Elle Fanning replaced Carey Mulligan after she dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Had she remained this would have been her second collaboration with Refn after Drive (2011), and her second collaboration with Jena Malone after Pride and Prejudice (2005).
The film is dedicated to Nicolas Winding Refn's wife, Liv Corfixen. Corfixen also appears in the film as a restaurant guest in the "Beauty is not everything. It's the only thing" scene. According to Refn, this is one of his few films his wife liked.
Originally, a crew member was going to break the mirror in the bathroom. However, when he hit the mirror with a heavy vase, nothing happened. Nicolas Winding Refn panicked. So in a last minute effort, he asked Abbey Lee to throw a trashcan into the mirror in one shot, hoping for the best. On the first take, the mirror broke in a hundred pieces. This is the shot that was used in the film.
Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, and Abbey Lee had to endure a lot of fake movie blood during production, even having to taste a portion of it. The crew made it taste like syrup, in order to make it more pleasing for the performers.
When director of photography Natasha Braier read the script, she didn't really like it and when meeting with Nicolas Winding Refn, she told him honestly what wasn't working for her. He smiled, and replied, "Oh, you got the fake script".
Abbey Lee served as a unofficial advisor for the film, regarding details about the fashion world. Lee gave Refn intel about how an audition for models would play out, down to the things that the casting directors would have on their table. Abbey Lee also taught Elle Fanning how to do the proper catwalk as a professional model would do.
There was issues with casting the part of Dean. A lot of the actors auditioning tried to impersonate Ryan Gosling and it was not until Gaspar Noé suggested Karl Glusman the producers found an actor that worked. Both previously worked on Love (2015), which was Glusman's film debut.
There are various references to the work of Stanley Kubrick throughout the film. One of the models mentions a lipstick shade, "Red Rum" (The Shining), Keanu Reeves' character compares the girl in 214 to Lolita and several pivotal scenes occur in/around bathrooms, Kubrick's trademark.
Alessandro Nivola was originally supposed to play the part of Jack, but due to commitments to a play in London, he could not play the part due to how the schedule, which had the film shot in chronological order. Nivola and Nicolas Winding Refn still wanted him in the film, so Refn cast him in the part of the fashion designer. The part was originally smaller and written as a woman. Also the mustache Nivola fashion was grown for the play and could not be shaven. However Refn liked it and thought it added to the character.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Refn stated in a Q&A that the infamous morgue scene with Ruby and the corpse was improvised on set, originally having Ruby only kiss the corpse on the lips, Jena Malone went further and proceeded to molest the corpse.