For release in Australia, the U.S. tagline "Get ready to root for the bad guy" was changed to "Get ready to cheer for the bad guy" because, as Mel Gibson himself pointed out, in Australia "to root" is slang for "to have sexual intercourse".
According to the director commentary, James Coburn found the prop cigars his character was supposed to use unfit for smoking. So, he went into Mel Gibson's trailer (Gibson wasn't there, as he wasn't scheduled for shooting at that moment) and helped himself to a few of Gibson's cigars.
While the identity of the person assigned to direct the re-shoots of the film following the departure of Brian Helgeland was originally unknown, Mel Gibson revealed in a Hong Kong newspaper interview that that person was Production Designer John Myhre. Meanwhile, on his website, Director Paul Abascal explained that he was the director hired for the re-shoots.
Deborah Kara Unger broke two ribs in the scene where Mel Gibson beats the hell out of her, which is now restored in the Director's Cut. She stated that she was having fun flying around and getting slammed into things, and did one too many.
One major addition to the movie, after Brian Helgeland left, included Kris Kristofferson's character of the main villain. The re-shoots resulted in a delay of almost one year, because Mel Gibson was committed to Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) right after principal photography ended.
There was originally a scene where Porter rips out the eye of one of the guards in the Outfit's building where his ex partner Val is. For some reason, this scene was not included in either the theatrical or Director's Cut of the movie, and is only available in a very rare, bad quality, workprint.
Brian Helgeland cast Maria Bello after an endless search led him to a stack of videotape auditions for the defunct 1990s update of Superman. After offering the role to her, Bello turned it down, saying that the role wasn't for her. He wanted her to be in the movie so badly, that he literally hounded her for two weeks before she finally agreed to do the film.
The restoration of the Director's Cut took place in 2005. Most of the original elements of the film were not preserved, so Editor Kevin Stitt and Brian Helgeland had to make do with what was preserved from the original film stock, and had to reassemble the film that way, without the use of Avid film editing. At the same time, the blue tint, in which the theatrical version looked visually, was removed, for more vivid color tones and contrast, but still preserving some of the grittiness of the theatrical cut.
Brian Helgeland was working on the script for this film, in friend and mentor Richard Donner's office, on the Warner Brothers lot during post-production on their previous collaboration, Conspiracy Theory (1997). One day, Helgeland had gathered his script pages, and was on his way home, when Donner asked if he could go to the ADR stage, where he was scheduled to have a session with Mel Gibson, and inform him that he would be late. When Helgeland arrived at the stage, Gibson inquired about the script pages under his arm. After reading the first act, Gibson expressed interest in the project, but Helgeland informed him that he really wanted to direct it. Gibson offered that if he liked the finished script, he would give him a shot. Upon completion, Helgeland sent Gibson the script, expecting him to pass. After a couple of weeks, Gibson called and asked, "Can you be ready to shoot in twelve weeks?"
Sally Kellerman is the original voice of Bronson in Brian Helgeland's Director's Cut of the movie, and is never seen. For the theatrical cut, Bronson is played by Kris Kristofferson for all of the re-shot scenes.
Porter's first name is never revealed. Even his wife, and then subsequent girlfriend call him Porter. When asked about Porter's first name in the movie, Resnick pauses and then replies, "I don't know. He never called himself anything but Porter."
The line from the two crooked cops after they return Porter's gun, just after he has spoken to Kris Kristofferson (Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down), is a direct reference to Kristofferson's song of the same title. You can see them smile at the in-joke.
John Boorman, who had directed the original version of the novel "Hunter", Point Blank (1967), was asked at a press conference what he thought of this remake. He told the reporters that he had not seen it yet, but that he had read the script. He said the script reminded him of one that Lee Marvin had thrown out of his window in fury at its awfulness , and that a young Mel Gibson must have been passing by, and picked it up.
Music Editor Scott Stambler was involved in the theatrical cut, and was brought in to try and re-edit Chris Boardman's music from that version of the film into the Director's Cut. When it was decided by Brian Helgeland that Boardman's music simply didn't match the tone of his film, he asked Stambler to write a new original score for his film, which was recorded in late Feburary 2006.
There are possible connections between Gibson's character Porter in Payback and his character "Driver" in Get the Gringo. Besides Gibson's character being a thief both Payback and Get the Gringo, both films are narrated by Gibson's criminal character. Gibson's character is a single name in both films. In Get the Gringo, the character explains how he was once married, but his wife ran off with a former business associate, which is the plot of Payback, where his wife and business partner double-cross him to steal his cut and run away together. The only subtle difference between the two character is their military background, and associated tattoos. In Payback, Porter was an ex-Marine, with a U.S.M.C. tattoo on his arm. In Get the Gringo, he is a former U.S. Army Sniper, with a Sniper tattoo.
While the exact year the events take place is never revealed, one character makes reference to President Nixon, who resigned in 1974. In 1974, one hundred thirty thousand dollars had the same buying power as 642,360 dollars in 2017.
When this film is broadcast on television, the scene when Porter (Mel Gibson) kneecaps Val Resnick (Gregg Henry) while he was bullying Rosie (Maria Bello), then talks to him and says, "Have you got a light, Val?" He replies, "No", after searching himself and Porter says, "Well, what good are you?" He then shoots Val through the cushion. When this film was released on VHS, Porter said, "Well, what fucking use are you?"
Initially scheduled for release in mid-1998, the film's first theatrical trailer was ironically attached to Hard Rain (1998), another action film that Paramount had extensively delayed. However, issues with Hard Rain were primarily rooted in an attempt to revamp the marketing campaign. Payback's post-production complications and reshoots, as well as an effort to ensure it would not go head to head with Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), Mel Gibson's other action film that year, led to its delay to February 1999.
