Hilary Swank won the lead role of Brandon/Teena after hundreds of other actresses had been considered and rejected over the course of three years. She told director Kimberly Peirce that, like her character, she was also 21 and came from Lincoln, Nebraska. But she was fibbing, and when Pierce later confronted her with the lies, she responded, "But that's what Brandon would do."
When Hilary Swank was living as a man to prepare for the role of Brandon Teena, her neighbors believed that the young man coming and going from Swank's home (Swank in male character) was her visiting brother.
To prepare for her role, Hilary Swank lived life as a man for at least a month, including wrapping her chest in tension bandages and putting socks down the front of her pants much the same way that Brandon Teena did.
Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 25 Most Dangerous Movies." (In the description for the list, the magazine stated, "These are movies about which you could say, "That's Not Entertainment." They're not "rides" or "diversions." They are galvanizing experiences that place squarely in your face all the stuff Hollywood usually presumes you go to the movies to get away from. Films that rearrange your head, that challenge your bedrock ideas about life and love and the big sleep. Consciousness-expanders, in other words, but rarely in a pleasant way. Thank God for them.")
The real Lana Tisdel wasn't overly impressed with the film; though it was true that she dated Brandon, the moment Lana found out that he was transgender, she terminated the relationship then and there. Furthermore, she maintains that Brandon never proposed to her.
Lisa Jakub auditioned with Hilary Swank for the part of Brandon/Teena. Hilary showed up dressed like a boy; and walked and talked like a boy. The only thing Lisa had done was put her hair in a ponytail, and walked into the audition, hoping to get it over and done with. Lisa said that Hilary was committed to the role, and rightfully deserved it.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The rape scene was originally longer, as Kimberly Peirce wanted to show that Brandon was repeatedly raped the whole night. Due to the negative response from audiences in several screenings, the scene was eventually shortened.
John Lotter who killed Brandon Teena is on death row in Tecumseh State Correctional Facility in Tecumseh, Nebraska. John Lotter has been in prison since 02/21/1996. With Nebraska recently stopping the use of the death penalty he will most like just spend his entire life in prison until his death.
In the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006), director Kimberly Peirce says that the MPAA first gave the movie the NC-17 rating, which usually means that it will only get a limited release and most likely fail commercially. The MPAA especially named the scene where Brandon (Hilary Swank) is raped and the scene where Brandon gives oral pleasure to Lana as the reasons for the NC-17 rating. Peirce said she was shocked that the MPAA took issue with Lana's orgasm, which they commented on as "too long", but they had no quarrel with Brandon being shot through the head in explicit detail. Upon re-editing, the movie received an R rating for violence, rape, sexuality, language and drug use.