Whilst the book was still in manuscript form, producer Richard Shepherd read the film's source novel by Whitley Strieber in 1980 and subsequently acquired the film rights. Even as the novel was published in book form, Shepherd had screenwriters busy writing the screenplay.
David Bowie said that, in order to make his voice suitably hoarse for when he aged so drastically in the movie, he stood on the George Washington Bridge every night and screamed all the punk rock songs he knew.
In The Celluloid Closet (1995), the 1995 documentary about the history of homosexuality in film, actress Susan Sarandon said that the screenplay for The Hunger (1983) originally called for her to be demonstrably drunk in the lead-up to her sex scene with Catherine Deneuve, but Sarandon asked for it to be changed so that her character had only a single sip of wine and then spilled the rest of the glass. She said she wanted to make it clear that her character was choosing to have sex with Miriam instead of doing it because of the alcohol, and also because "you wouldn't have to get drunk to bed Catherine Deneuve, I don't care what your sexual history to that point had been".
One day during filming, costume designer Milena Canonero, who is famously dedicated to her craft, disappeared and was nowhere to be found. It was discovered eventually that she had flown to Rome to purchase fabric for a handkerchief David Bowie is supposed to wear. Unable to find fabric she liked in London, Canonero had flown to Rome at her own expense to find the fabric she needed instead.
Under the direction of the MGM studio, the film's ending was changed so as to allow for the possibility of sequels and a franchise, something common to the horror film genre, but no such sequel ever eventuated.
The film spurred a short-lived TV series of the same name The Hunger (1997) which ran for around three years. The series, first broadcast fourteen years after this movie, utilized the same title and vampire lore, but had no plot or character connections with this film.
Source novelist Whitley Strieber wrote two sequels to his novel "The Hunger". They were "The Last Vampire" (2001) and "Lilith's Dream: A Tale of the Vampire Life" (2003), but neither have ever been filmed.
Tony Scott wanted to shoot the whole film in New York City, but had to settle for filming the bulk of the movie in London, England because the budget wasn't big enough to afford shooting the entire picture in New York.
The piece of music played at the piano was "The Flower Duet" (French: Sous le dôme épais) from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé. The duet has often been used in commericals, not unsurprisingly, director Tony Scott prior to this had been a director of them.
In September 2009, the Warner Brothers studio announced a remake of this movie with the screenplay to be written this time by source novelist Whitley Strieber but to date [April, 2013] the remake has not been made.
This was the second movie in not so many years with an erotic scene that actress Susan Sarandon appeared in that gained public notoriety. Sarandon had recently been seen in Louis Malle's Atlantic City (1980) where she washed topless with lemons in front of an open window whilst in The Hunger (1983), Sarandon performed a same-sex love scene with French actress Catherine Deneuve.
Musical Director Howard Blake has said of this film on his personal website: "Tony [Scott] wanted to create a score largely using classical music and I researched this, many days going to his home in Wimbledon with stacks of recordings to play to him. One of these was the duet for 2 sopranos from Delibes 'Lakme', which I recorded specially with Elaine Barry and Judith Rees, conducting my orchestra The Sinfonia of London. Howard Shelley joined with Ralph Holmes and Raphael Wallfisch to record the first movement of Schubert's Piano Trio in E flat. Ralph recorded the Gigue from Bach's Violin Partita in E and Raphael the Prelude to Bach's solo cello sonata in G, to which Bowie mimed. I was persuaded to appear in one scene as a pianist, for which I wrote a 'Dolphin Square Blues'. Tony wanted to add a synthesizer score and I introduced him to Hans Zimmer, then working at The Snake Ranch Studio in Fulham but Tony eventually used a score by Michel Rubini and Denny Jaeger with electronics by David Lawson. It is hard however to exactly separate these elements".
The miniature cross dagger is called an Ankh. It is also known as the key of life, the key of the Nile and "crux ansata" (from the Latin meaning "cross with a handle"). The Ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character meaning "life", a trilateral sign for three consonants. The knife component of it is something which it was physically adapted into, the blade does not usually exist as part of the symbol. The Ankh knife featured prominently in one of the film's main movie posters.
Susan Sarandon's character (Sarah Roberts) has a relationship with Miriam Blaylock who is played by French actress Catherine Deneuve. Sarandon in real life had in recent times prior to this picture had a relationship with French director Louis Malle.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Actress Susan Sarandon once said of the movie's changed ending: "The thing that made the film interesting to me was this question of, 'Would you want to live for ever if you were an addict?' But as the film progressed, the powers that be rewrote the ending and decided that I wouldn't die, so what was the point? All the rules that we'd spent the entire film delineating, that Miriam lived forever and was indestructible, and all the people that she transformed [eventually all] died, and that I killed myself rather than be an addict [was ignored]. Suddenly I was kind of living, she was kind of half dying... Nobody knew what was going on, and I thought that was a shame".