Clint Eastwood did all of his own stunts, including the scene where he cuts his safety line over a drop of at least one thousand feet. The only stunt he did not perform was a 2500-foot drop, for which a dummy was used.
The shoot marked the last time that anyone was allowed to climb the "Totem Pole" in Monument Valley. In return for permission to film there, climbers with the production had to remove all of the pitons, which had accumulated from years of climbing, on their way down.
Many of the names of characters were originally inside jokes; for example, in the novel the full name of the character 'Dragon' is 'Urassis Dragon' ("Your Ass is dragging"). Also, Hemlock (the name of the assassin) is a poison.
This is the only film that John Williams has scored for Clint Eastwood. He was suggested by the studio and the producers of the film, Richard Zanuck and David Brown, after Jaws and because Williams knew that Eastwood was a huge fan of jazz; he did incorporate that style into his score which also features a classical. more traditional orchestral sound.
In the car-chase scene, where Hemlock is being pursued along a cliff road by Miles Mellough and his bodyguard Dewayne, there was so much dust that Dan Howard, who played Dewayne, could not see where he was driving. To compensate, he drove looking up through the sunroof and followed the ridge line above. While effective, this driving method so unnerved actor Jack Cassidy that he demanded his stunt man take his place in the car.
Before being attached as the director, Clint Eastwood originally asked his friend Don Siegel to direct the film as he personally felt that he wasn't capable of directing an action film with dangerous stunts like this one had. After a long positive talk with Siegel, Eastwood took the reins as director.
In this movie, George Kennedy has a daughter who had been a drug user. In real life, George's daughter Shaunna was a chronic drug offender. George adopted Shaunna's daughter Taylor in March 2000 when Shaunna was declared an unfit mother.
Two custom 1975 Ford Broncos were specially built for this film, the one used in filming and a support vehicle, similar to the film truck but with a powerful winch and a much better sound system. The support truck is privately owned, while the film truck's fate is a mystery.
Clint Eastwood preformed the sequence where his character hangs off the side of a mountain by a cable himself without the use of a stunt double. Eastwood later told film critic Roger Ebert, that during the films release he donned a disguise and slipped into a screening of the film to judge the audiences reactions. To Eastwood's dismay, during the sequence a woman sitting in front of him asked her friend, 'Gee, I wonder how they did that?' to which she responded, 'Special effects.'"
Clint Eastwood seriously considered abandoning the project after the death of climber David Knowles. However, he decided to continue on with the film so that Knowles' death was not in vain. There were a number of accidents, injuries and mishaps during filming of the climbing sequences, that were not reported to the media.
Brenda Venus was 18 years old when she played the role of 'George'. She went on to become the pen pal then lover and muse of writer Henry Miller. She also became a successful author, writing books giving advice on seduction for men and women, and a regular column for Playboy magazine.
Director Eastwood used original oil paintings borrowed for the film.The piano nocturne in E flat major opus 9 number 2 by Chopin is during the Wormwood scene.The Pissarro painting on the black market is "Woman Digging in an Orchard" 1882.The sports car at Bowman's climbing school is a Bizzarrini 5300 GT.Eastwood is a jazz fan and Mellow Miles is the title of an album by Miles Davis."Screw Marlon Brando" was about Brando who supported Native American rights.The beer at the hotel and with Pope is Feldschlossen Original Lager. An alpine foehn wind forced the climbers to retreat.