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The film's working titles were J. W. Rode Hard and Hung Up Wet, J. W. and J. W. Cooper. The opening credits include the following written statement: "Robertson & Associates acknowledge with deep gratitude the help and cooperation of the Rodeo Cowboys Association and its entire membership." In addition, a list of acknowledgments thanks the various rodeos at which some of the footage was filmed, including Angels Camp, Forum of Inglewood, Madison Square Garden and the McAlister State Prison in Oklahoma. The closing credits also thank several companies, including Marco's restaurant of Los Angeles, Robertson Aircraft Corporation and the Palomino and Chequers Clubs. Philip L. Parslow's credit reads: "Assistant director and unit production manager." During a sequence depicting "J. W. Coop's" attendance on the rodeo circuit, Robertson used a four-way split screen, and the final sequence is silent.
Robertson stated in an October 1971 Daily Variety interview that he worked on the screenplay for two years, after which three studios bid on it. The New York Times review reported that Robertson tape-recorded rodeo riders as research for the screenplay. Army Archerd wrote in a June 1971 column that while Columbia financed the film, Robertson provided the completion bond. The article also stated that the actors, except for Geraldine Page, worked for scale. The film depicts a real-life rodeo prison, a penitentiary in which most of the inmates and workers are rodeo performers. Many reviews noted that the footage shot at real rodeos featured many actors who were non-professionals. "About 60 per cent of the faces in the film had never faced a camera before," according to the Washington Post review, and Robertson did some of the bull riding himself. Filmfacts stated that the production took only thirty-five days and cost $736,000. The picture was shot entirely on location in California, Oklahoma, Texas and New York, as noted in contemporary sources. According to the Box Office review, the role of "Big Marge" was written specifically for Marjorie Durant Dye, who was related to Robertson's then-wife, actress Dina Merrill.
An October 1971 Daily Variety article on the production raised some controversy when Robertson stated that he did not use a unit publicist on JW Coop in order to protect the cast and crew from interruption. In response, Publicist's Guild of America president Henri Bollinger wrote a letter of protest to Daily Variety, which Robertson responded to on November 4, 1971, asserting that he had high respect for publicists but could not have afforded one for JW Coop.
In a December 1971 Hollywood Reporter article, Robertson discussed a dispute he had with co-writers Gary Cartwright and Edwin Shrake (the latter identified as "Bob" in the December 1971 article and as "Bud" in a 1974 Daily Variety news item). After a Writers Guild arbitration ordered Robertson to share equal billing with the writers, he appealed the decision, but the appeal was denied. In the article, Robertson declared that he had hired the writers to write a screenplay from his original idea, but after several drafts, fired them, using only a few "isolated bits" of their dialogue. He called the final film "wholly his creation." In June 1973, as noted in a December 1974 Daily Variety news item, Cartwright and Shrake sued Robertson and Robertson & Associates for $100,000 for monies due them and damages. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
JW Coop was generally well reviewed, with Robertson earning praise for producing, directing, writing and starring in the picture. Although the film was rated PG upon its release, the rating was changed to PG-13 in 1996 when it was released on video. JW Coop marked the third and last film made by Robertson's production company. Although The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid was shot before JW Coop, it was released later in 1972.