According to John Harkness (II)'s book "The 1999 Academy Awards Handbook", Maurice Jarre, in his speech accepting the 1984 Best Original Score Oscar for A Passage to India, expressed his gratitude that Amadeus had not been Oscar-nominated for Best Original Score. An obvious joke, since none of Amadeus' score was original.
Elizabeth Berridge, during the Nipples of Venus scene, did not know she could spit out the candy (which was really lumps of marzipan) between takes and ate about 15 whole pieces. She later describes how she thought that they were disgusting and that she eventually made herself sick.
Prague (Milos Forman's native city) was ideal as a stand-in for Vienna, as modern television antennas, plastic and asphalt had rarely been introduced under Communist rule.
Several real (or at least apocryphal) events from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life were incorporated into the screenplay, including the interlude between the child Mozart and Marie Antionette, and the Emperor's comment that "Abduction from the Seraglio" had "too many notes".
Peter Shaffer shares his name with the original set designer (for the premier) of Mozart's opera "Die Zauberfloete" (The Magic Flute).
When the movie won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Sir Laurence Olivier was presenting the award. He went up to the podium, opened the envelope and said "Amadeus." The problem was he forgot to read the nominees first.
Only four sets needed to be built: Antonio Salieri's hospital room, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's apartment, a staircase, and the vaudeville theater. All other locations were found locally.
It has been claimed that the concept for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's annoying laugh was taken from "references in letters written about him", including a description of him having "an infectious giddy" laugh, and sounding "like metal scraping glass". No citations have been provided for these letters, however. There is no indication as to who wrote them, to whom or when. And in the absence of further citations, these claims of historical evidence for Mozart's laugh should be regarded as dubious at best. Robert L. Marshall, writing in "Film as Musicology: Amadeus" (The Musical Quarterly, Vol.18/2, 1997, p.177) says that there is "absolutely no historical evidence for this idiosyncrasy [Mozart's infuriating laugh]. We simply have no contemporary testimony at all as to how Mozart sounded when he laughed." Marshall goes on to explain that the laugh is a dramatic device, representing the mocking laughter of the gods, as in fact Antonio Salieri recognizes in the script.
The play, on which the film is based, was first performed on November 2, 1979 at the National Theatre in London.
Originally, a very young Kenneth Branagh was cast as Mozart, but Milos Forman changed his mind and decided to go with American actors for the principal roles.
The performance of "Don Giovanni" in the movie was filmed on the same stage where the opera first appeared.
Milos Forman and Peter Shaffer spent four months adapting the very stylized play into a workable script. They added characters such as the priest, maid, archbishop, and mother-in-law; Mozart's character was enlarged beyond Salieri's perceptions; and Salieri's monologues were reworked visually.
The "Don Giovanni" scene was being shot in part on the Fourth of July. During one take, upon Milos Forman's call of "Action", a large American flag unfurled from the ceiling. 500 extras stood up from their seats and begun to sing "The Star Spangled Banner". The only extras that did not stand up were about thirty people, scattered throughout the theater- at first thought to be normal people, but it was deduced that these thirty were the secret police.
The piece of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music with the oboe and clarinet themes, whose score Antonio Salieri so deeply admires in one of the earliest sequences, is the Adagio, or third movement, of the Serenade No. 10 in B-flat, KV361, also known as "Gran Partita".
Cast member Simon Callow originally portrayed the part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1979 stage production.
Vincent Schiavelli was informed by director Milos Forman after one take of him walking that, "Television is ruining you".
According to Milos Forman's autobiography, one studio offered to provide funding for Amadeus on the one condition that Forman cast Walter Matthau (a reported Mozart enthusiast) for the role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Forman refused the offer, considering Matthau to be too old for the role.
Several professors of music stated, after studying all of the musical keys struck on pianos throughout the film, that not one key is struck incorrectly when compared to what is heard at the exact same moment. In other words, what you see is exactly what you hear.
Elizabeth McGovern, who had earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Milos Forman's previous film Ragtime, screen tested for a role in this film.
In one scene, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart refers to Christoph Willibald Gluck as "boring" and says, "I don't like him," regarding George Frideric Handel. However, Gluck and Handel were two of Mozart's favorite composers.
Entire film was shot with natural light. In order to get the proper diffusion of light for some scenes, the DPs covered windows from the outside with tracing paper.
When shooting the scene in which Antonio Salieri is writing down the death mass under Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's dictation, Tom Hulce was deliberately skipping lines to confuse F. Murray Abraham, in order to achieve the impression that Salieri wasn't able to fully understand the music he was dictated.
During the opening scene, where Antonio Salieri is carried through the snowy streets, he is carried past a large extravagant mansion-like building where a party is in progress. According to Milos Forman, this building is, in reality, the French embassy in Prague.
F. Murray Abraham originally sought for the small role of Rosenberg. During one audition session, Milos Forman asked him to read for the part of the old Salieri. His reading was so good that Forman has already had in mind of him playing the lead role but deliberately stopped short of saying "you got the part" because Forman knew that casting him for that would clash with his work on Scarface, so he deliberately waited until he nearly completed all his scenes. A few days later, Forman asked Abraham to do the same reading for a few more audition sessions, but his refusal to do so eventually convinced Forman to cast him because he felt Abraham "could be a great actor if there are no brakes in between."
Meg Tilly originally was cast as Stanze but tore a leg ligament in a street soccer game the day before she was to film her first scene. Elizabeth Berridge replaced her.
The music was pre-recorded and played in the background as scenes were filmed. Tom Hulce practiced four hours a day at the piano to appear convincing.
During the start Confutatis section dictation, a miscue from John Strauss (who was cuing the music phrase for both actors via AM wave hearing aids) got Tom Hulce lost and confused because he was waiting for the exact pitch and phrase coming in. The miscue was included in the final film - when F. Murray Abraham repeats the phrase 'A minor', Hulce was not responding for a while as he was actually waiting for the cue.
In preparation for some aspects of the title role, actor Tom Hulce studied footage of John McEnroe's on-court tennis tantrums
One of only 4 productions to win both the Best Play Tony (1981) and the Best Picture Oscar (1984). The other 3 are My Fair lady (1957/1964), The Sound of Music (1960/1965) and A Man For All Seasons (1962/1966).
When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart upstages Antonio Salieri by modifying the march Salieri wrote for the emperor, the modified piece is Mozart's "Non Piu Andrai, Farfallone Amoroso" from The Marriage of Figaro.
Sets and costumes for the operatic productions were based on sketches of the original costumes and sets used when the operas premiered.
The final film of Jonathan Moore.
The original Broadway production of "Amadeus" opened at the Broadhust Theater on December 17, 1980 and ran for 1181 performances starring Ian McKellen and Tim Curry. The movie was based on the Peter Schaffer play which won the 1981 Tony Award Best Play and who also wrote the movie screenplay. Patrick Hines was in the original Broadway production, but played a different role in the movie version.
The final round of screen test for the role of Constanze between 'Elizabeth Berridge' and an another actress in Prague took one week instead of the planned one day. Milos Forman simply could not decide which of the two to be chosen for the role since both did equally well in the tests. In the end, Forman opted for Berridge simply because she was prettier than the other one.
As Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, having fainted, is carried out of the middle of the opera 'The Magic Flute', you see three small boys with wings half following him. This is a reference to the Three Boys (Drei Knaben) who play a significant part in the opera.