Trivia / Airplane!

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar plays a pilot mistaken for Kareem who actually is Abdul-Jabbar, and admits as much when criticized for his lack of effort in the NBA by a young passenger. As he is later dragged unconscious from the cockpit, he's wearing Kareem's goggles, Lakers shorts and sneakers.
    • The man in the taxi is a very small one. The man who spends the entire film with the meter running is Howard Jarvis, a champion of fiscal responsibility who lead the push for several tax-cutting and money-saving bills in California.
    • Robert Stack, forgetting that he's not playing Eliot Ness:
    Air Traffic Controller: Captain, maybe we oughtta turn on the search lights now!
    Kramer: No ... that's just what they'll be expecting us to do ...
    • Captain Oveur's gag line "Joey have you ever..." appears to be a throwback to the series Fury, in which Peter Graves played Jim Newton, Joey's adoptive father. The line appears word for word in the pilot episode.
    • Lloyd Bridges is basically playing his Jim Conrad character from the short-lived San Francisco International Airport TV series.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Blooper
    • As Ted meets Elaine in the airport corridor, you can see a crewman letting out cable off to the left. The Zuckers acknowledge this in the DVD Commentary.
    • After the "The white phone" line, you can hear a crew member behind the camera laugh. This is also mentioned in the DVD Commentary.
    • There's also one in the dance scene, also mentioned in the DVD Commentary: when Striker does a backflip into the crowd, you can see his actor, Robert Hays, off to the side, very obviously waiting for his cue to jump back in to replace his stunt double. His head is fairly visible off to the right.
  • Cast the Expert: For the argument between announcers concerning the white and red zones at the airport, the producers hired the same voice artists who had made the real-world announcements at Los Angeles International Airport. At the real airport, the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only, and there's no stopping in the red zone (except for transit buses). They were also married to each other in real life.
  • Casting Gag:
  • The Cast Showoff: Robert Hays juggling during the Magumbo Bar dance sequence.
  • Completely Different Title:
    • In Finnish, it's "Hey, We're Flying!". This led to a whole series of imported American comedies being titled Hey, We're [insert verb here]!
    • In Polish it's "Is there a pilot with us?".
    • France went with the similar "Is there a pilot in the plane?"
    • In Brazilian Portuguese, "Fasten Your Seatbealts, the Pilot has Disappeared!"
    • In Italian, it's "The Craziest Airplane In The World".
    • German has "The incredible voyage in a crazy Airplane".
    • Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the Philippines all had the title Flying High!.
    • In Spanish, the film was released as "So where is the pilot?" in Latin America and "Land [as well] as you can" in Spain. From then on, almost every movie that had Leslie Nielsen in its cast was released as "So where is X?" and "X as you can".
  • Creator Backlash: Peter Yarrow wrote "River of Jordan" for the wedding of a friend. He was a little bummed out to see it used in a comedy.
  • Crosscast Role:
    • The surfing nun on the cover of "Nun's Life" was actually Jim Zucker.
    • The two girlscouts at the bar fighting from the flashback of striker are actually two men.
  • Executive Meddling: The studio wouldn't let the producers use a propeller plane as the airliner, so the producers gave the jet a propeller plane sound instead.
  • Follow the Leader: So many films after this, it rivals Jaws and Star Wars for getting ripped off. (Of course, it also parodied Jaws itself, right in the very first scene.)
  • Genre-Killer: Arguably killed off the whole disaster movie genre for a decade or so by making audiences unable to take them seriously anymore.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: As told on the DVD commentary, Stephen Stucker (who played Johnny) was given the straight lines of the characters around him and allowed to write his own lines.
  • Hey, It's That Place!: The From Here to Eternity skit was shot on the same beach where Taylor discovered the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes (1968).
  • Money, Dear Boy: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's salary paid for an expensive rug he wished to purchase.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: When Dr. Rumack is removing eggs from the woman's mouth and cracks one open to release a bird, the bird nearly hits a passenger in the face as it flies off.
  • Old Shame: When interviewed for the DVD Commentary, Peter Graves said he felt really uncomfortable with some of his more risque lines, especially involving little Joey. He initially rejected the role, but was pressured by friends and his wife to accept.
