George Clooney was picked partly because of his work on ER (1994). Quentin Tarantino liked the irony that Clooney had gone from saving people at the ER to playing a character who sends people to the ER.
The famous line, "No thanks, I've already had a wife," was improvised by George Clooney. Director Robert Rodriguez never intended it to be in the final cut, but after the studio included the line in a trailer, he felt obliged to include it in the film.
Salma Hayek has a real fear of snakes and had always refused to be near them. Naturally when she read the script, she knew her phobia would prevent her from taking the part. Robert Rodriguez conned her into thinking that Madonna was ready to nab the part instead so Hayek spent two months with therapists to overcome her fear.
The first script that Quentin Tarantino was paid to write, for the mere sum of $1,500. Special effects technician Robert Kurtzman asked him to write a screenplay based on his story in return for providing the ear-slicing scene in Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Originally, Satanico Pandemonium was called Blonde Death. Quentin Tarantino decided to go for a Latino/Mexican star, so he used Salma Hayek after seeing her in Desperado (1995). The name Satanico Pandemonium came from the title of a gory Mexican horror movie (Satanico Pandemonium: La Sexorcista (1975)) that Tarantino had seen on the shelves of the video store he worked in.
Writer Trademark (Quentin Tarantino): [trunk shot]: When the opening credits finish and the Geckos retrieve their hostage, we look from the woman's point of view from inside the trunk of the car up at the Geckos. This is, of course, the familiar type of angle Tarantino puts in all of his films.
The name of the movie is taken from the signs found on drive-ins. These signs indicate the length of the shows, which ran "from dusk till dawn". The movie is full of references to midnight movies and films which were often intended for teenagers to watch late at night from their cars.
Originally, the Titty Twister massacre and fight scenes were longer and lot more gorier with more deaths of both vampires and humans before they were cut for rating and pacing. Some workprint footage shows all the uncut scenes.
Originally Quentin Tarantino pitched this to John Travolta the same time as he was preparing to film Pulp Fiction (1994). Travolta was not interested in working on a vampire movie and wanted to work on Pulp Fiction instead.
The exterior set for the Titty Twister burned down at one point. This caused great delays in filming. Other delays were caused by dust storms and the threat of union action because of shooting with a non-union crew.
The characters of Sex Machine and Frost were originally written the other way around: Sex Machine was to be the muscular, scarred, leather-wearing biker while Frost was to be a more slender (yet deadly) individual.
In both the Titty Twister bar near the beginning, and near the end of the film when Seth Gecko meets with Carlos the gangster, he is offered a beer. He's told by both the vampire bartender and Carlos that he/they have Mexican and domestic. Since they're in Mexico that means all they have is Mexican beer.
In 2001, prolific French video game developer Cryo (also known as Cryo Interactive Entertainment) released on PC "From Dusk Till Dawn", their action/horror third person shooter tie-in video game that was very loosely based on this movie. The game immediately fell into obscurity. The plot was set after the events on the movie and followed Seth Gecko, who's arrested and sent to a tanker-turned-high-security-prison that's anchored near the coast. When vampires and their familiar leader attack the prison, Seth gets a chance to try to escape but also be a hero and save several survivors he runs into and solve a puzzle or two, all while gunning down bloodsuckers on his way to freedom.
Juliette Lewis was cast because of her friendship with Quentin Tarantino. She previously appeared in Natural Born Killers (1994), whose original screenplay was written by Tarantino (his draft would eventually be heavily revised and he ultimately received a "Story By" credit), and Tarantino liked her so much that he suggested she play Kate.
This marks the first time in a film scripted by Quentin Tarantino and that Harvey Keitel co-stars with him that they're on opposite sides of the law. In Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) they were both criminals; in this film, Tarantino is a criminal and Keitel is a former preacher, although he still wears the clothes and a hat. Incidentally they both wear glasses in this film.
Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino) talk to each other once in the whole movie when Richie say's to Jacob that "if he can borrow his ice bucket" throughout the rest of the movie he only talk's to Seth (George Clooney).
At the beginning of the film, Pete Bottoms of Benny's World of Liquor (played by John Hawkes) mentions to Seth Gecko (George Clooney) that he should "get a fucking' Academy Award" for acting natural. Fifteen years later, Hawkes was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Winter's Bone (2010).
In the screenplay, Santanico Pandemonium was supposed to dance to a recording of "Down in Mexico" by the Coasters. In the film, Rodriguez used "After Dark" by Tito & Tarantula, who plays the house-band in the film. Tarantino later reused the idea of a dance to "Down in Mexico" in Death Proof (2007).
Fred Williamson plays a character who mentions he was in the Vietnam War in 1972. This is ironic considering that Fred's first film appearance was in the movie MASH (1970). While that film was set during the Korean War, it's said it was written for those with loved ones and for those serving in Vietnam as a form of comedic relief.
When the Geckos and Fullers are drinking at the Titty Twister, you can see a neon Chango beer sign behind Seth (George Clooney). Chango is the beer served at the Mexican dive bar in the film Desperado, directed by Robert Rodriguez. Quentin Tarantino also has a small role in that film and his character is served the same beer. Furthermore, the bartender that serves Tarantino's character Chango beer, is played by Cheech Marin.
In the screenplay, Frost was supposed to face of Razor Charlie with the pool cue and Sex Machine was supposed to hurl vampires onto the legs of a table to kill them. In the finished film, their actions are reversed.
Greg Nicotero: The long haired biker that Tom Savini's character steals the beer from is the makeup effects supervisor. His character makes a further appearance in a deleted scene where in he is brutally murdered by Santanico Pandemonium when she sits on his lap (in human form) and seduces him into a false sense of security. Then a second vampiric snake-like mouth erupts from her own and bites his head off in an explicit fashion.
There was a special makeup effect in which one of the stripper-vampires has her stomach open into a large mouth. She shoves a bar attendant's head into the large mouth, and bites it off. The effect was so graphic that writer/actor Quentin Tarantino didn't even want to see it. The scene can be accessed in the deleted scenes section on the special edition DVD.
In the original script, Quentin Tarantino made all the Fullers and the Geckos survive the ordeal, but changed it to only one of each group surviving, because he felt it'd be more exciting with victims.
Writer Trademark (Quentin Tarantino): Bare Feet: Tarantino's character Richard often finds himself involved with womens' feet. Richard is seen obsessing over Kate's feet when he holds her at gunpoint in the RV, He drinks the alcohol spilling from Satanico Pandemonium's foot, and even tells the hostage to take off her shoes before she gets into the bed with him, even though he is still wearing his.