Jon Amiel directed this satire on mistaken-identity thrillers and the spy genre, scripted by Robert Farrar, Tim John, and Oliver Butcher from Farrar's unpublished novel, Watch That Man. In the female lead, Joanne Whalley returned to films after a three-year absence, choosing to do so with director Amiel. Farrar's Hitchcockian-style story focuses on naive Blockbuster Video clerk Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) who travels from Des Moines, Iowa, to London to celebrate his birthday with his wealthy younger brother, James (Peter Gallagher). When he turns up on the same night that James has plans to attend a high-profile client dinner party (that he hopes will bring him millions from a German investment firm), James needs to keep Wallace away during the evening, so he gives Wallace a ticket to the participatory Theater of Life. The theater game requires Wallace to assume a character and interact with actors portraying people in dramatic situations.
At the corner phone booth, the initial call should begin the evening of innocent fun. However, the phone instructions Wallace receives are actually intended for an assassin, part of a scheme to end the current UK regime and revive the Cold War. The real assassin gets the call from the Theater of Life. Blissfully unaware, Wallace walks without fear into a complex web of intrigue involving defense ministers, call girls, and Russian hitmen. For Wallace, all the world's a stage, and he's amazed at the skill of the actors, including beautiful enigmatic Lori (Joanne Whalley) -- while Wallace's pursuers are mystified by their adversary's fearlessness in the face of threats, torture and bullets. Farrar got the idea for this comedy from a chance remark at a party: "The inspiration came from a dinner party, when somebody told me about these strange live theater performances which were all the rage in England in the '80s. The idea was to telephone for instructions if you wanted to take part. My immediate reaction was, 'Wouldn't it be fabulous if somebody got the wrong number, and it all went hopelessly wrong?'" Filming took place in London's East End (Three Mills Studios), at a variety of London locations, and just outside London at the Elstree Film Studios.