SPOILER: At first Milos Forman didn't want the fishing scene. He thought it would be more effective if the whole film was shot on the ward, so that when Chief Bromden escapes, it'd be more dramatic.
SPOILER: There is a rumor that Jack Nicholson underwent ECT therapy during the scene where his character does.
Jack Nicholson and the film's composer Jack Nitzsche were both born on April 22, 1937.
To call Ken Kesey's time at the VA hospital in Palo Alto is misleading. While a graduate student in Creative Writing at Stanford, he volunteered for experiments on the effects of LSD - which gave rise to the many surreal parts of the novel (deleted, along with the narrator's role, by Milos Forman). Kesey's experience with LSD led to the legendary bus trips, the Trips Festival, and all the events chronicled in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Second of only three films to win every major Academy Award, including Best Picture.
The play opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 13 November 1963 and closed on 25 January 1964 after 82 performances. The opening night cast included Kirk Douglas as R.P. McMurphy, William Daniels as Dale Harding and Gene Wilder as Billy Bibbit.
Jack Nicholson took a percentage of the profits in lieu of a small salary for a modestly budgeted film. The move paid off when the picture went on to gross well over $120 million dollars.
Christopher Lloyd's film debut.
A portion of the original NBC Radio broadcast of Game 2 of the 1963 World Series was used for the scene where the orderlies are listening to the game on the radio. Hall of Fame baseball announcer Ernie Harwell can be heard on the broadcast.
Co-producer Michael Douglas scouted various West Coast locations, and chose Oregon State Hospital because superintendent Dean Brooks, MD, agreed to give the filmmakers unlimited access.
Neither the film nor Ken Kesey's 1962 novel made specific reference to Oregon State Hospital. Kesey was inspired by his experiences working at a veterans' hospital in California, and set his novel at an unnamed institution in Oregon.
Louise Fletcher was in preparation to begin filming Nashville (1975) while Lily Tomlin was set to play Nurse Ratched. Ultimately the two actresses switched their roles in the two films.
During the EST scene, McMurphy says "A little dab will do ya" as the nurse is putting conductor gel on the side of his head. This phrase, not in the original script, is a reference to the advertising jingle of Brylcreem hair cream, which was a popular hair care product for men in the 1960s and 1970s.
Kirk Douglas starred in the 1963 Broadway production after buying the film rights prior to publication; he later passed the film rights to his son Michael Douglas, but kept a percentage of the profits. Every major studio had declined to make the film during the period he was trying to star in it. Kirk had met Milos Forman in Prague while on a State Department tour and promised to send him the book after deciding he would be a good director for the film; the book never arrived, probably confiscated by censors of the Czech government, which was Communist at the time. Ken Kesey wrote a screenplay for the production, but Forman rejected it because Kesey insisted on keeping Chief Bromden's first-person narration.
Will Sampson, who plays Chief Bromden, was a park ranger in Oregon in a park near where the movie was filmed. He was selected for the part because he was the only Native American the Casting Department could find who matched the character's incredible size.