Farrah Fawcett was in line for the role of Gloria. However, the studio opted for Goldie Hawn when Spelling-Goldberg Productions, the producers of Charlie's Angels (1976), warned all the studios that "they would be sued for damages if they employed me," Fawcett told The Associated Press in 1979. She was still under contract with Spelling-Goldberg when she left the show.
The opera being performed in the climactic scenes at the San Francisco Opera House is "The Mikado" by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Excerpts seen in the movie were from the light opera's first act. The production seen in the film was performed by members of the New York City Opera, and was conducted by Julius Rudel. The production was allowed to shoot at the opera house for three days, which was at the time right in the middle of the theater season.
The picture was a box-office hit, it being placed in the U.S.'s top ten grossing films of its year. It was the first hit movie since Shampoo (1975), for Goldie Hawn. The success of the movie enabled Hawn to get Private Benjamin (1980) made.
The movie's theme song "Ready to Take a Chance Again" was a hit and was on the American charts for sixteen weeks and even garnered a Best Song Academy Award nomination. It was sung by Barry Manilow, who also conceived and oversaw its production alongside of Ron Dante. Manilow had another song on the film's soundtrack as well, "Copacabana", which was from Manilow's fourth studio album "Even Now".
The name of Goldie Hawn's character, Gloria Mundy, is taken from the Latin phrase "Sic transit gloria mundi", which translates as "So passes the glory of the world" or "Thus passes the glory of the world". The phrase was used until 1963 in the papal coronation ceremony.
A 1981 prime-time screening of this movie on American television was pulled from airing, due to the first attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II on Wednesday, May 13, 1981. An assassination of a pope was part of the film's storyline.
Playing Pope Pius XIII was "Mr. San Francisco," Cyril Magnin, that city's real-life first "Chief of Protocol," as well as businessmen, power broker, political fundraiser, chief executive, and multi-millionaire. This movie was the first of only two movie roles for Magnin; the other was as Mr. San Francisco in Maxie (1985).
When Gerda (Rachel Roberts) asks if Whitey Jackson (William Frankfather) is the "football player who wears pantyhose on television", this is a reference to former New York Jets Quarterback Joe Namath, who, in the early 1970s, appeared in a television ad wearing pantyhose.
In the scene where the camper is knocked off the Pick-up by the gas station wall it was actually connected by a chain to a large truck across the street because they were not allowed to cause actual damage to the wall. The pizza parlor that the car drives into was a set built on location in San Francisco using a rented building and an brick oven make out of fake break away bricks. The people in the neighborhood weren't told that it was a set and kept coming to see if it was opening.
Years after this movie's release, Dudley Moore, who played the orchestra conductor for the production of The Mikado feature during the film's climax, would play Ko-Ko on stage in Jonathan Miller's production of The Mikado in Los Angeles.
Immensely funnier film in France, thanks to the added French humor, dubbed in the French language, as was the case with Jerry Lewis's films, in a phenomenon that has puzzled non-Francophones, particularly the Americans.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The big mystery uncovered by Gloria and Tony revolves around a plot to kill the Pope. Coincidentally, that same year, three Popes were in charge of the Catholic Church in a matter of a few months (an event later called as "Year of Three Popes"). On August 1978, Pope Paul VI died, a month after the film's release, and was succeed by Pope John Paul I, who died thirty-three days after assuming the papacy. Both died from a heart attack, and in the latter case, there's several conspiracy theories related to his sudden death. Later on, Pope John Paul II was elected, and this one actually survived several assassination attempts, the most famous one was in 1981.