Bob Dylan wrote the song "Lay, Lady, Lady" for the film, but didn't complete it in time to be included in the soundtrack.
John McGiver played the religious fanatic, Mr. O'Daniel, with Jon Voight as Joe Buck, who'd been led to believe that O'Daniel is a bigtime pimp. McGiver had also played "Sen. Thomas Jordan" in The Manchurian Candidate. In the remake of that film 42 years later (The Manchurian Candidate), Voight played "Sen. Thomas Jordan".
Bob Balaban's film debut.
Charles Durning was going to act in this film but dropped out.
John Schlesinger once said that the inspiration for this film came from a little-known Yugoslav movie, Kad budem mrtav i beo. An Andy Warhol film, My Hustler, also influenced the visual style.
Lee Majors was originally cast as Joe Buck, but had to pull out when his TV series, The Big Valley, was renewed for another season.
Warren Beatty was very interested in playing Joe Buck but John Schlesinger thought he was too famous to be believable as a naive street hustler.
Robert Blake was offered the part of Ratso, but declined.
Bette Davis appears in this film via a clip from Dark Victory seen in a television montage sequence.
Dustin Hoffman kept pebbles in his shoe to ensure his limp would be consistent from shot to shot.
Dustin Hoffman put in so much effort portraying one of Ratso's coughing fits that one time he actually ended up vomiting.
Dustin Hoffman was originally chosen for the role of Ratso on the basis of an off-Broadway one-man show called "Eh!" in which producer Jerome Hellman saw him in 1965.
Dustin Hoffman's performance as "Ratso" Rizzo is ranked #7 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
Michael Sarrazin was cast as Joe Buck but shortly before filming he pulled out over a wage dispute. Jon Voight was then brought in to replace him.
Al Stetson, the Florida bus driver, was an electrician on the movie. He filled in at the last minute when the extra failed to show up.
Harry Nilsson wrote the song "I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City" specifically for this film, but John Schlesinger preferred a Fred Neil song, "Everybody's Talkin'", which Nilsson had previously recorded. Other songs considered for the movie were Randy Newman's "Cowboy", and Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay".
Before Dustin Hoffman auditioned for this film, he knew that his all-American image could easily cost him the job. To prove he could do it, he asked the auditioning film executive to meet him on a street corner in Manhattan, and in the meantime, dressed himself in filthy rags. The executive arrived at the appointed corner and waited, barely noticing the "beggar" less than ten feet away who was accosting people for spare change. At last, the beggar walked up to him and revealed his true identity.
Contrasting Opinions #1: Ratso Rizzo's famous line, "I'm walkin' here!", *was* scripted. The location was at 58th Street and 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. The scene called for the taxicab (driven by a stunt driver) to turn east onto 58th Street from 6th Avenue as Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, walking north on 6th Avenue, crossed 58th Street. Dustin then was to yell at the cab as it almost ran into him. The scene was rehearsed, and then with camera and sound rolling, the shot was filmed. There was a pause, the cab reversed direction, backed up onto 6th, stopped, then proceeded to turn again onto 58th as Dustin and Jon once more crossed the street. This happened several times, each time attracting a larger and larger crowd of curious onlookers. The camera setup was just to the north, and the crew seemed to be greatly amused as the filming disrupted morning rush hour.