Banned in China: Banned in Germany: The No Swastikas rule is so Serious Business there, it doubles as Comically Missing the Point on many levels. It wasn't shown until it was included in a film festival featuring the works of Jewish filmmakers. The musical was also almost barred from a theatrical run until the creative team struck upon the idea of replacing the swastikas with pretzels and came to think that it actually made the play even funnier.
Creator Backlash: The subject of sort of a meta-example (in addition to the obvious in-universe example). In season 4 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mel casts Larry David as Max on Broadway, knowing he's a terrible actor, in the hopes that The Producers will finally die because he's sick of it (see?). The season finale covers the debut performance with Larry in the role.
In case you didn't get the joke, there's a scene that takes place during David's performance, in a bar across the street from the theater, where Mel Brooks and wife Anne Bancroft are gleefully awaiting the lousy response for the show. Yes, just like the similar scene in The Producers itself.
And although David starts to falter, he manages to turn it around, ensuring the show's continued longevity (to Brook's horror).
None of the cast members knew one another prior to filming, so most of their characters' reactions to one another are genuine. Gene Wilder was genuinely frightened of Zero Mostel, who had introduced himself to Wilder by grabbing him by the arm and kissing him on the mouth, and never knew what he was going to do next although like the characters, they eventually became friends, with Wilder stating that Mostel "looked after me as if I were a baby sparrow." He was also terrified of Kenny Mars, who never broke character.
The scene in which Estelle Winwood is throwing Zero Mostel around? The octogenarian really is abusing poor Zero. His reactions are genuine.
The original film was so offbeat and provocative it almost didn't get released - until Peter Sellers saw an early cut at a private gathering and pressured Avco-Embassy to support it, taking out an ad in Variety. (Ironically, Brooks had initially wanted Sellers for a role in the film but he turned it down.)
In a looser sense, this is the entire plot of the film—Bialystock and Bloom are meddling with their product, albeit to make it fail rather than succeed.
Fake Nationality: Franz Liebkind and Ulla; even though Uma Thurman has distant Swedish ancestry, she makes Ulla sound about as Swedish as, well, Hitler.
Hostility on the Set: Although Mel Brooks always had Zero Mostel in mind to play Bialystock, they reportedly had clashes of ego on the set, and found it hard to get along. Indeed, they never worked together again.
Meta Casting: Gene Wilder said in interview that at the first reading of the script he excused himself to leave for a dentist appointment he could not miss when in fact, he had to go to the unemployment office to collect a check for $55 he desperately needed at the time.
At the time of shooting, Gene Wilder's dog was dying, so when Zero Mostel grabbed the blue blanket out of his hands, Wilder imagined him abusing his dog. Wilder was also exhausted from the long day of shooting that was about to wrap, and downed about eight chocolate bars before the cameras rolled to get a big enough sugar rush.
Kenny Mars slept in his costume every night and smelled repulsive by the end of the shoot as a result. He also never broke character, which frightened his co-stars.
Mid-Development Genre Shift: Mel Brooks originally conceived the film as a non-musical play, but realized it required too many set changes. He then played with the idea of it as a book, but it had too much dialogue. Eventually, he realized it could only work as a movie.
Zero Mostel was thoroughly embarrassed by how out of control his weight was during the filming and lamented how, for all of the theater, fine art and political work he'd done, he'd be forever remembered as "That fat guy in The Producers."
Throw It In!: Gene Wilder's "Whom Has He Hurt" speech was completely improvised. Kenneth Mars also made up some lines on the spot (Churchill . . . and his rotten paintings. The Fuhrer. Here was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in von afternoontwo coats!).
Even before filming begun, Brooks had problems selling his Springtime for Hitler script, as many felt making fun of the Fuhrer was in bad taste - one studio even suggested renaming it "Springtime for Mussolini". Even once he did get producer Sidney Glazier, he asked to change the title as most theaters would refuse to put Hitler's name in the marquee (thus Brooks came up with The Producers, feeling it was an ironic Non-Indicative Title given how the protagonists are anything but producers).
