20. It won 2 BAFTAs
The huge success of the film was cemented by earning two BAFTA awards. Jamie Lee Curtis earned her first ever major accolade as the best supporting actress in 1984.
The film was responsible for changing Curtis’ life and acting career forever. The actresses also up for her award were Maureen Lipman, Teri Garr and Rosemary Harris, two big actresses at the time and fierce competition which Curtis managed to beat.
Denholm Elliot also won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA. Trading Places was also up for nomination twice at Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor: Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Eddie Murphy.
19. The studio didn’t want Jamie Lee Curtis in the film
Paramount had further problems with Ladis’s casting choices when he chose Jamie Lee Curtis, who he had previously worked with, for the leading female role of Ophelia. In the film the character of Ophelia is a prostitute, who turns out to have a heart of gold.
Landis recalls his discussion with the studio “I was called into the head of the studio’s office and he said, ‘This woman’s a B-movie actress,’ to which the director replied, ‘Not after this movie!’
Previously Curtis gained fame for her roles in Horror movies. She had gained her reputation in the industry for horror films and her famous parentage. John Landis gave her the opportunity to diversify and Curtis claims “single-handedly [change] the course of my life.”
18. The writers were inspired by a real-life pair of wealthy brothers
Trading Places wasn’t only built around the characters of Louis, Billy Ray and Ophelia. According to Timothy Harris (co-writer) the script originally grew from the relationship surrounding the brothers, Randolph and Mortimer Duke who manipulate the lives of Louis and Billy Ray for a bet.
These two characters were born from Harris’ own life experience. He recalls playing tennis with two wealthy brothers, “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.’”
Harris was also inspired by the poor area he lived at the time which had a high crime rate. The idea came to him of two wealthy brothers as well as the nature/nurture essence of the plot.
17. Landis was told that Don Ameche was dead
When Landis was casting the two actors he wanted two experienced actors who had never had a role of this kind before. He recalls his conversation with the casting agent “I was thinking, ‘Hey, what about Don Ameche?’ And the casting woman said, ‘Don Ameche’s dead.’”
The director had to confirm whether this suspicion was true. It turns out is was not, however, Ameche who was 74 at the time had not starred in a movie for over a decade.
Ameche who’s career had been taking a back seat no longer had an agent. Landis looked up his phone number in the directory and called him directly to offer him the role of Mortimer Duke. This catapulted Ameche’s career into a second wave, he went on to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Cocoon.
16. There are subtle tributes to John Belushi in the film
The late John Belushi had been a very good friend and co-worker to the actor Aykroyd and director Belushi. The film found ways to pay homage to the actor in subtle ways.
Blues Brothers features John Belushi playing Jake Blues, who has mugshots taken as he is released from prison. In Trading Places, the mugshots of Aykroyd’s character features the same prison number.
Aykroyd’s character Louis Winthorpe displays the exact same number (74745058) on his mugshot as Jake Blues. The film draws connections between the two as a way to subtly tribute their friendship with Belushi.
15. The real-life traders and the writers got drunk together
The writers Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod had to do extensive research for the film. Harris remembered their research as “studying for an exam… you kind of understand it the day of, and then 24 hours later you can’t remember how anything works.”
Not all of their research was so gruelling however. The writers recall drinking in Los Angeles with the traders for ‘research purposes’ and things getting out of hand by around 2 pm due to the early happy hours.
Wall Street provided the ultimate dream for becoming rich at around the time of the 80s, and Trading Places is often credited with unintentionally promoting this.
14. Paramount Studios worried Aykroyd couldn’t do a movie without John Belushi
Aykroyd and Belushi had risen to fame together through the TV series Saturday Night Live and they had also co-starred in Neighbors and 1941. The pair had become well known and loved as a duo.
Tragically, Belushi died 1982 at 32 years old from drug abuse. Aykroyd had now lost his co-star and many believed that without Belushi Aykroyd’s career was over. Paramount were concerned that Aykroyd would be nothing without his co-star.
Paramount had a few disagreements with Landis around castings. Thankfully, Landis insisted that Aykroyd had the leading role and Paramount eventually granted their approval.
13. Denholm Elliot’s part was offered to Sir John Gielgud
The role of butler in Trading Places was offered to two actors before it was accepted by Denholm Elliott. Acclaimed actor Sir John Gielgudfirst had the honour, however, he had recently played a butler role and so refused the role.
The role was then offered to Ray Millard who’s health was suffering at the time. Once he refused, the next port of call was to Elliot who accepted.
In the 80s Elliot was best known for his role in the Indiana Jones movies. In 1981 he starred in Raiders of the Lost Ark which had increased his fame before appearing in Trading Places.
12. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Swedish accent was completely improvised
The Swedish accent was never a part of the original script, however, it came in an ad-lib moment when Curtis introduces her character Ophelia as Inga from Sweden to address the issue of accents.
Curtis made this change because she could not manage to do a realistic Austrian accent, however, she could pull of a Swedish one. The film makers allowed the actor to tweak the role so that she could do it more convincingly.
Later in her career Curtis stars in True Lies, with Hollywood favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger. Perhaps Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent managed to rub off on Curtis.
11. Don Ameche would turn up early to apologize in advance for swearing
Don Ameche, born in 1908, was a traditional gent with old fashioned values. Swearing was not something that came naturally to him or something that sat right with him.
Years after the film had been released, Larry discussed Ameche in an interview with Larry King. According to Curtis, Don Ameche would turn up to set early to apologise personally to every crew member in advance of a swearing scene.
