The film was intended to be released in October 2009 but it was postponed because Paramount's remaining yearly marketing and Oscars campaigning budget could only afford for its two other movies, Up in the Air (2009) and The Lovely Bones (2009).
The movie's US $40.2 million opening weekend take in the United States marked a career best for director Martin Scorsese. It went on to gross over $293 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing film of his career. This was later surpassed by The Wolf of Wall Street.
The quote "remember us for we too have lived, loved and laughed" seen on a plaque on the way to the mental institution is taken from Medfield's Vine Lake Cemetery. A contest was held to come up with a quote to be used on a stone marker as a remembrance of those who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic known as the Spanish flu.
The ball-point pen Teddy uses in the film is a Parker Jotter, it was released in 1954 (the year the film takes place) and was the first successful and reliable ball-point pen to hit the market, which quickly drove fountain pens into obsolescence. Over 3.5 million pens were sold that year and the Parker Jotter dominated the ball-point pen market during that decade.
Scenery from Peddocks Island (initial island approach), Acadia National Park in Maine, Medfield State Hospital in Medfield, MA, and the Rice Estate at Turner Hill Country Club in Ipswich, MA were combined via CGI to create the imagery of Shutter Island as a whole. The large mountainous area of the island seen during the ferry approach was added in post-production and does not exist, but the decaying brick buildings on the lowlands are real ruins from Peddocks Island.
First scheduled to be released by Paramount in the US and Canada on 2 October 2009 to be in contention for that year's Oscars. Paramount later pushed the film back to 19 February 2010 due to financing problems (the studio didn't have the $50-$60 million necessary to promote an awards movie). Another reason cited for the push-back was Leonardo DiCaprio's unavailability for the interview circuit due to other filming commitments. Paramount also figured that a film geared towards adult audiences might achieve some traction in the doldrums month of February when there are traditionally very few "intelligent" movies released.
Shortly before its original release in October 2009, the movie was pushed back to February 2010. It did, however, have a special "secret" screening at Austin's "Butt-Numbathon" film festival in December of 2009. Critics attended the screening but were asked not to release their reviews until the official release date.
This was originally commissioned as a directing vehicle for Wolfgang Petersen. However, there were considerable modifications made to Dennis Lehane's novel in order to create a more action-driven blockbuster.
Leonardo DiCaprio's character mentions filing papers with "Hoover's Boys" during his first meeting with Dr. Cawley and Dr. Nahring. Leo later plays the character of J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's film "J. Edgar".
Even though Auschwitz is the most commonly known concentration/death camp to have the iron gates with arbeit macht frei (work sets you free), it is not the only camp to have this inscription whether on a gate or elsewhere. Dachau did have the iconic gate as well so it is correct that Teddy would have seen this gate and the gate would be in the scenes of them liberating the camp.
There are several clues and intentional continuity errors throughout the film that foreshadow the ending. This includes a patient's drink of water disappearing between shots (she drinks from an empty hand), a cardigan appearing briefly on 'Rachel' (which is later worn by the other 'Rachel') and lines from Edward/Andrew's dreams being repeated (such as "Why are you wet, baby?"). These techniques are also used in his dreams showing a similarity between what he perceives as a dream and what he perceives as real.
Leonardo DiCaprio's character has so polarized his two personalities that, for the first part of the film, Teddy never strikes a match to light his own cigarettes. This is no doubt because he associates matches with arson and the elusive Andrew Laeddis. However, as Ashecliffe's treatment begins to merge his personalities, he begins striking his own matches, particularly when he traverses cell block C.
Teddy Daniels' final line to Chuck Aule ("This place makes me wonder," he asks, "which would be worse - to live as a monster, or to die as a good man") is not in Dennis Lehane's book, and inspired an article in The Guardian (UK) over what the film's ending really meant. While Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese did not have concrete answers, the film's psychiatric adviser, Dr. James Gilligan, said that Daniels did choose his fate (and chose it as Andrew Laeddis); Dr. Gilligan said that Daniels' guilt over his past actions--especially his role in causing his wife to lose her mind and murder their children before he killed her--led him to commit a form of suicide by giving the Shutter Island staff the green light to fully lobotomize him. Dr. Gilligan also said that the film's treatment of Daniels succeeded because he did face his delusions, but failed in that his (apparently fake) retained psychosis gave the pro-lobotomy individuals a "win" in the debate over their methods versus new, non-surgical treatments.
The Dachau dream sequences were originally intended to be shot entirely in 65mm, but on the second night of using the 65mm cameras, they broke down entirely. However, a few shots in which Teddy goes through the camp in civilian clothes survive in the movie.
Dolores in the dream sequence is depicted as having her back hollowed out and ashen. In this aspect, she bears a strange resemblance to the Skogsrå or Huldra of Scandinavian folklore: beautiful forest trolls whose backs resembled hollowed-out trunks that seduced men into marrying them. If their men abused them, they would wreak vengeance on the men or revert to an ugly form. This may connect Dolores' mental breakdown to Teddy/Andrew's alcoholism and the implied mental and verbal abuse that she suffered at his hands as a result.