Fifteen babies played the Arizona quintuplets in the film. One of the babies was fired during production when he learned to walk. The mother went so far as to put her baby's shoes on backwards in order to prevent him from walking.
Randall 'Tex' Cobb was not familiar with riding motorcycles prior to filming. While shooting the scene where he rides up to inspect the hole where Evelle and Gale had escaped from prison, he actually crashed into the hole on one of the takes.
In the scene where Ed, Hi and Dot are sitting at the picnic table discussing raising a healthy baby, Frances McDormand' suddenly shouts at an off-camera child actor to take his sister's diaper off his head. Holly Hunter is visibly startled by this and either because of McDormand's line delivery or by this being an unexpected ad-lib, can be seen struggling to compose herself and hide a smile behind her hands.
The relationship between Nicolas Cage and the Coen Brothers was respectful, but turbulent. When he arrived on-set, and at various other points during production, Cage offered suggestions to the Coen brothers, which they ignored. Cage said that "Joel and Ethan have a very strong vision and I've learned how difficult it is to accept another artist's vision. They have an autocratic nature."
When Ed tells H.I. not to cuss around Nathan, he responds with "He don't know a cuss word from Shinola". In the American South, to "not know shit from Shinola" (an old brand of shoe polish) means to be incredibly clueless.
The prison counselor at the beginning of the film wears a Chai on his necklace. Chai is a Hebrew word and symbol that means "life," and is pronounced as if you were saying "hi" in English. Nicolas Cage's character "H.I." is called "Hi" throughout the film.
The news article H.I. reads early in the film about the Arizona Quints contains the following text: "Their father is unpainted furniture tycoon Nathan Arizona, who is reportedly pondering a run for Congress in the 4th district. Pete Peterson, Republican incumbent in the 4th, dismissed the birth of the quints as 'a cheap publicity stunt' in a news conference Thursday. He characterized Nathan Arizona as an 'unprincipled media hog and a loud hectoring nitwit', but conceded that 'Trey Wilson', the actor portraying him, as a 'very nice fellow with a distasteful job to do.'" [sic]
Although the letters POE and OPE (a reference to Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove) are shown reflected in the mirror in reverse, the writing on the "We aim to please..." sign on the same wall is not reversed. Later, when the Biker breaks down the door, you can see that the sign is actually printed in reverse lettering.
The cigar-smoking bird tattoo was originally the logo of Clay Smith Cams in 1950s, a company making high performance engine parts. The logo, with the trademark clenched cigar, represents Smith himself and is known as "Mr. Horsepower". Smith closed the business in the 1960s and the logo was adopted by what is now Tenneco for their Thrush muffler line.
Wanting to have as many options as possible in the editing room, the Coens and their cinematographer, Barry Sonnenfeld, decided at one point to have H.I. run through the house while holding a camera towards himself. After seeing the results, they was decided it was too weird.
There really is a Farmers & Mechanics Bank (though note that in the film it's Farmers and Mechanics Bank, with "and" instead of an ampersand) in Galesburg, Illinois. But there was a bank of the same name (relationship to the Illinois bank unknown) in the Coen Brothers' home town of Minneapolis. The bank no longer operates in the Twin Cities, but its 1942 building is considered historically significant and is now a hotel.
The Coens came to the set with a complete script and storyboard. With a budget of just over five million dollars, Joel Coen noted that "to obtain maximum from that money, the movie has to be meticulously prepared."
According to Sam McMurray, one day he and Nicolas Cage went out to eat at a diner and an excited female fan came over to their table. She couldn't decide if the man she was looking at was really Cage. Once convinced it was him, she asked him for an autograph. Cage wrote on a cocktail napkin 'Tomorrow you will die. Nic Cage.'
At the end of the sequence where H.I.'s dream of the lone biker forms into the reality of Mrs Arizona discovering she is one baby short, the camera skims along the ground and jumps a child's bike, a car and then a fountain, before shooting up the ladder into the bedroom. This sequence seems to be a reference to the condensed career of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, who jumped bikes, cars, buses and then spectacularly crashed after jumping the fountain at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas.
After the success of Blood Simple. (1984), the Coen Brothers planned for The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) to be their next film. Because the budget for that movie ($40 million) wouldn't work for their producers at Circle Films, they wrote this instead.
The station wagon that Gale and Evelle steal at the gas station has a "Mondale/Ferraro" bumper sticker on the front and back bumpers. Walter Mondale and Geraldine A. Ferraro were the Democratic ticket in the 1984 presidential election against Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Early in the film H.I. partly blames Reagan for his need to rob convenience stores.
As Hi watches the sun rise on day one with baby Nathan Jr. He says, "Sometimes it's a hard world for the little things". This is taken from Rachel Cooper's observation in The Night of the Hunter (1955) - "It's a hard world for the little things" .
While many reviews refer to Randall 'Tex' Cobb's character Leonard Smalls as a "Harley-riding biker," the motorcycle in the movie is in fact a Honda Shadow that has been subjected to the "Rat Bike" treatment along with some extra flame-emitting plumbing. The Shadow is slightly smaller than a Harley Big Twin, which would give Cobb's character a bit more stature than he already has. One must also assume that since the bike is trashed near the end of the movie, it saves the production company a few coin.
The cell block that H.I. is brought into every time he has been arrested and sent to jail is Cell Block 2, which is in Central Unit at Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence. It is also the same cell block that Skip and Harry are imprisoned at in Stir Crazy (1980).