Hey, It's That Place!: The diner that Irene works at is a pretty common shooting location. It's recognizable by the view of the elevated freeway in the background.
Inspiration for the Work: Refn's inspiration came partly from reading Grimms' Fairy Tales, and his goal was to make "a fairy tale that takes Los Angeles as the background," with The Driver as the hero. To play with the common theme of fairy tales, The Driver protects what is good while at the same time killing degenerate people in violent ways. He was also inspired by films such as Point Blank, Two-Lane Blacktop, The Driver, and Thief.
No Stunt Double: Although many stunt drivers are credited, Ryan Gosling did a number of stunts himself, after completing a stunt driving car crash course.
The film was originally planned as a big budgeted blockbuster star vehicle for Hugh Jackman directed by Neil Marshall before both abandoned the project.
Nicholas Winding Refn almost didn't get the job, and the film may possibly not have happened. Ryan Gosling and Refn have both talked about their terrible initial meeting. Refn was sick and delirious which Gosling interpreted it as him not being interested so he cut it short. During the car ride home Reo Speed Wagon came on the radio and Refn started singing along and bawling, then turned to Gosling and said "The movie is about a guy who drives around LA at night listening to pop songs". If that song hadn't come on the radio, the movie might not have happened.
Christina Hendricks wasn't the first choice for Blanche. Refn had originally sought to cast porn actresses to give the part a bit of Reality Subtext but couldn't find any with good enough acting skills and cast Hendricks in the part when his wife suggested her. Although hints of the intended Reality Subtext can be found in other parts in the movie; porn actress Andy San Dimas plays one of the strippers in Cook's lap-dance club.
Irene was written as a Hispanic character, as in the source novel. Her name was changed from "Irina" to "Irine" when Carey Mulligan was cast in the role.
Early drafts of the script had a significantly different second half. After the part where the Driver talks with Irene after his meeting with Cook where he realizes the real motives behind robbery he did for Standard, the Driver takes Irene out to make her feel better. She then gets killed by a hitman, who was actually sent by Nino to kill the Driver, who then chases him in his Impala and eventually crashes into the hitman's car, only managing to kill the hitman's driver while he escapes. Later in the script the Driver manages to find him and kill him with razor wire.
The Driver's character originally had some more scenes in this draft focusing on him and his "problem" of losing control and having rage attacks. At one point after an egoistic stuntman starts messing with him during the filming of a very difficult chase scene, the Driver crashes the stuntman off the road and ends up beating him up so badly that he breaks stuntman's jaw.
The ending of the first draft was very different. After killing the hitman who killed Irene, the Driver sneaks into Nino's beach house and kills all of his bodyguards and drowns him. And after killing Bernie Rose in same way like he kills him in the movie, a heavily wounded Driver decides to leave Los Angeles in order to protect Irene's son Benicio and his old friend Shannon (who unlike in the movie is not killed in this earlier draft) from the other mafia killers that will try to find him, while Shannon ends up taking care of Benicio and helps him find a place to live on ranch far away from Los Angeles.
The infamous head-stomping scene was originally far more graphic. Refn had even consulted with Gaspar Noé over how to make it look as realistic as possible, as he had directed a similarly graphic scene in Irréversible. In the end, the scene had to be cut down significantly due to complaints by ratings boards.
The script originally had much more dialogue, particularly in the interactions between Driver and Irine, but both Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan felt that their scenes worked better with minimal dialogue to focus on the mood, and Refn agreed. Refn also continually cut dialogue from the script during pre-production and filming.
Among the rumors about a potential sequel, dating back to 2011, one of them was a rough premise from Refn himself: the Driver would return and go up against an Evil Counterpart. Since then, Gosling expressed interest in a sequel during interviews about La La Land.
Some of the contestants have "sponsors" who got them into the race. Some sponsors have benevolent motives, while others have revenge or other nefarious ideas on their minds. One racer, John Trimble, sponsored himself, looking to have one last thrill before he dies. Other contestants, such as the team of Leigh, Susan and Ivy, were put in as background racers to shake things up, similar to non-player "bots" in a video game.
There were various ideas going around as to the identity of the truck driver who killed Susan. The most likely idea would've had it be a former contestant who had been crippled in the race and was now seeking revenge. Other ideas would have been for it to be a faceless serial killer (a la Duel), or have the driver be played by Eliza Dushku.
Had there been a second season, it would've focused on a new race and new characters, with first season characters taking on new roles in the race.