Michelangelo Antonioni's original ending was a shot of an airplane sky-writing the phrase "Fuck You, America," which was cut by MGM president Louis F. Polk along with numerous other scenes. Louis F. Polk was eventually replaced by James T. Aubrey, who had most of the cut footage restored, but without this final shot.
On March 8, 1967, Hail Thomas Hansen, 20, took a private plane from Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, for a joy ride, flying to Tucson. When he returned to Sky Harbor early in the morning of March 9, the Phoenix police were waiting for him. Hansen was shot and killed. Antonioni used elements of this story in his screen play. For additional details of Hansen's death, see "Tucson Daily Citizen," March 10, 1967 (page 2) and March 22, 1967 (page 18).
In real life, Mark Frechette led a counterculture life much like his character's in the film. Three years after the release of Zabriskie Point (1970) he was imprisoned for his part in a bank hold-up in Boston. He died in prison in 1975 during a weightlifting exercise when a barbell fell on his neck.
"Fingals Cave", a piano piece composed by Richard Wright of Pink Floyd for the 'violent scene' went unused, but was later reworked by the band as "Us and Them" on their album "Dark Side of the Moon". In its original form it has featured on various bootleg albums.
Remembering the scoring sessions for this film, members of Pink Floyd later commented that Michelangelo Antonioni was very difficult to please, offering vague comments like (quoting the bandmembers, mimicking Michelangelo Antonioni's accent) "Eets nice, but too slow" or "Eets a leetle bit too soft."
Michelangelo Antonioni's leftist politics made the film controversial from the start. The production was harassed by groups opposed to the movie's alleged "anti-Americanism." FBI agents tailed cast and crew members. Filming locations were besieged by right-wingers protesting an alleged scene of flag desecration, which never happened. Militant anti-establishment students worried they were being "sold out". The sheriff of Oakland, California, accused Michelangelo Antonioni of provoking the riots he had come to film. Death Valley park rangers initially refused to allow Michelangelo Antonioni to shoot at Zabriskie Point because they thought he planned to stage an orgy at the site; it was conceptualized, but never seriously considered. The U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento opened grand jury investigations into both the film's alleged "anti-Americanism" and possible violations of the Mann Act, a 1910 law prohibiting the transportation of women across state lines "for immoral conduct, prostitution or debauchery," during the Death Valley filming. The investigation was dropped, reluctantly, when they learned that Zabriskie Point was at least 13 miles west of the California-Nevada border.
Michelangelo Antonioni's assistant and casting director, Sally Dennison, first spotted Mark Frechette having an argument with a woman at a bus stop in Los Angeles. Frechette was not an actor but a carpenter at the time so when Dennison brought him to Antonioni's attention, she told him "He's twenty and he hates". Antonioni cast him on the spot.
Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin became romantically involved during the film's protracted shooting schedule with Mark's wife consent.Later they got divorced yet Daria didn't want to live in a commune like Mark so they eventually split.
The house in the boulders was an actual house in Carefree, Arizona. The explosion of the house was done by recreating a mock-up of the house on the back lot of Southwestern Studios, also located in Carefree Arizona. The mock-up was exploded.
The lead actor Mark Frechette had a different idea about this film,unlike the director Antonini. Mark wanted to be a film about the 1968 student revolt against the system whilst the director Antonini insisted on making an art film so they constantly disagreed.
Both lead characters were named after the actual actors who played them: Mark & Darla. When a cop asked Mark what's his name Mark's witty answer was 'Karl Marx' but the cop misspelled the first name as 'C-A-R-L'.