Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor went for get-to-know-you drinks one night at the very start of the production. They both got exceedingly drunk, finishing the evening at 3:00 am. Their call-time was 5:30 am. Fortunately the scene being shot that morning was a wedding scene with no dialog, so instead of talking, all they had to do was look lovingly at each other. The two actors were concentrating so hard on not being sick that they were quite surprised when some of the people on-set started to cry, so convinced were they of their supposed looks of adoration at each other.
When Rock Hudson was cast, director George Stevens asked him whom he preferred as his leading lady, 'Grace Kelly' or Elizabeth Taylor. Hudson picked Elizabeth Taylor, who was cast in the film and ended up becoming lifelong friends with Hudson.
(1955) During this production shoot James Dean appeared in an informal black & white TV commercial in which he responded to questions posed by actor Gig Young. Ironically, Dean was promoting safe driving and informed viewers, "People say racing is dangerous, but I'd rather take my chances on the track any day than on the highway." Before he left the studio he added one piece of advice: "Drive safely, because the life you save may be mine." Dean was wearing the very hat and clothing he wore for this movie throughout the commercial. He perished a few weeks later in a car crash.
In the 40s and 50s the usual policy for films where characters would start young and get older was to cast older actors and de-age them to show them as their younger selves. "Giant" took the then largely radical step of doing the opposite - casting younger actors and using make-up to make them appear older.
Location filming took place for two months outside the tiny Texas town of Marfa. Director George Stevens did not have a closed set but actively encouraged the townspeople to come by, either to watch the shooting, visit with the cast and crew or take part as extras, dialect coaches, bit players and stagehands.
In the 2005 DVD release, there is what appears to be an inside joke in the title of one scene. The birthday party scene, in which Bick forces his visibly unhappy son to ride a horse, is titled "Uneasy Rider." Bick's son is played in adulthood by Dennis Hopper, who would go on to co-write, direct and star in Easy Rider (1969).
The lead character, Jett Rink, was based upon the life of Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy (1908 - 1988). The real Glenn McCarthy was an Irish immigrant who would later be associated with a symbol of opulence in Houston, Texas: the Shamrock Hotel, which opened on St. Patrick's Day, 1949.
James Dean called the shooting style of director George Stevens the "around the clock" method, because Stevens would film a scene from as many different angles as possible, which made everything seem to take longer to do.
The massive painting seen on the set of the Benedict home is now in the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. It has hung in several spots in the original 1800s section of the hotel. It now contains a plaque, stating its significance as a film prop.
A DVD version of the film was released in Canada, but not the U.S. - unusual for an American film. Warner Bros then pulled the Canadian release, causing a scurry of fans to buy the disc from Canadian distributors. The DVD quickly disappeared from stores, and became a rare item on auction websites for nearly two years, until its official North American release on DVD in 2003.
Originally budgeted just shy of $2 million, the film ended up costing over $5 million. Despite the worries of studio head Jack L. Warner, it went on to become Warner Bros.' biggest hit up to that time.
Orson Welles was inspired by the film to make The Other Side of the Wind (1972), one of his many unfinished opuses. It tells of an old director trying to complete an epic movie and being taunted by his young male lead who keeps calling him "Fatso". The director encourages his star to buy a sports car. In what exists of the film, the director is played by lean, lanky John Huston. "Fatso", however, was James Dean's nickname for George Stevens during the making of "Giant".
The film's famous final scene in which Bick Benedict battles it out with the racist owner of a diner is drastically different in Edna Ferber's novel. In that, Bick is not present, just his wife, daughter and Mexican daughter-in-law who dutifully leave without causing any trouble when told to by the diner owner.
In a prolonged scene, ranch hand Angel Obregon has been killed in World War II and his body returned home for burial. During the war, American battle dead were interred in temporary cemeteries. It was only after the war that, depending on the families wishes, American war dead were reburied in permanent cemeteries abroad, national cemeteries, or returned to the family (as in Angel's case) for burial at home. Accordingly, this scene would have occurred between 1947-1953, when the reburial process took place. (Source: "Safely Rest" by David P Colley)