According to Jermaine 'Huggy' Hopkins, Tupac Shakur often walked off the set during filming. As a prank, Hopkins told Shakur that he was being fired from the film. When Shakur found out that it was not true, he started a physical altercation with Hopkins.
In between takes, Tupac Shakur would sit quietly and write in a notebook. It is said that he was writing song lyrics in these notebooks. Shakur would become one of the more popular singers of the 1990's until his tragic death in 1996. Omar Epps did view part of the notebook that Tupac was writing song lyrics where the one that Epps read became Brenda's Got A Baby - at the same time the film was in production 2Pac was about to record his debut album 2Pacalypse Now which came out at the same time the film was released.
Tupac Shakur actually auditioned twice for the film. The first time, he had auditioned for Quincy (Q) the role that Omar Epps would be cast in and Director Ernest Dickerson was so impressed by his performance that he personally asked him to stay around and audition for another part which was the role of Bishop, which he had been having alot of trouble casting. Shakur happily agreed. After his second audition and as he left, Dickerson immediately knew that they found Bishop.
The actress who plays Sweets the lady who gives the gun to Omar Epps' character is in fact Writer/Director Ernest Dickerson's real life mom who had just retired from working at the New York public library and wanted to include her in the film.
The DJ Announcement at the end of the movie during the End Credits came about during the Test Screenings which the audience wanted to know what happend to Q's character after the final confrontation with Bishop on the rooftop. The result was that Q did not go to jail after everything that happend and had his mix tape played on the radio on KISS-FM 98.7 in New York City and is on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a professional DJ.
The film was shot on location in Harlem during the Winter months of early 1991 into the Springtime which is why you notice the differences in continuity weather wise throughout the film with the actors cold breath appearing in a few scenes, as well as rain soaked streets, barren trees and differences in their clothing attire (heavy winter coats to regular spring jackets and finally, to wool winter coat worn by Steel in a few scenes).
The original poster to the film actually featured Tupac Shakur holding a gun pressed to his chest and then was airbrushed out by Paramount because some one protested about the message it was sending to the African-American youths. At the time, there were many films featuring someone pointing a gun such as The Last Boy Scout which had been in theaters at the time or Stop, Or Mom Will Shoot which was also being released the same day as this film, that featured a similar theme to their posters which also possibly lead to the change. A few of the original posters were in circulation before the change and quickly replaced. Those posters are quite valuable now.
At one point, the script was option by The Donner's Company which was Director Richard Donner and his wife, Lauren Shuler-Donner's company who wanted to completely change the tone of the film and at one point suggested turning it into a comedy. Co-Writers Ernest Dickerson and Gerard Brown completely disagreed with the idea and wanted to keep the film as a "noir" film not a piece of junk and took back the rights to the script.
The film is based on interviews that Writer/Director Ernest Dickerson conducted with a group of his cousins friends who had lived around that area where the film was based. Dickerson ended up using everything he had heard and became the basis of the film itself as well as authenticity.
The film was originally written as a spec script by Ernest Dickerson and Gerard Brown while they were in film school. Producer David Heyman go ahold of the script from his friend and co-producer Peter Frankfurt who read it and immediately loved it. They met with Dickerson to discuss making it into a movie soon after.
This is Ernest Dickerson's directorial debut. Dickerson had been Spike Lee's personal cinematographer on his earliest films which include She's Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do The Right Thing, Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever and finally culminating with Malcolm X, which had finished production just before this film began to shoot in the Winter of 1991.
Sam Pollard, the films' editor was Writer/Director Spike Lee's personal film editor along with Barry Alexander Brown throughout the 1990's and early 2000's, which includes films such as Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Clockers, and Girl 6 amongst others. Ernest Dickerson was the cinematographer on most of Lee's films and hired Pollard to edit this film with the blessing of Lee himself. Pollard would also go on to edit Dickerson's next directorial film, Surviving The Game years later.
One of the records that Bishop, Raheem and Steel steal for Q at the Record store early in the film is by the rap group EpMD who is featured in the scene where Blizzard holds up the bar with Q as a witness soonafter they leave the record store. Q steals the cassette tape of their album during the scene after distracting the female clerk by asking her out.
The dedication at the end of the film "For Janet and Tamu" are personal dedications by Writer/Director Ernest Dickerson who passed away as a result of gun violence. The former being Dickerson's fiancee in and the latter being apart of the crew as a Production Assistant involved with the production who was murdered in Brooklyn after the film was in post-production soon after.
Amongst the principal cast, Jermaine Hopkins had the most experience in film and television after being featured in the film "Lean On Me" and on the Dick Wolf produced drama H.E.L.P. which Writer/Director Ernest Dickerson had was involved in and featured star Wesley Snipes who Dickerson worked with on Spike Lee's Mo Better Blues and Jungle Fever.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the original ending, Bishop lets go of Q's hand, deciding that he would rather fall to his death than go to jail. This was supposed to be a reference to an earlier scene in which Bishop watches the ending of White Heat (1949) and declares that he wants to die in the same way. Test audiences did not like this ending, and Paramount executives demanded it to be changed.
During the scene in which Bishop kills Raheem, Tupac Shakur actually did start to burst into tears due to the emotion of the scene which impressed and earned the respect of his co-stars Omar Epps and Jermaine Hopkins.
The films' original ending featured on the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray had Quincy (Q) hanging on to Bishop just like in the theatrical cut. The major difference was that just as Bishop was about to climb up, he hears police sirens closing in closer and closer and utters the words "I'm not going to jail" and Q responds with "Come on B(ishop), Don't Punk Out on Me Now" and lets go into a silent abyss in the alley. The studio then forced Ernest Dickerson to change the ending and stated that if he didn't change it, "the studio would not give him or the movie the support he was expecting". Reluctantly, Dickerson changed the ending and had to make the ending look as if Bishop slipped out of Q's hand instead of Bishop choosing to die. During the ADR session to re-loop everything, Tupac Shakur stated that "It was B.S." and Dickerson completely agreed with him also stating "Yeah, it is. It is B.S.". Then Shakur stated to Dickerson, "Well...I gotta scream?" Dickerson replied "Yeah" Shakur then said "Can it be a half-assed scream?" and Dickerson agreed stating "Yeah. Yeah, give me a half-ass scream man because maybe one day I'll be able to put it back the way it was." This was their own personal way of protesting the change because they both felt that the original ending gave Bishop more power than what the studio wanted. Dickerson completely regrets it to this very day.
One of three films in which the late Tupac Shakur's character dies in a film. This film being the first, followed by Above The Rim and ultimately his final film, Gang Related in 1997 as he had already passed on in real life.
Q, Bishop, Steel are Raheem are watching the film, White Heat, which Bishop gets completely excited about when James Cagney utters the line "Top Of The World Ma, Top Of The World!" foreshadows his own personal destiny at the end of the film during his final fight between himself and Q
The scene where Q walks into the bar to get cigarettes for Raheem and runs into Blizzard who is about the rob everyone inside foreshadows the Bodega robbery with Mr. Quiles in which Q was also a witness too.