- Actor-Shared Background: Kris Kristofferson plays a divorcee with two children he never sees. He did indeed have two kids from a broken marriage.
- Enforced Method Acting: Ellen Burstyn said she was unprepared for how frightening Harvey Keitel became in the scene where Ben threatens his wife and Alice. "I had a meltdown after shooting and cried for an hour," she said. Martin Scorsese himself, even as well as he knew Keitel, said the actor terrified him from the moment he began his very intense and rather demonic preparations for the scene.
- Executive Meddling: According to Ellen Burstyn, Warner Bros.. executives wanted to cut the opening sequence of Alice as a little girl in Monterey but Martin Scorsese told them they would have to take his name off the picture if they did.
- Real-Life Relative:
- Ellen Burstyn's son Jefferson plays the son of her neighbour and best friend of Tommy in the opening sequences set in Socorro, New Mexico.
- Diane Ladd's daughter Laura Dern can be seen in the final diner scene - she is the little blonde girl with glasses sitting at the end of the counter eating an ice cream cone. As Dern would recall years later, it was after the 19th take - and exactly that many cones consumed - that Martin Scorsese informed Ladd that if her daughter could do that without throwing up, she had to be an actress.
- Reality Subtext: At the time of shooting, Ellen Burstyn was real-life best friends with her on-screen best friend Lelia Goldoni.
- Throw It In!:
- Ellen Burstyn improvised the line "I don't sing with my ass," supposedly based on her own show business experiences.
- According to Martin Scorsese, the shot of Alice and Tommy walking off together with a big sign saying "Monterey" ahead of them was not planned. It was only when cinematographer Kent L. Wakeford alerted him that it was in the shot that Scorsese became aware of it and very excited by it, instructing Wakeford not to crop it out of the frame.
- According to Scorsese, the pointless shoot-the-dog story was improvised into the script after a long van ride back from a location shoot during which Alfred Lutter incessantly repeated the story to Martin. Martin wanted to get that feeling of being a captive audience subject to the relentless retelling of the nonsense story into the film, so they improvised it into the script as Tommy repeating it to his mother and later to David.
- Luther also improvised the last line in the film, "Mom, I can't breathe,".
- Harvey Keitel improvised the bit about the scorpion hanging around his neck.
- What Could Have Been:
- Shirley MacLaine and Barbra Streisand turned down the leading role, a decision they both regretted. Anne Bancroft claimed she was briefly attached.
- In the earliest version of the script, one Martin Scorsese never saw, Robert Getchell had Tommy commit suicide.
- Early drafts of the script contained some very different approaches to what was eventually seen on screen. There was some thought of having Alice divorce her husband and run away, but Scorsese liked the idea that his death happened out of the blue—"the hand of God," he called it—that forced her to make the decision to change her life.
Trivia / Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore