PRODUCTION JOURNAL: An Oral History of Trading Places
Business Insider gathered the recollections of director, John Landis; writers, Tim Harris and Herschel Weingrod; and, actress, Jamie Lee Curtis for what many consider one of the greatest Wall St. Movies ever made (I think they're right). It's a fun and intriguing look at how a great comedy was made even though it seems like no one expected it to be a great comedy while it was being made. However, I think that's more due to modesty because as you read their accounts, besides the fact that it seems like everyone was having a ball working on this, you pick up an essential element of their filmmaking strategy; they trusted their instincts even when the naysayers and higherups did not. They were a talented bunch but without the confidence and persistence to back it up it would have been a different movie.
During the development of the film:
TIM HARRIS, co-writer: There were these two brothers who were both doctors who I would play tennis with on a fairly regular basis, and they were incredibly irritating to play with because they had a major sibling rivalry going, all the time about everything. So they always had to be separated, you know, play on the other team. And they were very wealthy but also incredibly cheap — we would play on public courts where it was like a couple of bucks for four guys for an hour. And they’d have arguments about who was coming up with 50 cents, and I think one very hot day I played with them, and I just came home and was fed up with it, and I just thought, ‘God, I just don’t want to play with these people, they’re awful.’ And I had the idea of them betting on a nature/nurture situation with somebody in their company, and I’d pretty much worked out the whole thing, and went over to Herschel’s and told it to him and he thought it was fabulous.
JOHN LANDIS, director: The script was developed for Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. And when I was sent the script, Richard Pryor, unfortunately, had his accident where he burnt himself rather badly, and they sent it to me and said, ‘What do you think?’
‘48 Hours’ hadn't come out yet, but they’d previewed it, and Eddie Murphy had previewed very well, and they thought, ‘Ah this kid's going to be a star,’ So they said, ‘What do you think about Eddie Murphy playing the Billy Ray Valentine part?’ And I of course said, ‘Who’s Eddie Murphy?’
...The only character in the script I had a problem with, because she's such a fantasy, is Ophelia. The classic ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ — she's such a fantasy that I thought how the fuck am I going to get away with this?’ I had met Jamie Lee Curtis — I shot a documentary on horror stuff, and she was host of it — she was a ‘scream queen.’ And I met her and she was so funny and smart and sexy, and I thought, ‘Oh she'd be terrific.’
She had just made ‘Halloween 2,’ for which she'd been paid I think a $1 million, and we paid her probably $70,000. When I cast her the studio went nuts. I was called into the head of the studio’s office and he said, ‘This woman's a B-movie actress,’ and I said, ‘Not after this movie!’ But boy they really didn't like the fact that I cast Danny and Jamie.
During the production of the film: