Dawson Casting: Phoebe Cates was 18 when she appeared in this film, and she was the youngest actor in the main cast.
Deleted Role: Hallie Todd, back when she was known as Hallie Eckstein, had a bit part in the movie as a fellow mall employee who asks Linda for advice how to have oral sex without getting pregnant. This scene was cut from the final version, but shows up on the original network broadcast and some cable TV airings.
Deleted Scene: Mike Damone's nude scene with Stacy that was filmed and never used was stated by director Amy Heckerling to show the natural vulnerability between two young teenagers. The intent was to show each of them undressing, and then show them standing before each other fully naked, full frontal, vulnerable, and nervous. The scene was pulled due to an impending X-rating and has never been released.
Sean Penn would rather not be associated with Spicoli nowadays.
Subverted with Ray Walston. For a long time after the film was released, people frequently addressed him as Mr. Hand. Walston was very grateful for this because up until that time, he felt that he was too closely associated with his prior role of Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian.
During shooting of the film, Sean Penn got so into character that he only answered as Spicoli. In fact, the door on his dressing room was labeled "Spicoli" instead of "Sean Penn." He even extinguished a cigarette in the palm of his hand in order to better understand his character.
For his masturbation scene, Judge Reinhold brought a large dildo to work with, unbeknown to the rest of the cast. Phoebe Cates' look of horror and disgust is very real.
The novel was a case of method writing; Cameron Crowe went to high school for a year to research the story.
Sleeper Hit: Universal originally planned to only release the film in the Western part of the United States for a few weeks before sending it off to cable (regional releases were still common at this time) due to the belief that there was no audience for it. After an excellent response, the film went wide three weeks later with a big opening in the Eastern United States and had a long run in theaters.
The scene where Spicoli is interviewed by Stu Nahan and utters the immortal line, "Hey bud, let's party!" was a last-minute addition to the movie after plans to film Spicoli singing "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC fell through (see What Could Have Been below).
Penn improvised during his takes and tried to find ways to aggravate actor Ray Walston, who played Mr. Hand, even off camera. He also did things to get genuinely startled reactions from the extras who played his classmates through unexpected improvisations.
The studio originally considered Nicolas Cage for the role of Brad, but after his audition, Amy Heckerling thought his performance was too dark and instead offered the role to Judge Reinhold. Additionally, Cage was 17 at the time, and thus he could not work as many hours as those for actors 18 and over. In addition, Fred Gwynne was originally offered the role of Mr. Hand, but he turned it down because he felt that the sex scenes involving Jennifer Jason Leigh were too objectionable.
In the novel, Spicoli dreams he's singing "Highway to Hell" on The Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson hosting), but Carson refused to do it for the movie, and other talk show hosts (including David Letterman) also turned it down (Letterman apparently was willing to do it, but his agent wouldn't let him appear in a movie where the characters did drugs). In its place was the scene where Spicoli is interviewed by sports announcer Stu Nahan.
The scene where Linda instructs Stacy how to give a blowjob originally took place in a hot tub with both girls naked. This was changed to avoid getting an X rating.
Justine Bateman was offered the role of Linda but declined. Instead, she preferred to star in Family Ties.
David Lynch was originally offered the chance to direct. He turned it down saying it was a funny script, but not really his thing.