Isabella Rossellini actually was naked under her velvet robe when she did the "ritualistic rape scene", a fact that her partner Dennis Hopper was not aware of, until the cameras started rolling and his co-actor opened her legs for him to kneel between. This scene was the very first time the two of them ever worked together.
Isabella Rossellini claims that during the initial filming of the ritualistic rape scene, David Lynch couldn't stop laughing off-screen at the weirdness of it all. Though she was baffled as to why he was laughing at the time, Rossellini says that to this day, she herself laughs uncontrollably every time she watches that particular scene.
Several of the actors who were considered for the role of Frank found the character too repulsive and intense. Dennis Hopper, by contrast, is reported to have exclaimed, "I've got to play Frank. Because I am Frank!"
The character of Frank was to breathe helium at various intervals in David Lynch's original script, but Dennis Hopper suggested this be changed to amyl nitrite which he knew was used to enhance sexual experiences. Hopper only realized years later how bizarre the concept of a helium-breathing maniac talking with a high voice was. Lynch, however, felt that using helium might result elicit laughter in the audience which would have been undesirable.
In an interview, Dennis Hopper claimed that writer/director David Lynch would never say the word "fuck" during filming, he would simply point to the line in the script and say "that word". Hopper laughed, saying "He can write it, but he won't say it. He's a peculiar man." Lynch has said this isn't exactly true, but he didn't want to charge the atmosphere anymore than it already was.
The role of Jeffrey was originally offered to Val Kilmer, who turned it down, describing the script he read as "pornography", although he says he would've done the version that finally made it to the screen.
A scene in which Dennis Hopper hits Isabella Rossellini was edited so that his hand connects with her face off-screen, to satisfy MPAA concerns about violence towards women. Director David Lynch opined that that change only made the scene more disturbing.
Roy Orbison initially rejected David Lynch's request to use the song "In Dreams" in the brothel scene. Lynch found a way to legally use the song anyway and Orbison did not discover the song was in the movie until Orbison just happened to see the movie in a California theatre. Orbison eventually filmed a video for the song that was produced by Lynch with footage from the movie.
The producers did not want to pay the rights for including the original recording of Bobby Vinton's song "Blue Velvet". So Angelo Badalamenti was brought in to record a new version that sounded exactly like the old one. After Badalamenti delivered, the filmmakers invited Vinton into a studio to re-record vocals for his famous song. It had to be arranged two and a half keys lower because of Bobby's changed vocal range. David Lynch heard the new recording, liked it, but thought that it would not work as well as the original version and finally convinced the producers to shell out the extra money for using it.
In the original screenplay, the sex scene between Jeffrey and Dorothy was longer; Jeffrey spins the propeller on her son's hat when Dorothy undresses him and Jeffrey learns Frank is coming. Dorothy thinks Jeffrey is her husband Don and cries when saying Jeffrey's name.
Contains several references to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Jeffrey Beaumont is warned not to go to Lincoln Street, where Deep River Apartments are located. Frank Booth's name evokes John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin. One of the victim's at the end is shot through the head much the same way Lincoln was.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
David Lynch supposedly cut the film from its original four-hour running time to one frame short of two hours. Despite many searches, the missing two hours of deleted scenes were thought to be lost, until in early 2011 Lynch announced that some footage had been found. The 2011 Blu-ray release features 50 minutes of those deleted scenes. The newly found scenes include Jeffrey at a college party before his dad's heart attack where he witnesses and stops a potential date rape; a woman lighting her nipples on fire at the bar/brothel that Frank brings Dorothy and Jeffrey to; many more scenes inside the Beaumont household with the mother and aunt; Jeffrey having dinner at the Williams house; a conversation between Jeffrey and Dorothy wherein Dorothy brings Jeffrey up to the roof of her apartment followed by a lovemaking session, and many more. Numerous still photos from deleted scenes appeared on the 2002 special edition DVD release of the film, even some which do not appear on the 2011 Blu-ray. The missing scenes can also be read in the original screenplay of the film, including an original ending in which Dorothy commits suicide.
In interviews, David Lynch has told of how Dorothy's nude scene was inspired by a childhood memory of his, when he and his brother, going home from school, came across a dazed naked woman walking down the street. Lynch has said that it made him cry and left a profound impression on him. Besides the impact on his life of the naked lady, Lynch says that the image of a severed ear and the mood of Bobby Vinton's 'Blue Velvet' song were two other major inspirations.
Among the deleted scenes that appeared on a 2011 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray edition were previously unseen scenes showing Jeffrey at college before he has to come home in the aftermath of his father's stroke. In these scenes, Jeffrey has a college girlfriend (who in the official cut of the movie went totally unmentioned) who was played by Megan Mullally, an actress who many years later became famous for playing "Karen" on the sitcom Will & Grace (1998).