- Box Office Bomb: Budget, $55 million. Gross, $14,375,181.
- Creator Killer: The failure of Ishtar killed Elaine May's directing career, though she's still done well as a writer for such films as The Birdcage and Primary Colors.
- Executive Meddling: The production costs are substantially higher than they should have been, due to this. In addition to the location costs, Beatty and May had a conflict during the shoot over the way May was directing the film, and Columbia executive Fay Vincent insisted that each scene be shot twice according to how both saw each scene.
- Playing Against Type: Hoffman is known for playing nerdy outcasts, and Beatty is known for playing good looking womanizers. Here, Beatty plays a shy dope who's terrible with women, and Hoffman plays the womanizing character. Many fans of the movie see this as an intentional joke, and part of the film's humor style, but May claims that it wasn't a joke, and that the actors are not playing against type because Beatty really is from the South and Hoffman really is from New York.
- Troubled Production: See The Other Wiki for details, including the famous story about how May up and decided to have a square mile of desert bulldozed flat because she didn't like the dunes.