☆ Director Michael Cimino convinced Christopher Walken to spit in Michael’s face. When Walken actually did it, Robert De Niro was completely shocked, as evidenced by his reaction. In fact, De Niro was so furious about it he nearly left the set. Cimino later said of Walken, “He’s got courage!”
☆ During some of the Russian Roulette scenes, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension. This was Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.
☆ The scene where Savage is yelling, “Michael, there’s rats in here, Michael” as he is stuck in the river is actually Savage yelling at the director Michael Cimino because of his fear of rats which were infesting the river area. He was yelling for the director to pull him out of the water because of the rats… it looked real and they kept it in.
☆ The slapping in the Russian roulette sequences was 100% authentic. The actors grew very agitated by the constant slapping, which, naturally, added to the realism of the scenes.
☆ Robert De Niro recently explained that the scene where Michael visits Steve in the hospital for the first time was the most emotional scene that he was ever involved with. He broke down in tears while discussing the scene in AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Robert De Niro (2003).
☆ Robert De Niro claims this was his most physically exhausting film.
☆Christopher Walken achieved the withdrawn, hollow look of his character by eating nothing but rice and bananas.
☆ The studio wanted to replace John Cazale when he was ruled un-insurable. Robert De Niro put up the money for the insurance. Cazale died shortly after filming was completed.
☆ Robert De Niro, who prepared for his role by socializing with actual steelworkers, was introduced by his hosts and new friends as Bob, and no one recognized him.
☆The deaths of approximately twenty-eight people who died playing Russian roulette were reported as having been influenced by scenes in the movie.
☆ Meryl Streep improvised many of her lines.
☆ During the helicopter stunt, the runners caught on the ropes and as the helicopter rose, it threatened to seriously injure John Savage and Robert De Niro. The actors gestured and yelled furiously to the crew in the helicopter to warn them. Footage of this is included in the film.
☆ Robert De Niro and John Savage performed their own stunts in the fall into the river, filming the 30ft drop 15 times in two days.
☆ When the guys are leaving the factory and heading to Welch’s Bar, Nick encourages Michael to drive faster. In real life, Christopher Walken has a phobia of going too fast in cars.
☆ George Dzundza completely blows the toast line when the group arrives in the mountains the first time. His reaction is legitimate, and a few of the other actors can be seen laughing in response.
☆ Jan Scruggs, a Vietnam veteran who became a counselor with the U.S. Department of Labor, thought of the idea of building a National Memorial for Vietnam Veterans after seeing a screening of the film in spring 1979, and he established and operated the memorial fund which paid for it.