Co-Writer and Director Derek Cianfrance claims that he would not have made the movie without Bradley Cooper cast as Avery Cross. In fact, he drove five hours to Montreal, Quebec to meet with Cooper in person to convince him to take the role. Cianfrance says he did write the role for Cooper, "a guy who's paraded around as a hero, but inside feels corrupted."
Two months before filming, Andrij Parekh, who shot Blue Valentine (2010), refused to do the film largely because of the Globe of Death stunt in the opening. According to Derek Cianfrance, Parekh spoke to him on the phone saying he refused to do the film because he had dreamed that he would be killed during filming. This nearly became a reality, as during the filming of the stunt, Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt was nearly killed; luckily, he was only knocked unconscious when a motorcycle landed on top of him during filming the second take of the stunt inside the cage. At the time, he was wearing heavy protection gear and a helmet.
According to co-Writer and Director Derek Cianfrance, he met with Ryan Gosling at his agent's house in 2007 while working on Blue Valentine (2010). He asked Ryan Gosling (paraphrased), "You've done so much already, what is there in life you haven't done that you want to do?" Gosling responded that he has always wanted to rob a bank. "What has kept you from robbing a bank?" Being arrested. "And how would you go about robbing a bank?" Ryan Gosling described robbing a bank on a motorcycle because it is fast and agile, and the helmet would conceal his identity, then stashing the motorcycle in the back of a truck because the police would be looking for the motorcycle. Cianfrance responded that he was actually writing a screenplay about a bank robber in exactly that way, and he felt that Gosling was meant to play this role.
In the audio commentary, co-Writer and Director Derek Cianfrance says that his financier would give him the budget he wanted if he shrank the 158-page script to 120 pages. Without removing anything, he used a smaller font and extended the margins. He says no one noticed.
Derek Cianfrance shot 22 takes of Ryan Gosling speeding the motorcycle past the intersection before 36 cars crashed into one another. Cianfrance originally wanted a stunt double to do it, but he couldn't hide the stuntman. He also noted that for each take until Gosling finally got it right, he chewed his shirt in nervousness until there was a hole in it by the time the stunt was over.
In the opening track shot scene, several assistant directors appeared in the fairground wearing Dr. Seuss hats. They were instructed to distract the extras into not looking at the camera and at a shirtless Ryan Gosling walking into the circus tent. The shot was conceived by Sean Bobbitt, who wanted to have it as a way to teach the audience watching the movie.
Like in his previous film, Blue Valentine (2010), Derek Cianfrance gave his cast members opposing direction to coax conflict. In the case of the scene when Luke tries to give Romina money after assaulting her boyfriend, Cianfrance told Eva Mendes to avoid taking the money at all costs, and Ryan Gosling to give her the money by any means necessary before she drove off. After four takes of Gosling unsuccessfully attempting to get the bag of money to Mendes, Gosling stepped in front of the car and put his head by the wheel. A flustered Mendes, who Cianfrance recalled wasn't a good driver, confused the brake with the gas and nearly ran Gosling over. Mendes naturally began to scream and freak out and Gosling, unharmed, stuck to throwing the money in the back seat in the final take.
Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) tells Luke (Ryan Gosling), "If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder." It was completely improvised, and Derek Cianfrance even admitted to this that it was not in the script in the audio commentary of the movie. In many scenes, Luke is seen wearing a t-shirt with artwork from the Metallica album "Ride the Lightning".
When Jason (Dane DeHaan) and A.J. (Emory Cohen) first meet in the cafeteria, Jason is eating an apple for lunch. This links back to his mother telling Luke (Ryan Gosling) how she would chew apples for him when he was a baby.
Ryan Gosling suggested his longtime friend and future girlfriend Eva Mendes for the role of Romina Gutierrez. Derek Cianfrance admitted while meeting her during dinner with Gosling during the Blue Valentine (2010) promotion, he felt she wasn't a good fit. It took Gosling's coaxing and insistence that Mendes was underrated as an actress for Cianfrance to audition her. She got the role, and it is now widely considered by critics to be the best performance of her career.
The baby who played Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes' child took naturally to the actor and actress, and could be seen on-camera cuddling to them unprompted. Mendes noted during promotion the baby would stop crying as soon as Gosling would hold him.
Derek Cianfrance wrote the script based on the town his wife Shannon Plumb grew up in, Schenectady, New York. The film was mostly filmed there on-location. The phrase "Place Beyond the Pines" is actually the Native American meaning to the word "Schenectady."
When Luke and Robin prepare for their first robbery, Luke says, "Not since Hall & Oates has there been such a team." Later, as Avery, Scott, and Deluca drive to Romina's house to investigate, the Hall & Oates song "Maneater" is playing. In the French translation, Luke speaks about "Starsky and Hutch" instead of Hall & Oates, who are not well known in France.
One of the two films released in 2012 that featured the song "The Wolves (Act I And II)" by Bon Iver playing in the final scene. The other is Rust and Bone (2012), that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival four months before this movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
There are a lot of nods to Rochester, New York, which is two hundred ten miles away from Schenectady, New York: 1) Genesee Beer was founded and is brewed in Rochester, and can be seen in many scenes. 2) Garbage Plate; this was mentioned that Avery (Bradley Cooper) was visiting Rochester and would eat a Garbage Plate near the end, and the Garbage Plate is a famous staple meal created by Nick Tahou. The plate consists of macaroni salad, home fries, and topped with either two hamburgers, cheeseburgers, red hots, or white hots, and slathered with meat hot sauce, spicy mustard, and chopped onions. 3) Metallica posters; the band recorded their first album in Rochester (Kill 'Em All (1984)).
In the scene where the four officers are leaving Romina's house after finding the money, "Maneater" by Hall & Oates is playing in the car. A reference to a conversation between Luke and Ben earlier in the movie in which Luke says "Not since Hall & Oates has there been a better team!"
Ryan Gosling and Mahershala Ali appeared in this film. The two went on to star in La La Land (2016) and Moonlight (2016), respectively; both of which were up for Best Picture during the 2016 Oscar season. Oddly enough, "La La Land" was wrongly announced as the recipient of the award, resulting in an awkward passing over of the golden statues to "Moonlight".