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Trivia / Airplane!

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  • 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 (the script supervisor) behind the camera laugh. This is also mentioned in the DVD Commentary.
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    • 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.
  • Career Resurrection: Barbara Billingsley had been retired for nine years when she was cast as the "Jive Lady" as a joke. She went on to have a second film and TV career because of this movie.
  • Cast the Expert:
    • For the argument between announcers concerning the white and red zones at the airport, the producers hired the actual announcers for Los Angeles International Airport. Incidentally, they were a real married couple.note 
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    • Lee Bryant was best known at the time for acting in Yuban coffee commercials.
  • The Cast Showoff:
    • Robert Hays juggling during the Magumbo Bar dance sequence.
    • The producers gave Norman Alexander Gibbs and Al White freedom to write their own Jive dialogue and also Barbara Billingsley's lines, because they were not familiar enough with Jive to do it themselves. White even went to a library and read books on African-American vernacular English in order to up it further, all in his own volition. He also coached Billingsley on how to say her lines.
  • 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!"
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    • Czech Republic had the similar "Fasten your seatbelts, please!"
    • 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.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Leslie Nielsen slapped Lee Bryant for real. Her confused look in this scene is not acting.
  • Executive Veto:
    • 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.
    • The producers also wanted to shoot the movie in black and white, like Zero Hour!. The studio flat out told them that it would be a color film or a film by another studio.
  • Follow the Leader:
  • Genre-Killer: Killed off the whole disaster movie genre for a decade or so by making audiences unable to take them seriously anymore. It also killed the aerial subgenre retroactively, as the airliner-in-peril/stewardess-lands-the-plane trope of the previous Airport series was destroyed, and all the drama with it.
  • 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.
  • He Also Did: Crossing over into Hilarious in Hindsight territory, Craig Berenson, who played Paul Carey (the guy who's sent out to get Rex Kramer), went on to become a producer. His most successful film? Snakes on a Plane.
  • 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).
  • I Am Not Spock: Peter Graves was dismayed to meet people who believed he was a pedophile.
  • 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 his friends, wife, and daughters 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.
    • Barbara Billingsley, better known as all-American white 50s housewife June Cleaver was brought back from retirement to play the old lady that speaks Jive.
    • Lee Bryant's part included a spoof of her catchphrase in Yuban coffee commercials ("Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home").
    • The producers approached a few actors of the Airport movies to play spoofs of their original characters. They all turned down the offer due to pressures by Airport's studio, Universal, who (rightfully) expected this film would damage the franchise.
  • 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 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 as seeing Bishie Sparkle and hearing the love theme from Airplane.
  • So My Kids Can Watch: Neither Barbara Billingsley (initally) nor Peter Graves were thrilled about appearing on this film, but were convinced by their friends and family.
    • Subverted with Lloyd Bridges, whose (adult) sons, Beau and Jeff, urged him to accept his part.
  • Too Soon: A joke about Mamie Eisenhower was dubbed over when she died during production.
  • 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.
    • The Hysterical Woman was originally going to be slapped once by a male passenger, but actress Lee Bryant came up with the idea of being slapped several times by "people you wouldn't expect, like the doctor or the nun". The producers accepted her suggestion and expanded it to include the shot of approaching passengers with weapons.
    • Nielsen went further off-script and slapped Bryant for real, not once but twice. Maureen McGovern, who played the nun, was terribly concerned with hurting Bryant and could only do her comically small slap next.
  • 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:
    • In an extreme example, the Zuckers first had the idea of parodying any late night TV thriller, complete with fake commercials. They recorded a random late movie, and would parody whatever movie came on. It was pure chance that this movie was Zero Hour!.
    • Proofreaders advised the crew to shorten the commercials and they were eventually removed completely. The idea of having a shorter Airplane as the Fistful of Yen-style centerpiece of a Kentucky Fried Movie sequel was also kicked around.
    • The Zuckers wanted to use a propeller plane and film in black and white to be even closer to Zero Hour!, but the studio vetoed both.
    • 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.
    • Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were suggested for Ted Stryker by the studio, but rejected by the producers due to their insistence on having a "serious" cast.
    • Sigourney Weaver auditioned for Elaine Dickinson.
    • Johnny's line of suggesting "Mister Rogers" as "best man on this. Someone who knows that plane inside and out and won't crack under pressure," was actually dubbed in. Stephen Stucker actually originally suggested, "Mamie Eisenhower", who died during production.
    • Joe Dante was originally offered the director's chair.
  • The aircraft that is 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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