Eric Bogosian wrote the screenplay with help from director Oliver Stone. The screenplay was almost entirely based on Bogosian's original play and some biographical information about Alan Berg, a talk show host in Denver who was murdered in 1984 by white supremacists.
In his research for this film version, actor Eric Bogosian often watched the on-air production of Tom Leykis' talk show, then originating from Los Angeles station KFI. Bogosian's fictional character in the film shares many speech patterns and mannerisms with real-life talker Leykis.
When Barry is bring introduced to the crowd at the SMU basketball game, the Emcee says that "football will be back in the fall". It was during this period that the real SMU football program had received the "death penalty" from the NCAA for recruiting violations, and the program itself had been forced to shut down operations.
The film's source stage play's original off-Broadway production opened at Martinson Hall and the Joseph Papp Public Theater on 29th May 1987 and ran for 210 performances across six months until it closed on 29th November 1987. The play's debut on Broadway, a revival commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the play, opened at the Longacre Theater on 11th March 2007, and ran for 121 performances across about 3½ months, until it closed on 24th June 2007. This production won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2007.
The film was made and released about a year after its source stage play of the same name written and/or conceived by Tad Savinar and Eric Bogosian had been first performed in 1987. Bogosian also co-wrote the screenplay for this motion picture.
Actor Eric Bogosian starred in his source stage play of the same name, from which this movie is based, at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater in 1987, in the year before this motion picture debuted.
According to show-business trade paper 'Variety', "known in theatrical circles as a monologist and performance artist, Eric Bogosian debuted the initial incarnation of Talk Radio in Portland, Ore[gon], in 1985. For the screenplay, he and director Oliver Stone worked in material relating to Alan Berg, the Denver talkshow host murdered by neo-Nazis in 1984, and also created a flashback to illuminate their antihero's personal background and beginnings in the radio game".
One of the sensitive subjects covered during Barry's show is the genocide of WWII and certain people's denial of such. Eric Bogosian is of Armenian descent and also took part in Ararat (2002), a film concerning the Armenian genocide and certain people's denial of such.
According to his autobiography, Nevertheless, Alec Baldwin hated working with Oliver Stone due to his ego and militant directorial style, describing him as a "Machiavellian filmmaker who would throw his own mother down a flight of stairs if it would help him get his project financed, get the shot he wanted, or simply get his way."
The film's title, Talk Radio, is defined by the Wikipedia website as " . . . a radio format containing discussion about topical issues. Most shows are regularly hosted by a single individual, and often feature interviews with a number of different guests. Talk radio typically includes an element of listener participation, usually by broadcasting live conversations between the host and listeners who "call in" (usually via telephone) to the show. Listener contributions are usually screened by a show's producer(s) in order to maximize audience interest and, in the case of commercial talk radio, attract advertisers. Generally, the shows are organized into segments, each separated by a pause for advertisements; however, in public or non-commercial radio, music is sometimes played in place of commercials to separate the program segments. Variations of talk radio include conservative talk, hot talk, liberal talk (increasingly known as Progressive talk) and sports talk".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
If you listen closely, next to the final minutes, the therapist whose program follows Barry's show mentions about a disturbed guy she met on the parking lot minutes earlier before she went on the air, and when she says that, Barry is talking to someone else and doesn't pay any attention. That crazy guy end up to be Barry's killer.