. Nicholson talked with a number of real astronauts while in Houston in preparation. The character was meant to be a foil/love interest for Aurora (Shirley MacLaine), being first designed for Reynolds, and then custom made for Jack Nicholson, who was basically playing himself.
Filming in New York City, according to the 4th February 1979 edition of 'The Los Angeles Times', the production utilized the former 20th Century Fox studio sound-stages on West 54th Street in Manhattan.
The movie was supposed to be the second theatrical feature film of actor Kevin Bacon who had just cinema movie debuted the year before in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) and in Starting Over (1979). He shot a scene with a few lines and is even credited in the end credits as "Husband (Young Couple)" but his scene was cut out of the final film.
According to the 12th December 1973 edition of show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter', when the Paramount Pictures Corporation originally acquired the movie rights to the film's source novel of the same name by 'Dan Wakefield', which had been first published in 1973, creative personnel who were attached to the production of this picture at that time, and were different to the filmmakers who ultimately ended up making the movie, included director Arthur Hiller, 'screenwriter Robert Goldman', and producers Peter Bart and Max Palevsky.