30 Things You Never Knew About ‘Miami Vice’
‘Miami Vice’ was more than your typical police officer crime drama. It was, in many ways, a symbolic visual of the tone, culture, music, ambience and style of the 1980s. And while it ran for an impressive five seasons and garnered numerous awards and nominations, it also was special in its own right. Here are 30 little-known facts about ‘Miami Vice’ you may not have known before.
Don Johnson and Edward Olmos weren’t the best of friends
It almost goes without saying that Don Johnson and Edward Olmos weren’t exactly the biggest fans of each other off-screen. They would often get into heated exchanges off the set, mainly due to differing acting styles. In fact, multiple accounts assert they would often get into these types of arguments off camera.
In some of the scenes, you can almost tell this may have actually served to help them, because it added to the overall intensity intended for the viewer to experience. We get it, there are many actors out there who didn’t get along too well. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling are the first of many who come to mind…
The show had a star-studded guest list
The amount of sheer star power on the guest list for this show was almost incomprehensible. Some shows seldom have them while others just have an impressive lineup all around. In this case, Miami Vice had the likes of Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, Ben Stiller, and Phil Collins. Yes, we said it: Phil “In the Air Tonight” Collins.
The show was absolutely loaded in terms of its star-studded guest cast; but its soundtrack was also very impressive, to say the least. In fact, “In the Air Tonight” made an appearance on the show along with other classics like “You Belong to the City,” “Smuggler’s Blues,” and more.
Don Johnson almost quit the show
That’s right, all the Don Johnson fans would be deprived of all his splendor if it weren’t for the NBC-led decision to hire him in the lead role. Although, their initial cautiousness is somewhat understandable, because he was previously on four other shows that fizzled out pretty quickly.
This may come as a surprise, given Johnson reportedly wanted to explore other career options as early as the second season. You would think someone who is in the early stages of their career would be a little more inclined to stick with one of the first big successes of their vocation. Turns out a producer convinced him to stay on.
‘Philling’ the role…
You know him from the Tarzan soundtrack and many of his iconic music hits, but you may not have guessed Phil Collins starred as a British con man and notorious television personality in an episode of Miami Vice. In the episode, he’s particularly wanted for a pretty egregious reason, too…
Fittingly, as per his name, Phil Collins plays the role of Phil Mayhew — a con artist who fled England over a fake record deal before Scotland Yard could get to him. Funny how this is pretty much the opposite of how he’s portrayed in the U.K. in real life, of course.
Phil Collins wasn’t the only established musician who starred on the show…
Yes, the soundtrack for this show was impressive, to be sure. But that shouldn’t take away from their musician guest list. For starters, Little Richard made an appearance in season two, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Willie Nelson and Miles Davis were also among the impressive musician guest cast.
But the guest stars weren’t only limited to iconic, legendary musicians. There were also athletes who made it on-screen, too. Namely, these were Bill Russell and Roberto Durán. However, that wasn’t all. There were a fair share of odd guest appearances, too, with business magnates like Lee Iacocca.
Don Johnson may have missed out on ‘Die Hard’…
It’s fair to say Johnson’s career ended up being just fine thanks to the blast of success he got from a starring role on Miami Vice. Reportedly, he turned down a moderate amount of roles, including the lead for Die Hard. Of course, the thought of someone else taking on the part other than Bruce Willis is somewhat unimaginable.
Nonetheless, Johnson allegedly turned down the role of John McClane, a move that probably had a net-neutral outcome. While the Die Hard movies have had consistent success, the notoriety and fame from Miami Vice was certainly laudable to say the least.
That Ferrari wasn’t all it was cracked up to be
It’s not a bad look: zooming around in a snazzy Ferrari, regardless of the model. Except when the car you’re riding in is actually a Corvette remodeled to something like the Ferrari Enzo. This happened to be the case, and the Ferrari company wasn’t too happy for obvious reasons…
Turns out his sleek black “Ferrari” was actually a custom-made, 1980 Corvette — not a bad downgrade either way. However, the Ferrari company eventually filed a lawsuit against the show, citing their grievances. Luckily, they came to a settlement agreement.
Elvis lives on… in many ways?
Crockett had a pet alligator on the show named Elvis, and it was pretty adorable. What’s even more telling, however, is that Johnson played the iconic rock star in an earlier film, too. Purportedly, there were two pet alligators cast in the show — the other was fittingly named Presley.
Now, was this alligator actually Johnson’s pet off-screen? That remains to be seen. Either way, it’s pretty impressive when one is able to conjure the bravery to be that close to a formidable predator. And to think the director wanted to go with a stuffed prop instead…
The color scheme was inspired by… what?!
Usually the fashion and style of a hit TV show or movie have more… let’s just say, compelling origins. Not so much with Miami Vice. Legend has it the director, Michael Mann, was in a hardware store browsing palettes, which ultimately served as the means of inspiration for the colors of the clothes for the actors.
This certainly helped separate this iconic TV show from the rest of the pack. Mann also had a keen sense for what colors looked naturally good on-screen and avoided the ones that didn’t. He specifically didn’t allow for “earthy” tones to be used on set.
