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The first several minutes of the film's action takes place under the opening credits, as "Arthur Bishop" (Charles Bronson) walks to the downtown Los Angeles hotel room and sets up his equipment for observing the "mark" across the street. Actor Lindsay Crosby's name is listed as "Lindsay H. Crosby" in the opening credits and misspelled as "Lindsey Crosby" in the end credits. According to Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter news items in 1969, Cliff Robertson was initially set to star in The Mechanic, which was purchased by producer Martin Poll in mid-1968. Poll is not mentioned in later sources and the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. A April 3, 1969 Daily Variety news item stated that Martin Ritt would direct the film, which at that time was to begin shooting in New York in May or June 1969. A Hollywood Reporter column on August 1, 1967 reported that "Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster have already phoned [original screenplay writer Lewis John] Carlino asking when they could read it."
The film was shot on location throughout Los Angeles, as well as in Naples and along the Amalfi coast in Italy. Locations within Los Angeles included downtown, the Sunset Strip, the Hollywood Hills, The Los Angeles Zoo and the Marineland aquatic park in Palos Verdes. The painting which Arthur Bishop studies intently is a copy of the center panel of the fifteenth century Hieronymus Bosch triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights."
One sequence in the film, which is unrelated to the main story, involves Arthur's visit to "The girl" (Jill Ireland). In the first scene, the girl seems to be passionately and unhappily in love with Arthur, for whom she pines when he is away. In the next scene, it is revealed that she actually is a prostitute and the previous scene had been a pre-arranged fantasy. Ireland, who married Bronson in the late 1960s, appeared in many of his films until her death in 1990.
The Mechanic was the first film that Bronson shot primarily in the U.S. since This Property Is Condemned (1966, see below), in which he was a supporting player. From the mid to late 1960s, Bronson acted in a few episodes of American television series, but began to gain prominence as the star of numerous European-made Western and action films. By 1971, Bronson had become one of the biggest stars in Europe, and his popularity in the U.S. was ascending. In January 1972, while The Mechanic was in production, Bronson received the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Henrietta Award as "World Film Favorite" star of the year. Some modern critics have pointed to the The Mechanic as a turning point in Bronson's career, solidifying his position as a major star in the U.S. as well as abroad, and catapulting him to a position among the top ten box office stars in the world throughout the mid to late 1970s.
Michael Winner had directed Bronson in Chato's Land, released earlier in 1972, and went on to direct him in four additional films, including Death Wish (1974), one of the most successful films of their respective careers.