- Various studios considered producing this film; one suggested Neil Diamond for the lead role.
- Brian De Palma was also considered to direct but the producers were dragged to a private screening of Mean Streets (1973) (Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese's previous collaboration) before they told Scorsese he could direct, but only if he got De Niro to play the lead.
- Harvey Keitel was originally offered Albert Brooks's part as the campaign worker. But decided to take the role as the pimp, even though in the script he was black and only had about five lines.
- Rock Hudson was once considered for the role of Charles Palantine, but was not able to due to his commitment to the TV series, "McMillan and Wife" (1971).
- De Niro worked twelve hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness.
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