Erich von Stroheim's attention to detail was such that he ordered an engraver to print copies of French money as props for the movie (he was playing the role of a counterfeiter). Unfortunately, the money printed was realistic enough that, shortly before shooting began, von Stroheim was arrested and hauled into court on counterfeiting charges. He escaped punishment by arguing to the judge that "the money was for use in pictures only."
Erich von Stroheim's excesses on the film also included ordering lavish evening gowns from Paris, silk stockings, and monogrammed silk underwear for his actors to wear so they could "feel more like aristocrats." He decorated his sets with real porcelain, tapestries and crystal chandeliers. At banquet scenes he insisted on using real champagne and caviar. When asked by a studio executive why he couldn't substitute ginger ale and blackberry jam as props for the champagne and caviar, von Stroheim replied, "Because my actors will know the difference, I will know the difference, and the camera will know the difference."
A Super Jewel Production. Universal, not owning a proprietary theater chain, devised a 3-tiered branding system in order to market its feature product to independent theater owners: Red Feather (low budget programmers), Bluebird (mainstream releases) and Jewel (prestige pictures produced to draw higher roadshow ticket prices). At $1.104 million, this production was so costly that the studio wanted to differentiate it from even it's Jewel releases, branding this a "Super" Jewel, ensuring it special promotion and premium admission prices. Although the film made a nice profit, Erich von Stroheim (acting as producer as well as director) was rapidly becoming unemployable due to his flagrant excesses which enraged Carl Laemmle.
After six months in the editing room, Erich von Stroheim turned over his cut of the film to Universal Pictures in December of 1921. The film was 32 reels and 8 hours long, but von Stroheim insisted it was now "a perfect story." When asked how it would be possible to present 32 reels for an evening's entertainment, he replied, "That's a detail I hadn't time to bother about" (the magazine "Photoplay" suggested that the movie should be re-titled, "Foolish Directors," and released as a serial). Universal took over the movie, and edited it down to 14 reels, with a 210-minute running time. Von Stroheim hated the shorter version, complaining that all that was left of his masterpiece was "the bones."
As the film's production costs skyrocketed, Universal Pictures attempted to use the situation to garner some publicity for it. The studio erected an electronic sign on a rooftop overlooking Broadway, across the street from its New York offices. The sign read "Universal Pictures and 'Erich von Stroheim' (v) will spend $XXX,XXX to entertain you with 'Foolish Wives.'" Each week the numbers of the production costs were updated on the electronic sign, telling how much more the picture had cost. In the end, the total cost of the film, as reported by Universal, was $1,103,736.38. Von Stroheim later claimed that the real cost was only around $700,000.
In an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, entitled "Hollywood Follies," a young Indiana Jones (played by Sean Patrick Flanery) is sent to Hollywood by Carl Laemmle to order Erich von Stroheim (played by Dana Gladstone) to shut down production on "Foolish Wives" - something the egomaniacal director refuses to do, despite Indy's efforts. Ironically, one of the actual cast members of "Foolish Wives" was Harrison Ford, a noted silent movie actor (and no relation to the "Indiana Jones" series star).
Included among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider.
Initially budgeted at $250,000, the film's production soared above $1 million, thanks to Erich von Stroheim's excesses. He started shooting in July 1920 and kept going for 11 months, until he was taken off the picture in June 1921. Afraid that the movie might bankrupt Universal, studio chief Carl Laemmle sent his assistant, 21-year-old Irving Thalberg, from New York to Hollywood to try to get von Stroheim to finish the film. When Thalberg threatened to replace him with another director, von Stroheim laughed in his face, pointing out that he was the star of the movie as well as the director; if he were replaced, the movie would never be finished. However, Thalberg outsmarted him. He carefully watched production on the picture and, when he thought enough footage had been shot to make up a story, took von Stroheim's cameras away, reminding the director that they were studio property. For proving his mettle against von Stroheim, Laemmle made Thalberg the new head of production at Universal Pictures.
Mrs. Hughes can be seen reading a book with the title "Foolish Wives", written by Erich von Stroheim.
Originally 6 hours long, censored to about 130 minutes.
The Ambassador, played by Rudolph Christians, has his back to the camera for most of the second half of the movie because Christians died in the middle of production and his part was completed by Robert Edeson.
The most expensive part of the movie were the lavish sets, built at Universal Studios. The sets featured a full exterior replica of Monte Carlo, complete with an artificial lake. The total cost of the sets was $421,000. Erich von Stroheim said in an interview that he ought to know what Monte Carlo looked like, for he had been "busted there twice."