There was a certain strategy behind Crockett’s subtle mustache
Don Johnson inspired many men everywhere, especially when it comes to how they kept their facial hair. Crockett’s three- (or four-?) day stubble for what constitutes a mustache was meant to portray him as a tough guy on the Miami police squad.
Of course, this was perfect for his role. But it also started quite a fashion trend among men during the ’80s, too. In fact, it seems the show turned out to be much more of an unintended fashion statement in some ways, ushering in many new trends.
The Miami Dolphins’ head coach had no idea about the show’s existence
During the early 1980s, Don Shula — who was a staple franchise coach for the Dolphins — was in the middle of trying to cultivate a winning team in the NFL. The story goes, according to Allentown’s The Morning Call, he met actor Don Johnson during a practice, but mistook him for a police officer.
In fact, the story goes that Shula greeted him and said “Glad to meetcha, you guys do a real good job.” It seems Shula’s unwavering devotion to his team made it difficult to keep tabs on the popular TV shows during that era.
The show had a huge budget
For a show as iconic and big as Miami Vice, the budget had to be huge, which makes sense, given the amount of car-chasing scenes and acts of destruction made on a consistent basis. Overall, the show reportedly cost a whopping $1.3 million for every episode, on average.
And given that is not accounting for adjusting for inflation, we can’t imagine how much this would amount to by today’s standards. Many of the expenses weren’t just for the materials for the show, either. Many of them were contractual incentives for much of the music used throughout the show.
Those pastel clothes were almost abolished
It’s hard to picture Miami Vice without those smooth, perfectly kept pastel-colored polyester suits and pants. Well, that almost didn’t happen, thanks to Don Johnson, who insisted that he wear something resembling more of a cowboy than an ’80s sleek-clothed heartthrob.
It seems that in the end, he got the best of both worlds. He’s still (and most likely always will be) considered the flagship actor of the popular TV show. Luckily for him — for the impending success of his career and the show — he ended up taking the advice of the producer and stuck with the original wardrobe plan.
Don Johnson embraced his role… literally
Donny went all out for his role. In fact, he attended a police stakeout for hours on end that eventually lasted all night. As you can imagine, this took a lot out of him. He appeared out of sorts and fatigued, lending to whether his character was believable as a cop.
This is pretty impressive, especially considering the amount of hours and effort that typically goes into acting on a general scale. So, we salute you, Don Johnson. We do this regardless of what all the critics may say.
Tourism exploded in Miami after the show aired
When one thinks of the sunny, blissful city of Miami, the image of relaxing retirement communities usually accompanies that picture. However, this stereotype was quickly flipped on its face after Miami Vice aired in 1984; and it soon became a hub for a vibrant younger demographic.
There was certainly a degree of irony to this, given the city had been named the “Murder Capital” of the United States right around the release of the show in 1984. But thanks in part to the huge increase of foreigners, especially from Europe, the city’s reputation began to gradually change for the better.
Ray-Bans got a big sales boost thanks to the show
Ray-Bans sales skyrocketed after the premiere of Miami Vice, thanks in no small part to the actors wearing them in practically every other scene. Up until this point, sales had been relatively slow. Suffice to say, the company was pretty ecstatic to get all the publicity and exposure on a macro scale.
By the way, you could even make the argument that the show almost single-handedly revived Ray-Bans, given they were teetering on bankruptcy in the early 1980s. Granted, they got some help from Tom Cruise representing them in Risky Business, but after Miami Vice aired, the company earned $1.5 million in sales by 1986.
The show was almost given an entirely different name
Yep, the show was almost given a different name other than its iconic, concise title. Before Miami Vice, the show was going to be titled Gold Coast. Imagine the success (or lack thereof) if they went with this name instead.
At the time, city officials weren’t too jazzed about the name because they thought it would bring them bad publicity. However, it only served to improve their reputation and bring in more tourism, along with increased popularity. We’re pretty positive the city had no regrets in the end.
The writers were top-notch in Hollywood for the era
As a litmus test for many TV shows out there, a good writing staff can often determine much of the success of a successful series. This also includes, of course, much of the crew behind the scenes. In this case, Dick Wolf produced season 3, which is saying a lot given his post-Miami Vice career…
This also goes for his pre-Miami Vice career, too, since he was on the creative team for Hill Street Blues, which was probably one of the best cop shows prior to this one. Another of the many writers included John Milius — he wrote the script for Apocalypse Now and directed Conan the Barbarian — who also wrote a popular episode on the show, entitled “Viking Bikers from Hell.”
The show definitely experimented a bit in terms of character models and strategies. Stanley Tucci — now considered a high-caliber celebrity — was directed to appear as an unassuming father in season three (briefly) and then as a mob boss in another episode. Another actor — Giancarlo Esposito — who would eventually land a big role on Breaking Bad, played multiple parts in Miami Vice, too.