Apparently, Ameche also refused to shoot more than one take of the final scene in which his character Mortimer had to yell, ‘f*** him’.
10. Director John Landis had never even heard of Eddie Murphy
While now these actors are so established their names are renowned, it wasn’t like that at the time of making Trading Places. Eddie Murphy was unknown to most at the time.
John Landis admitted to never having heard of Eddie Murphy when his name was first suggested by Paramount. However, it wasn’t just Landis, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche also had no idea who Murphy was.
Trading Places was Bellamy’s 72nd movie, Don Ameche’s 56th and Eddie Murphy’s 1st ever movie. The movie then because Murphy’s biggest hit and he rose to fame soon after.
9. It was hoped that Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder would star in the movie
The film required a comedy duo with a leading black man and a leading white man. In the early 80s Richard Pryer and Gene Wilder were the icons that came to everyone’s mind. The pair had previous hit films together that had spiralled their success as a pair.
Initially the title of the film was set to be Black and White. Straight away Pryer and Wilder were the favorites for the leading roles. However, Pryor’s near death experience halted the process and Pryor later stated that it was in-fact a suicide attempt.
Eddie Murphy was then suggested by Studio Paramount. The casting was approved and Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy became the leading pair.
8. Scenes were shot during real-life trading hours in the World Trade Center
Some scenes were shot on the Commodities Exchange floor at the World Trade Center in New York. To make these scenes realistic the filming crew were there during real life trading hours.
In the World Trade Center Landis recalls how they would trade for 8-9 hours a day. The crew managed to go for 2-3 hours a day so that they could film the scenes they needed.
Landis recalls the real life trading scene as being very physical, with people pushing and elbowing each other. Aykroyd and Murphy were in the centre of these scenes for their filming. Murphy recalls how he found the whole thing rather confusing!
7. The Dukes Brothers reunite again in Coming to America
As we have seen, director John Landis likes drawing subtle comparisons and references to his films within his other films. He does this again in his next film Coming to America which again stars Eddie Murphy.
Murphy stars as an African man who flees Africa to avoid an arranged marriage and escapes to New York. He tries to find his feet in the new city and sets about hoping to find a woman to fall in love with.
It draws on similar themes to Trading Places… class divide, self-worth. The film features a cameo of Trading Places’ formerly rich characters living rough on the streets.
6. The film inspired new financial regulation: ‘the Eddie Murphy rule’
Trading Places was even more influential than it seems, it caused real life regulation within the financial markets. In Trading Places the Dukes brothers’ scheme “to profit from trades in frozen concentrated orange juice futures contracts.”
To do this, the Dukes brothers plan to use an illegally obtained document which has not yet been made public. In 2010 a new rule came in to disallow such activities. It was then named ‘the Eddie Murphy rule’.
Despite the success of Murphy’s character in bringing about this new change, Murphy himself admitted he was lost when it came to understanding the complexities of commodity trading.
5. Trading places created new infamous partnerships
So far, the Trading Places crew members have not all made another film together (yet). However, they have all reunited with one another. New proffessional partnerships have been born out of the success of the film.
Eddie Murphy and John Landis have been in several films together and continued to become an iconic duo in the film world. They reunited for 1988s, Coming to America.
However, since their unsuccessful film Beverly Hills Cop III in 1994 the pair have not worked together again since. However, Aykroyd went on to star in a number of John Lanis’ movies.
4. In Italy, Trading Places has become an iconic Christmas Film
Alongside the classic, yearly Christmas films like Die Hard, Trading Places features as one of Italy’s standard Christmas viewings, despite the lack of a prominent Christmas theme.
Trading Places does take place around the Christmas Holidays which explains why it has now become associated with Christmas. However, the film wasn’t actually released at Christmas at all, in fact it was aired in July.
The film has not managed to become a Christmas time classic in the US or UK though but has been airing around Christmas time in Italian cinemas since 1997, for over two decades.
3. In 1983 it was one of the biggest box office hits
Despite original fears that a comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy as the main headliners would be unsuccessful, Trading Places was in fact a roaring success.
The film cost $15 million pounds to make, and turned over $90 million just at the box office. Because of this success trading Places became the fourth highest grossing film of the year. The film came in behind Flashdance, Terms of Endearment ($108.4 million) and Return of the Jedi ($252.5 million).
From the back of its success Aykroyd and Murphy became big time actors in high demand. The duo were some of the biggest actors of the year and both went on to star in more high grossing films soon after.
2. The film was actually inspired by a novel
Although the film was an original, the story was inspired by a classic 19th century American literature novel The Prince and the Pauper about the story of social class and switching places and lives.
The film draws upon the novels theme where two boys from different walks of like use their almost identical physical resemblance to be able to temporarily switch lives.
Trading places does not use the physical resemblance but takes the main feature of the story aswell its moral and social commentary. Therefore, the film Trading Places gives new life to a classic piece of literature.
1. There are hidden cameos throughout the film
Trading places features a number of cameos in the film to add some fun and recognizable faces for the viewers. For those who watch attentively a number of famous characters can be spotted.
On of the most significant cameos and the most well spotted is Frank Oz the director. Oz is probably most well known for being the infamous voice of Yoda, as well as Miss Piggy’s voice puppeteer in the Muppets.
Oz plays the small but significant part of the arresting officer. The Cameo is a shout to a similar role Oz played The Blues Brothers. John Belushi appears in another cameo, however, he is mostly hidden wearing a gorilla suit.