Ed Pfeifer is the actors name Porter steals the wallet and ID off of at the beginning of the movie. He has a birth date on his license of 1940. If this movie took place at present time that would make him 59 years old. He was actually born in 1962 which would make him 37 at the time of the films release.
The definition of "principle" given at the film's start belongs to both Helgeland and Porter (Mel Gibson). He added it after the studio expressed concern that audiences might not know Porter was acting on principle and might not even know what a principle is. "But I know you guys get it."
Porter makes a disparaging remark (crooked cops) about police detectives after dealing with the two detectives. Immediately after filming wrapped, Mel Gibson would go on to reprise the character of LA police detective Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), a role he had played three times before.
Helgeland always loved it when films pair their opening credits with part of the story rather than just names on a blank screen, so he designed "a sequence in which Porter puts his life back together."
The film follows a world filled with criminals both high-end and low-end as well as the relatively honorable Porter leaving the average folks "very much in the back ground, and by definition Porter is the good guy in this world because he's the guy with the code."
The scene where Porter pickpockets the guy's wallet required an open casting call to find someone who looked reasonably enough like Gibson. The guy who got the gig wasn't an actor but had been told throughout his life that he bore a resemblance to Gibson.
At 14 mins.) The flashback of Porter on the phone was meant to have him shirtless so we could see his back free of bullet wounds, "but for some reason we shot it with a shirt on which I can never remember why we did that." explained Helgeland.
There's a subtle difference between versions in the scene where Porter wakes up Val. The theatrical cut lets the Dean Martin song on the radio play as if its part of the soundtrack, but for this one Helgeland dropped it back to the radio itself as he didn't feel this was the kind of film that would feature that song that way.
Helgeland was in post-production on this film the night of the Academy Awards, and having been nominated for his L.A. Confidential (1997) script he really hoped he would be named the winner. "I knew that they were getting close to finally removing me off this movie," and he thought winning the Oscar would mean they couldn't fire him. He won, Sean Connery tussled his hair backstage while congratulating him, and that was his Sunday night. "And on Tuesday I got fired. So much for the magic of an Academy Award."
Coburn was unhappy with the cheap cigars they had available for his character to smoke, and after assistants failed to locate any good ones nearby the actor suggested Gibson's trailer was worth a shot. Gibson wasn't on-set yet, so Coburn entered his trailer, ransacked it, and found what he was searching for.
At 1hr 14 mins.) The car interior between Porter and Stegman (David Paymer) had to be shot with the windows fogged up because spectators were lining the street to watch. They're magically clear when the car pulls into the alley because they were better able to control the crowd there.
"As far as getting fired for shooting a dog in the film I think the other reason I got fired is this scene in the meat truck." Porter shoots an unarmed man in cold blood, and while no one complained that he did the same to William Devane's character, Helgeland caught holy hell for this one. He explains the killing simply by saying that the man insulted Rosie (Bello), and now that Porter is back to looking out for her that kind of transgression can't stand. "I used to halfway joke that it was the most romantic moment in the movie."
An early teaser strung together the film's funnier scenes, and both audiences and the studio responded favorably. He protested and was told by the marketing department that "what it is is one thing, and selling it is another thing." The studio clearly wished the movie "was more like our trailer, and I didn't know it at first but it became this struggle for what the heart of the movie was about." Re-shoots began leaning heavily toward the teaser's tone, and the writing was on the wall.
Helgeland always wanted to end a film with the lead character smiling, and it was an idea influenced by the end of Cool Hand Luke (1967). It was a big reason why he wouldn't (technically couldn't) reshoot a different ending for this film as this is the end it had to have. "I couldn't explain that to anyone in a room because it wouldn't have made sense, but that's the story."
Porter's arrival at his wife's (Deborah Kara Unger) apartment followed immediately with a scene where he smacks her around. "The idea was to push the audience away from this character and have you really wondering what in the world we're dealing with here, and then you learn why." It's more challenging for the viewer to discover afterward that she betrayed him and shot him in the back. The theatrical cut just sees his entrance bursting through the door and then her carrying her to bed.
Helgeland debated between two endings, Porter loses the money after being shot to a passing homeless person but still lives, or Porter gets the money only to die from the gunshot wound. He went with the latter as it's more proper for a noir, and his implication is that Porter dies just moments after the fade to black. "But he smiles because he's come to town and done what he meant to do which is make things right." For the more positive-thinking viewers, though, he allows that maybe Rosie gets him medical attention and he's going to be okay.
A studio executive sent a note saying she didn't understand why the Chinese gangsters wanted to kill Stegman. He replied that they're actually trying to shoot Porter but that he's using Stegman's body as a shield. "She said she didn't think that was clear, so that's what I was up against."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Deborah Kara Unger, William Devane, Gregg Henry, and David Paymer are the only main characters that die in both the theatrical and Director's Cut of the film. While John Glover and James Coburn are the only ones who die in the theatrical version, and survive in the Director's Cut.
It has been recently discovered that many of the promotional pieces for the original theatrical release were sourced from media related to Brian Helgeland's original Director's Cut. First, the photo used for the U.S. theatrical posters with Porter aiming his gun ("Get ready to root for the bad guy!"), is actually taken from the original ending of the film, after Porter stumbles down the steps from the train station, and tries to kill off the remainder of Bronson's men. Secondly, the theatrical trailers were created from a mix of footage from Helgeland's cut and the theatrical cut, including Porter's train station shoot-out with a disguised hitwoman.