Brooks convinced Glazier and the studio that he could direct the film, despite being his feature debut. His inexperience showed right off the bat (Brooks yelled "Cut" instead of "Action" to start shooting), the slow pace of production compared to television annoyed Brooks, and both his sleep and his temper suffered for hit: in addition to only two hours of rest, Prima Donna Director tendencies showed up, with Brooks clashing with the cinematographer, insulting a visiting reporter, and temporarily banishing Glazier from the set (he made peace with all of them once production wrapped).
Star Zero Mostel, who was afraid of Typecasting but still accepted the role of Max Bialystock because his wife loved the script, was hard to deal with, and only with Brooks as both were frequently at odds. Mostel had injured his leg in a bus crash some time before production, and added a clause in his contract being forfeited from any work past 5:30PM. Assistant director Michael Hertzberg managed to convince him once to work overtime, by enduring Mostel screaming his lungs off at him for several minutes. And given the leg injury got worse in humid weather, the very last scene at the Lincoln Center's fountain had Mostel throwing a fit and give up on production. Glazer had to leave a dentist appointment and rush to the set where Mostel and Brooks were arguing, and once the producer managed to calm them down, the resulting scene had to be shot all night long. (it was nearly dawn by the time they got the shot, which is why the sky behind them is pitch black).
Once filming ended, a long post-production where Brooks clashed with the editor ensued. Upon release, critics were divided, the film barely got distributed and subsequently only got enough to cover its low budget. Still, the Academy liked it enough to give it an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (to Brooks' surprise), and eventually the film was Vindicated by History.
The late 50s/early 60s beatnik scene was already pretty dated by 1968, but that was part of the joke. This is completely lost on modern audience, which is why L.S.D is written out of the straight-up period piece musical (it's set in the mid-50s).
"Half a buck" for two hot dogs? This is the sixties alright!
Dustin Hoffman was initially cast as Franz Liebkind in the original film until Mike Nichols cast him as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate instead. According to Mel Brooks, he only let Hoffman audition for The Graduate because Brooks' wife, Anne Bancroft, was playing Mrs. Robinson in that film. Also, since Benjamin was a blond jock in the book, Brooks thought he'd never get the role.
Peter Sellers was the original choice Mel Brooks had for Leo Bloom. Poor Gene Wilder had to wait patiently to be cast, Brooks related.
The original screenplay had Franz Liebkind having Max and Leo swearing on The Siegfried Oath, accompanied by "The Ride of the Valkyries" and promising fealty to Siegfried, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul von Hindenburg, The Graf Spee, The Blue Max, and Adolph "You know who." This explains Franz's outraged cry when entering Max's office, "You have broken the Siegfried Oath - you must die!" The Oath was restored in the musical version.
For the pivotal scene in which Max finally convinces Leo to help him with his scheme, Brooks was originally going to shoot it on the parachute jump ride at Coney Island. When he discovered that the ride was out of order awaiting repair, Brooks decided instead to shoot the scene at the fountain in Lincoln Center.
The scene where they blow up the theater originally ran longer, but was cut from the final film, likely for pacing purposes. Franz manages to douse the quick fuse and decides to detonate the dynamite remotely. When that fails, the trio go to check out what went wrong. Meanwhile, the drunk from the bar mistakes the detonator for a shoeshine stand and props his feet up, blowing up the theater.
Box Office Bomb: Ironically, despite the theater version being one of the most successful Broadway plays of all time, the 2005 adaptation didn't do nearly as well: A $38 million profit versus a $45 million budget.
Deleted Role: Ernie Sabella appeared in a number that was cut out where Bialystock and Bloom go to the bar during intermission to celebrate their flop: "Barkeep, drinks all around!" This would have Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa on-screen together.
Dyeing for Your Art: Nathan Lane shaved the top of his head in order to create a realistic comb-over.
Recursive Adaptation: The film is based on the musical based on the 1968 original. Brooks himself Lampshaded this during an interview, saying "It hasn't been done in claymation yet!"
Nicole Kidman was going to play Ulla. Matthew Broderick allegedly offered her the role while they were filming The Stepford Wives together, to which she immediately said yes without seeing so much as a first draft of the script. Kidman subsequently backed out of the project, feeling she was working too much.
Ernie Sabella was originally set make a cameo in the remake, thus adding one more Lion King reunion to Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Unfortunately, all of Sabella's scenes were cut from the final product.