According to the book "Future tense: The cinema of science fiction" by John Brosnan, Harry Harrison showed up one day on the set and passed out copies of the source book to the cast and crew. He also gave Edward G. Robinson pointers on his character.
During shooting, Edward G. Robinson was almost totally deaf. He could only hear people if they spoke directly into his ear. His dialogue scenes with other people had to be shot several times before he got the rhythm of the dialogue and was able to respond to people as if he could hear them. He could not hear director Richard Fleischer yell "cut" when a scene went wrong, so Robinson would often continue acting out the scene, unaware that shooting had stopped.
The video game in Simonson's apartment, Computer Space (1971), was one of the first coin-operated video games, manufactured by Nutting Associates in 1971 and designed by Nolan Bushnell, who later founded Atari and designed Pong (1972). The video game was painted white for the movie but the original color was either yellow, red or blue.
A sign saying "Tuesday is Soylent Green Day" appears in the film. Some people suggest that this inspired the name of the rock band Green Day. The font on the store-front window matches that used on Green Day's Uno, Dos, and Tres albums.
Among the buildings in the matte "skyline" in the nighttime background of future New York City in the scene where Gilbert crosses the drainage ditch, one can see the Marina City towers (Chicago) and the Transamerica Pyramid (San Francisco).
The chase scene during the climax has no dialogue because the writer, Stanley R Greenberg, didn't want it to become an action movie. A clause in the film's contract said no dialogue could be added or edited, so they made the entire chase silent.
This was the last film shot at MGM Studios back-lot on Overland Boulevard and Culver Boulevard in Culver City, California. The lot was razed in 1973 to make room for an assisted living community and condominiums.
In a scene leading to the riot where Soylent Green was being distributed, an exasperated woman coming out of the line said: "They gave me a quarter of a kilo! I stood in line the whole lousy day and they gave me a quarter of a kilo!" This suggests that America had switched to using metric system measuring weights in kilogram. America is presently using the imperial system.
Principal photography for the New York skyline was shot in 1970, before construction on the World Trade Center was finished. Due to this, the towers aren't featured in any shots of the skyline. Therefore the film inadvertently predicts 9/11 by showing a future New York City without the towers.
Detective Thorn's words, near the end, "Ocean's dying, plankton's dying..." turned out to be frighteningly correct and, in 1973, prophetic. It's now commonly accepted that civilized humans have reduced the mass of fish in Earth's ocean by some 90%, and a 2010 study reported that phytoplankton - one of our planet's two lungs - "has declined more than 40 percent since 1950 and the rate of decline is increasing."
In the theatrical trailer further dialogue from the end sequence can be heard from Charlton Heston that does not feature in the film. The film itself goes to freeze frame & the soundtrack is cut, in the trailer Heston's further pleas can be heard.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Thorn discovers he is too late to stop Sol's suicide, he begins to cry. According to a 1997 interview with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, Charlton Heston was really crying because he was so moved by Edward G. Robinson's performance. Robinson knew he was dying from cancer, and kept it from the cast and crew. He knew it would be his last film, and his death scene was the last scene he ever filmed. He died ten days after shooting wrapped.
When Thorn informs the priest in the overcrowded church that Simonson is dead, the priest says, "There should be a requiem Mass, but there's no room. Should I make room?" This is a wink to the source novel "Make Room! Make Room!" by Harry Harrison.
A small, green spirulina-based cracker called "Soylent Green" (officially licensed by MGM) was released in July, 2011. The box does not use any images or characters from the film, but rather attempts (humorously) to be an actual product. The ingredients list does not list "people."
When Edward G. Robinson is "going home", the overture is the principal theme from the first movement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, the "Pathetique." When the visual presentation starts, the music is the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony #6 (The Pastoral)". When the flock of sheep appear, the music is "Morning" from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite #1". At the end of the presentation is "Asas Death", also from the "Peer Gynt Suite".
It's not unusual for dystopian future films to feature women involved in prostitution. In this film's society, economically privileged men rent upscale apartments equipped with attractive female slaves, called "furniture". These women seem to associate their role with comfort and status.