When Warren Oates gets out of his jeep after arriving at the motel, the paper he is holding (apparently a sheet of directions to the motel) is actually a page of the script which he used as a prompt for this scene.
Warren Oates was paid $5000 for his appearance as Colonel Willoughby. Director Roger Donaldson had wanted to cast Jack Nicholson, but the latter's agent turned down the role when informed of the film's low budget.
The Australian DVD special features state that the movie was actor Sam Neill's "debut as a feature film actor" though Neill had actually previously appeared in two 1975 films, the short NZ documentary Ashes (1975) and the earlier Kiwi cinema movie Landfall (1975).
The Australian DVD sleeve notes state that this movie was the "first New Zealand film feature ever shown in American [USA] theaters". For the web-page on Christian K. Stead, website Wikipedia states the picture "became the first New Zealand film released in the United States".
Melissa Donaldson played a character, Melissa, with the same first name as her own, whilst Cass Donaldson portrayed a character, Cass, who also had the same first name as her own. Both actors were relatives of the movie's producer-director Roger Donaldson.
According to the New Zealand Book Council website, the film's source novel by Christian K. Stead, "Smith's Dream, was . . . elicited by his involvement in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement. The novel brings the injustice of Vietnam home to New Zealanders by imagining how a similar war might arise here". The February-March 1978 edition of Australian "Movie News" magazine states that "Professor C.K. Stead's novel 'Smith's Dream' . . . was published in 1971 at the height of the anti-Vietnam war protests. It 'brought the war home' to New Zealanders by putting a Vietnam-type situation in a local setting".
The Charity World Premiere of Sleeping Dogs (1977) was held on 6th October 1977 at the Civic Kindergarten Cinema in Auckland, New Zealand. The Gala Charity Premiere Benefit was held in aid of the Lion's Club of Point Chevalier's "Aid to Deaf" fund.
"The [film's source] book ['Smith's Dream' by Christian K. Stead] foresaw some of the confrontations in police, army and protester action that occurred during the 1981 Springbok tour" according to Helen Martin in the book 'New Zealand Film, 1912-1996'.
Actor-writer Ian Mune has said of the casting of Warren Oates in this picture: "We couldn't pay him anything by international standards, so we offered him a sort of working holiday, flying him down here and sending for a South Island holiday after about ten days shooting. Oates said: "Anytime anyone wants me to go somewhere exotic, I'll go!".
Nevan Rowe performed a number of roles on this low-budget production. Rowe acted as a casting agent, production secretary, "general dogsbody", and in a major acting role portrayed Gloria, the wife of Smith (Sam Neill).
According to Helen Martin in the book 'New Zealand Film, 1912-1996', the movie "...is recognized as the film that marked the beginning of contemporary New Zealand cinema. Its success was followed by the announcement of the establishment of an Interim Film Commission".