A large amount of the people we see fired in the film are not actors, but people who were recently laid off. The filmmakers put out ads in St. Louis and Detroit posing as a documentary crew looking to document the effect of the recession. When people showed up, they were instructed to treat the camera like the person who fired them and respond as they did, or use the opportunity to say what they wished they had. A way to discern who are the actors, and who are the real people, is that the real people do not have dialogue with George Clooney or Anna Kendrick, as they were shot separately. Jason Reitman did this intentionally, feeling that the real people would freak out Clooney and Kendrick.
The card, with which Alex (Vera Farmiga) is so impressed (that Ryan Bingham has), is the American Airlines invitation-only Concierge Key. After the film was completed, Jason Reitman was invited into the program. Started in 2007, it helps members arrange for reservation changes, upgrades, and even airport meetings. It is sent to selected customers, and since it is not advertised, some travelers consider it a rumor.
Jason Reitman began writing the screenplay in 2002, when the economy was booming, and planned to make it as his first feature. The opportunity to make Thank You for Smoking (2005) and Juno (2007) presented themselves, and he put this off until this year, meanwhile, America plummeted into an economic recession. He said the film's tone changed completely, in response to the real world crisis, and works much better now as a topical piece, than it would have a decade ago, the delays in its realization being fortuitous.
Vera Farmiga used a body double for her nude scene. In an interview, she stated she has no problems being naked in a film, but she had recently given birth and "The breast milk running down would have been inappropriate."
There are no special privileges awarded by American Airlines for reaching ten million miles, as depicted in the movie. This was a case of artistic license by the filmmakers. However, American (like almost all major airlines with frequent flier programs) does offer special status for reaching one million miles. As of 2009, it is estimated that about four hundred thousand frequent fliers worldwide have reached this plateau, in at least one airline's program. In addition, many airlines, American included, have special invitation-only programs for their most valued customers, usually CEOs who can direct a lot of revenue their way. Perks include faster check-in, escorts to make close connections, and in rare cases, free private flights to replace cancelled ones.
When Alex is at the Atlanta airport, she asks Ryan if he knows a good place for ribs. Ryan tells her to go to "Fat Matt's", a real rib shack on Piedmont Avenue. Jason Reitman is a big fan of the restaurant. In return, owners Matt and Kelly Harper presented Reitman with a card entitling him to a "lifetime of ribs".
While at Lambert Field in St Louis, Ryan tries to make an impassioned speech to Natalie about Charles A. Lindbergh's plane "The Spirit of St Louis". Officially, Lindbergh's plane was a Ryan NYP (New York City to Paris), so the two share the same name. As a tribute to Charles Lindbergh, the airport displays a prop Spirit of St. Louis, used in the James Stewart movie of the same name.
In 2010, George Clooney (Ryan Bingham) was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, while that same year, a real-life person named Ryan Bingham, won an Oscar for the song "The Weary Kind", that he'd written together with T Bone Burnett, that featured in Crazy Heart (2009).
Sam Elliott has a small part as a pilot, who personally congratulates Ryan on finally achieving his coveted mileage award. In a deleted scene on the DVD, there is a shot of the airline's promotional poster on a wall, with a picture of Elliott as the airline pilot. Like many such posters, it includes a quote attributed to his character (Maynard Finch), but the name given after the quote is "Sam Elliott", not the character's name.
Screenwriters Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner never met, nor even knew from each other during writing the screenplay. When the novel was released in 2001, Turner read it, and wrote a speculative script adaptation, which he sold to DreamWorks in 2003. However, Reitman also discovered the book, and persuaded his father Ivan to acquire the film rights. Ivan Reitman then commissioned a screenplay by Writers Ted Griffin and Nicholas Griffin, who used some elements from Turner's speculative script. Finally, Jason Reitman developed his own screenplay, by using some elements from the Griffin script, that (unbeknownst to Reitman) originated with Turner. Reitman initially claimed a single screenplay credit for himself, but the WGA ruled that he should share his credit with Turner, as certain elements of his speculative script remained in the film.
Anna Kendrick later claimed that she was financially insecure as a working actress when she made the picture, and that during the promotional tour, her wardrobe was rented for her. Kendrick admitted that she felt bad about that, since she thought it sent a misleading impression to young actresses.
The newspaper headline "Cougars Take State" appeared in the Waupaca Daily Times. There is no newspaper in Waupaca, Wisconsin called the Daily Times. (Also, the Waupaca school mascot is the Comets, not the Cougars.) But, the point is rendered moot, since this is a fictional story.