Sir Patrick Stewart said in an interview that when he finished reading the script at his country home in England, it was so terrifying, that he locked up his house, turned on the security system, and poured himself a Scotch. He then knew that he wanted to play the Darcy Banker role because a character that horrifying would be an incredible challenge, and make for a compelling movie.
While the tracks were recorded separately the staged performances, the actors and actress actually performed their songs. Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat already knew how to play their instruments, but according to Jeremy Saulnier, Callum Turner had no experience with any sort of music. Joe Cole also learned to play drums, specifically for this movie.
Writer and Director Jeremy Saulnier wanted to make this movie partly because as his career advanced, he knew he would not be offered the chance to make a movie as ultra-violent and bleak as Green Room (2015) and that no novice filmmaker would be given the chance to direct it either. He felt that after the success of Blue Ruin (2013), the time was right to take on a movie as demanding as this one.
Red bootlaces are mentioned a couple of times, once in reference to people who were allowed to know what was going on, and once when a character earns his or her red laces. Red bootlace color is an important signal in skinhead culture indicating the wearer has shed blood for the skinhead movement. Racist skinheads will often randomly attack non-whites to "earn" their red laces.
During a 2015 Q&A at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas; Jeremy Saulnier confirmed that while his last two movies had colors in the titles, Blue Ruin (2013) and Green Room (2015), he wasn't really working with color as a theme. Rather, Saulnier joked, this movie was part of his "inept protagonist trilogy" wherein the protagonists are in over their heads and trying to survive using skills they don't really have. This theme is present in Blue Ruin (2013) and Murder Party (2007).
Patrick Stewart's first day on set was Saulnier's least favorite because he left "this amazing actor sitting there" while he spent time on insert shots and risked losing the light. "The next morning we had a very nice chat, and I apologized for my inefficiency."
Sauliner was "terrified" after the success of Blue Ruin and thought that if he didn't fast track another movie before he was "discovered to be a fraud that it would never ever happen." Instead of saying yes to one of the many films offered by Hollywood he immediately moved forward with a more indie-minded genre feature inspired by his own youthful interests.
The opening scene was Saulnier's "happiest day on set" as the corn field locale was beautiful and they had a full day to shoot the setups. He says of all the photos taken of him on set only ones from this day show him smiling.
Saulnier stated the shot of Pat's slashed arm and hand is "absolutely disturbing" but due as much to Yelchin's performance as it is the beautiful prosthetic effects work. "It is so emotional, so real, that it stands out to a lot of people as the moment where they now realize what kind of film they're in, and it's not pretty."
The seemingly simple shot of Pat (Anton Yelchin) waking up and opening the door to let Tad (David W. Thompson) into the apartment ended up being a nightmare as it required reversing the hinges to allow the door to open from the right. The film was a union shoot, and the overtime costs astounded Saulnier. "My production designer may or may not have snuck in over the weekend and reversed the hinges on that door."
The actors playing the Ain't Rights, Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner are playing and singing for real in the film. Yelchin and Shawkat had previous experience, but the other two had to learn from scratch.
Various character traits and beats were culled from real-life events from Saulnier's (or his friends') past as a punk music fan and performer. Waking up in a corn field is only the first of many to make the cut here. He is careful to point out that he never siphoned gas from strangers' cars though.
Saulnier and Macon Blair have been best friends for years Blair is the lead in Blue Ruin but the director just didn't see him as belonging in this skinhead world. Blair auditioned just like everyone else and ultimately convinced Saulnier he could be this character of Gabe the neo-Nazi. "My best buddy was not given a hand-out. He had to go get Nazi tattoos from the internet, some temporary tattoos, and the vendor initially refused his request so he had to prove he was auditioning for my movie."
The scene where Justin guards the door and essentially warns the band members that they're not action heroes and shouldn't attempt to charge him "is one of the few moments we had where I indulged in a movie speech." Saulnier said.
Saulnier and Porter made a conscious decision to visually cut off and disregard Amber (Imogen Poots) early on as an outsider apart from the band. She earns her inclusion into their circle as symbolized by her first close-up.
The conversation through the door between Pat and Darcy (Stewart) was shot with two cameras, one on either side, to fully capture both actors, but Saulnier knew he'd hardly be using any of footage of Stewart. He wanted character to trump Stewart's star power, but more than that he wanted the weight of the character to be seen and felt through the band members.
Most of viewers feel the answer to Pat's desert island band is evident in the cut to a Creedence Clearwater Revival track at the very end, but that's apparently not the case. Saulnier's being coy about it, but he says there are two correct answers. "One that makes perfect sense given the context of the movie and how everything plays out, and there's another that is something I whispered to Anton Yelchin on set that only him and I know." Saulnier's own is Black Sabbath.
They had an elaborate dog puppet built but only ended up using it in one insert shot around the 53:40 mark. The initial idea was that they'd need the puppet for the sequence where one attacks Amber's leg util it's run off by the microphone feedback and pummeling, but they accomplished the scene with real dogs, stunt performers, and Poots herself. Don't worry, it was a foam microphone stand.
Saulnier is no fan of films that "hold your hand all the way through the film" by explaining everything or clarifying elements with additional exposition. It's more important that the characters understand than the audience on an initial watch. He's not wrong.
Some people took issue with the scene where the band hands over the gun and Pat gets sliced for his efforts, and he has an argument for them. Basically Saulnier suggests two choices hand it over and risk the outcome, or shoot your five bullets towards enemies who are probably better armed and more experienced? "Because if you don't know how to use a gun," he says, "you don't win." I don't think it's that simple of a choice, and I still don't think anyone at this stage in the story would hand over that gun. Saulnier is correct though when he mentions that the mere possession of guns is no guarantee you'll succeed or know how to use them.
The first glimpse of Cow Catcher, the punk band who cause the initial trouble, comes through the windshield of the Ain't Rights' van. It was a studio note asking for these characters to be introduced earlier.
Films/filmmakers mentioned as inspirations or references, intentional or otherwise, include The Shining, John Carpenter, I'm Gonna Git You Sucker, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Commando, and Conan the Barbarian.
Saulnier points out scenes where the band members are forced to play action hero or detective, and he says their inadequacies in these areas are understandable because they're neither of those things. "I agree completely and would add it's a similar exploration to the one in Blue Ruin that sees a revenge thriller focused on a man with no clue how to go about it. That said, even after multiple viewings, I still can't abide the band handing over the gun there is absolutely no one who would do so under these circumstances. No one. I refuse to believe it. Nope. It's so immensely annoying, but the film immediately recovers with everything that follows".
The bit where Pat catches his sleeve on the van mirror while attempting to move around the front of it with the bad guy in his cross-hairs was a recreation of an earlier take when Yelchin accidentally did just that.