  • Playing Against Type: Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack and Peter Graves (all serious dramatic actors), doing comedy. In the case of Nielsen, this role redefined his career, and would become his default shtick for the rest of his life. Bridges also briefly became a comedic actor before his death in 1998.
  • Playing with Character Type: It's surprising to think of it now, but Nielsen's role in the film was based entirely upon playing his established persona of studly, stoic heroes for laughs rather than drama. The gambit was so successful that the term Leslie Nielsen Syndrome came into existence.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • The newspaper boy who "Chews off own foot" was producer Howard W. Koch's grandson, who was asked for the picture without being told what it was going to be used for; he didn't find out until seeing the movie. Incidentally, according to the special effects guy, Koch, a long-time producer and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was the designer of the shit that hit the fan.
    • The woman trying to apply makeup in the film is David Zucker and Jerry Zucker's actual mother, Charlotte.
  • Referenced by...: In Knights of Buena Vista, when Mary's Player Character falls in Love at First Sight with a guy, she describes it a seeing Bishie Sparkle and hearing the love theme from Airplane.
  • Throw It In:
    • Stewardess Randy was supposed to tell the disembarking passengers things like "Watch your step!" and "Be careful!" as they stepped onto the emergency exit slide. However, in an early take, actress Lorna Patterson unexpectedly got all the passengers to crack up by offering each of them a cheery, "Thank you for flying TransAmerican! Have a nice day!" The script was changed accordingly.
    • Most of Stephen Stucker's lines were ad-libbed.
  • Trope Namer: This work named the following tropes:
    • Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: This was the film that launched Nielsen's comedy career. Interestingly, this was to be intentional. The filmmakers deliberately cast serious actors instead of comedians, thus most of the humor was delivered completely deadpan. And it works!
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Of the late 1970's early 1980's. While a lot of the jokes still stand due to the Rapid-Fire Comedy, there are references to now-obsure sports figures and pre-9/11 flying. For example, the "smoking ticket" joke (requesting a ticket in the smoking section of the plane, but getting a ticket that emits smoke) became outdated in 1998 when smoking was prohibited on all US domestic flights.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Christopher Lee was offered the role of Dr. Rumack, and later said he made a big mistake turning it down. Had he taken the role, Leslie Nielsen may well have remained a dramatic actor for the rest of his life.
    • Barry Manilow was considered for the part of Ted.
    • Pete Rose was the original choice of sports-star casting (per DVD commentary). What are the odds?
    • David Letterman auditioned for the role of Ted. Jerry Zucker brought the audition tape on Late Night once as a prank. (As a side note, he also auditioned for the "Film @ 11:00" guy for The Kentucky Fried Movie.)
    • A Screen-to-Stage Adaptation, with "Weird Al" Yankovic (a huge fan of the movie) writing the songs, was planned, but quickly became Vaporware when he found out that nobody had approached the Zucker brothers for the rights and that they thought it was a terrible idea.
    • The original script (written while the Zuckers ran the Kentucky Fried Theater in the early 70s) had TV commercial parodies squeezed in; proofreaders advised the crew to shorten them and they were eventually removed completely.
    • Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were also considered for Ted Stryker.
    • Sigourney Weaver auditioned for Elaine Dickinson.
  • The aircraft that's the titular star of this film is a Boeing 707, the first successful commercial jet airliner not to break in half in mid-air.
  • The radio station was named "WZAZ" as a reference to Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker (ZAZ), the movie's producers. Earlier, when Kramer is being interviewed by reporters, you can see a WZAZ mic flag.
  • Special effects wizard Rob Bottin did Dr. Rumack's nose-growing scene when he lies to the passengers, he was uncredited, he later used the same technique for the werewolf transformations in The Howling.
  • Otto, the inflatable auto pilot, survived the film's production, and was stored in Jerry Zucker's garage until he finally disintegrated.
  • The movie Sharknado 2: The Second One puts Ted Stryker (Robert Hays) back in the pilot seat as an Actor Allusion, complete with a reference to eating steak or fish for dinner.

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