He was known as “Gus” in Breaking Bad, but played a hit man, a drug dealer, and yet another drug dealer in Miami Vice — specifically in season two. This comes as a surprise to us, given the budget of this show was enormous; you would think they would have plenty of resources to land other actors…
There was a major battle for Sonny Crockett’s role
In some ways, it’s a wonder that Don Johnson was cast for the role of Sonny Crockett, when you consider the sheer amount of big-name competition for the part. Some of the top-tier competitors were Jeff Bridges, Gary Cole, and Nick Nolte.
However, they all opted to go on a different route to focus on their respective film careers. Although, Cole would go on to appear as a guest on an episode that aired in season 2. Of course, Miami Vice would prove to be a great asset to Johnson’s career — landing him in big shows like Nash Bridges as well as Eastbound and Down.
There was a reason for Don Johnson’s disappearance in season 2
It’s not entirely uncommon for an actor to have payment disputes with big company conglomerates. This ended up being the case with Don Johnson. Reportedly, he was being paid about $30K per episode, which apparently wasn’t enough for an actor who was lucky enough to land a lucrative deal with a hit ’80s TV show.
Of course, it turned out to be in Johnson’s best interest to stay on the show. He became the highest-paid actor during this era, thanks to five seasons in the lead role. Allegedly, one of the producers convinced him to stay on; and luckily for his career, he agreed.
Wall Street ‘showering’ adoration
After the show had reached its pinnacle of stardom, Don Johnson and Philip Thomas took a trip to Wall Street to shoot a scene for the show. Allegedly, they were literally showered with undergarments from adoring female fans during the filming.
This of course was decades before stories of Justin Bieber drowning in women’s undergarments during shows were making headlines. However, we figure the likes of Queen and other established bands and celebrities have experienced similar moments of adoration, too. Now we just wonder whether actors sporting the same fashion style would experience the same notoriety these days…
The soundtrack was a huge hit
While Miami Vice had an emblematic soundtrack, its theme song is perhaps one of its most recognizable qualities. It has a number of impressive accolades, too, including the top Billboard song after its debut in 1985, for starters.
Of course, they didn’t have the luxury of the internet at their disposal to promulgate the tunes, so television was a great way to do this. Some of the more prestigious bands included U2, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and many more.
Rough on arrival
As you may already know, some of the craziest, bizarre news headlines come out of Florida. Apparently this was especially true when filming the pilot. Specifically, there were purported riots in 1983 that ultimately forced production to stop filming entirely.
In fact, the riots were so intense that Johnson stated the cast and crew were “afraid for our lives.” It goes to show you never know what’s going to happen in Florida, whether it will make history or just a quick news headline. In this case, it was the former.
Not the initial destination
Believe it or not, Miami wasn’t the first city slated for filming Miami Vice. In fact, it was actually Los Angeles that was the top prospect for filming. Apparently, all the scenes would’ve been crafted in a way to resemble Miami, but we think both cities are similar enough in landscape to suffice.
Of course, this worked out for the better. And in hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference whether it was filmed in LA or Miami — both cities were undergoing political turmoil at the time, and both had comparable backdrops.
City politicians were not too hyped about it
During the 1980s, Miami was struggling to stem a tidal wave of illegal drugs pouring into the city. So when politicians and city officials got wind of the show’s name, they weren’t too happy. Ultimately, they worried it would exacerbate the stigma of the “drug city” vibe they were becoming known for at the time.
In addition to the drug label, the city was also undergoing problems in regards to race relations with police officers. So the fact the show had the word “vice” in it didn’t sit well with established Miami politicians, but we’re sure they didn’t mind it in the long run.
The show got help from actual cops
The crew tasked with making the hiring decisions went the extra mile to give the sense of realism on the show. As mentioned before, Johnson took part in a police stakeout to get a real sense for what it’s like to be a police officer on the job.
This was an integral way to get into character through embracing what it means to be a police officer. The only other better strategy would be through an actual shoot-out, but of course that would probably be seen as a little extreme…
Inspiring a better city
There are many scenes showing the architecture of the sunny city of Miami. During filming, many of the buildings and infrastructure were left virtually untouched from the 1930s and 1940s. But once the show began, the massive influx of tourism and economic success was quick to follow.
Thanks to this surge in capital, officials were inspired to renovate and improve many of the dilapidated buildings and structures in the city. So you could say Miami Vice was more than just a cop-thriller drama masterpiece. It was, in some ways, a cultural and economic phenomenon.
Inflated ego or charm?
Many people assumed Philip Michael Thomas’ “EGOT” necklace, which he often wore on the show, stood for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. However, if they were to assume this, they would be wrong. It actually served as an inspirational tool that enabled him to show up on set and give his full effort.
Usually, you would be correct if you did assume the former. In Thomas’ case, however, he stated it stood for energy, growth, opportunity, and talent. It seems the necklace certainly helped, as he was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series for playing Detective Rico Tubbs.
The real reality show
You know there’s something special about a show when one of the extras was a real-life hero. In this case, the extra just so happened to be an actual Miami police officer who was instrumental in saving a bus full of kids who were being held hostage in real life.
The officer’s name was Greg Kral, and he lives on in the hearts and minds of the Miami community to this day. What’s even more intriguing is that he played a role in bringing down the killer of Versace. Now that is a pretty awesome cop if we’ve ever heard of one.