The film's plot involves the children's charity "Childreach". Since 2002, the year of the film's release, the organization has referenced the film and featured its poster in its literature for prospective child sponsors.
Len Cariou plays Ray and Angela Lansbury narrates the Childreach commercial. They played Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett respectively in the original Broadway version of the musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
A scene that echoes Jack Nicholson's famous diner scene in Five Easy Pieces (1970) (his exchange with the waitress) was in an early cut of the movie in which Schmidt concedes in a cowardly fashion to the dictates of the waitress. Though the preview audience went wild over it, director Alexander Payne cut it from the final film because he felt that the scene was too much of a pointed reference to Nicholson's iconography and that something so referential took the audience out of the film.
The movie theater that Warren drives by before he goes to the museum to look at the arrowheads is the Pioneer 3 in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The "museum" is a Civil War museum in the same town, just down the street.
Once the filmmakers bought the rights to the Louis Begley novel, they kept the title and the main character but changed just about everything else. In the book, the main character lived in the Hamptons and his daughter was about to marry a lawyer.