Steve McQueen based his character on San Francisco Homicide Inspector Dave Toschi, made famous for his work on the Zodiac killings. McQueen had a copy made of Toschi's custom fast-draw shoulder holster.
Robert Vaughn has repeatedly said that his performance in this film is his best and contains the work he is most proud of.
Robert Vaughn, who plays politician Walter Chalmers received the script and didn't like it. Vaughn felt that there was no plot nor a sensible storyline. Steve McQueen insisted Vaughn do the film which the actor had refused, until the studio kept offering him more money when he finally said yes.
Bill Hickman, seen as the baddie "Phil" who drives the Dodge Charger, actually did drive the Charger in the movie. The driving scenes netted him additional stunt work which included yet another classic car chase for The French Connection
Jacqueline Bisset's character is shown working in an architectural studio with a model of a modernistic and angular fountain her character has designed. This is an actual model of a sculpture entitled "Quebec libre!" by the Canadian sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. The monumental fountain was being studied at the time the film was being made. The fountain was built and completed 3 years later in 1971, not in black as the model shows, but in natural gray concrete. It may be seen today at the Embarcadero Center in downtown San Francisco across the street from the Ferry Building.
Joanna Cassidy's film debut.
Peter Yates hired a local trucking company for some background shots (most notably the scene where the Dodge Charger crashes into the gas station), but sent back the initial truck because it was red. He didn't want any red vehicles in the movie because it would detract from the blood. A blue truck was dispatched in its place.
Bud Ekins who drives the Mustang also did the motorcycle jump for Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
According to Peter Yates, Steve McQueen made a point to keep his head near the open car window during the famous chase scene so that audiences would be reassured that it was he, not a stunt man, who was driving,
Although Bonnie and Clyde had popularized the use of squibs to simulate gunshot wounds a year earlier, this was one of the first films to incorporate them with blood packets.
Bullitt's reverse burnout during the chase scene actually wasn't in the script - Steve McQueen had mistakenly missed the turn. The footage was still kept, though.
Despite the implications of his name, Bullitt doesn't use his gun until the climax.
Director Peter Yates was personally selected for this movie by Steve McQueen because Yates had filmed a realistic car chase a year earlier through the streets of London in Robbery.
First major film to use the word "bullshit".
Frank Bullitt's car is a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback.
Initially the car chase was supposed to be scored, but Lalo Schifrin suggested that no music be added to that sequence, pointing out that the soundtrack was powerful enough as it was.
Much was made at the time, and over the years since, of Lt. Bullitt's stylish "casual" attire of a turtleneck worn with a sport coat, slacks, and suede-like shoes. Since the major portion of the story in the film takes place over a Saturday and Sunday, this was actually in keeping with some police department's traditions of a more relaxed dress code on weekends for plainclothes officers. Bullitt is first seen at work when meeting Chalmers on a Friday morning - wearing a traditionally conservative navy suit under his trench coat, with a white shirt, dark tie and dress shoes.
One of the first things Peter Yates did when he got the job was persuade Warner Brothers to buy him a lightweight Arriflex camera that he could use for all his hand-held footage.
The chase sequence takes place over a number of non-contiguous streets in and south of San Francisco. The sequence apparently starts under Highway 101 in the Mission District. When the Charger does a U-turn on what is Precita Avenue to follow the Mustang, a storage tank on Potrero Hill, in the southeast part of SF, is visible in the distance. The next few scenes are in the Bernal and Potrero areas; you can see green hills to the southwest on the horizon in one shot. Twenty-one seconds later, Coit Tower appears in the Mustang's front window to the east (as can be ascertained by the buildings' shadows). They then come to a stop for a Cable Car on Hyde Street and Filbert. The twin towers of Sts. Peter and Paul Church are visible just to the right of Coit Tower. They turn hard left next onto a four-lane street with a concrete median, what might be Columbus. A F-type street car is seen coming the opposite direction. They top a rise and Angel Island comes into view slightly on the left, placing them on about Stockton and Chestnut. They turn north, then west, then south uphill. In the next cut, they are coming downhill, north towards the Bay. They turn west and the next few scenes are inter-cut, reused footage of the same street sequence, as shown by repeated presence of the same Cadillac and a Green Volkswagen Beetle. They drive downhill or north, towards the Bay, and turn west in
The director called for speeds of about 75-80 mph, but the cars (including the ones containing the cameras) reached speeds of over 110 mph. Filming of the chase scene took three weeks, resulting in 9 minutes and 42 seconds of footage. They were denied permission to film on the Golden Gate Bridge.