Director Terry Gilliam was reported to have been rather unhappy with Kim Griest's performance, and as a result many of her scenes were drastically cut and/or trimmed down. Some of these were added for Sidney Sheinberg's Love Conquers All studio version.
The technician who, right at the start of the film, swats the fly which falls into the printer causing the fatal misprint is Ray Cooper, the percussionist who accompanied Elton John on his famous Russian concerts in 1979.
Jonathan Pryce's role as Sam was written years earlier with him in mind. The character was originally designed to be in his mid twenties (Pryce was only about 30 when Terry Gilliam was developing the script), but after many years in limbo, Gilliam changed the character's age to mid-to-late thirties so that then-37-year-old Pryce could still play the role.
When Mr. Helpman spells out the code that Sam's father used to get to Helpman's floor on the elevator, the letters are ERE I AM JH. When you rearrange those letters it spells JEREMIAH, Sam's father's name.
Lots of significant names:
The highly publicized feud between Gilliam and Universal chairman Sid Sheinberg can be recounted in the Criterion laserdisc's documentary, and in the book "The Battle For Brazil", most recently updated and republished in late 1998. Check out the store.
- Mr. Kurtzman (German for "short man"): small in stature and success. Named after the editor of "Help" (Harvey Kurtzman), a magazine that director Terry Gilliam worked for in the mid-60s. It was at a photo shoot for this magazine that Gilliam met John Cleese, who would later invite him to join the Monty Python team.
- Mr. Helpman: "helped" Sam
- Mr. Warrenn: works in a rabbit-warren style place: a maze of corridors
- Harvey Lime, possibly a reference to Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949).
Gilliam had trouble with studio producers over the black ending he wanted on the film. The producers wanted a "happy Hollywood" film which eliminated (among other things) the final transition and a critical line of dialogue which reveals the fate of Jill. These changes were made, and this "butchered" version was shown on US television at least once. Gilliam threatened to disown the film, and consequently the cinematic release and all videotape versions show the film essentially as he intended it to be seen (although the US cinematic release still omitted the line about Jill).
The "young Mrs. Lowry" was played by both Kim Greist and Katherine Helmond.
Gilliam tested more than a half-dozen actors to play the part of Jill, interviewing or testing Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca De Mornay, Rae Dawn Chong, Joanna Pacula, Rosanna Arquette, Kelly Mcgillis, Ellen Barkin, and he even considered Madonna. Gilliam's personal favorite was Barkin.
The samurai warrior's suit was covered in electronic components such as resistors and volume knobs. In an early version of the film, all of the samurai warrior's scenes were in one block.
Robert De Niro wanted to play the role of Jack, but Gilliam had already promised this to Michael Palin. De Niro still wanted to be in the film, so he was cast as Tuttle instead.
The theme song (which Sam listens to in his car) was also featured in Brazil (1944).
Terry Gilliam is seen as the smoker in the Shangri-La tower who bumps into Sam.