Al Pacino and Penelope Ann Miller became romantically involved during filming. Miller spoke publicly about their romance in interviews. But Pacino was in a relationship with Lyndall Hobbs at the time. Pacino attended the film's premiere with Hobbs and avoided Miller entirely.
Al Pacino first met Judge 'Edwin Torres' in 1973 while he was preparing for Serpico (1973). At the time, Torres was in the midst of writing the novels on which the film is based and discussed them with Pacino. Twenty years later, Torres took Pacino to East Harlem to help him prepare of the role of Carlito.
According to Brian De Palma, Sean Penn demanded 30 takes of the shot of Kleinfeld asking Carlito to help him with Tony T's escape. When De Palma wanted to move on to the next shot, Penn screamed at De Palma. He continued to yell at De Palma on the ride back to New York City. He later called De Palma on the phone to continue yelling at him. De Palma said that was the only argument they had on the film.
The on foot chase scene took months and months to film. "We started the chase in the winter," said Brian De Palma, "and finished it in the middle of summer." Al Pacino's black coat started to cause the actor issues when they were filming the chase from train carriage to train carriage, as it was the height of summer. "He was sweating to death." said De Palma. "At one point he said he'd had enough and he actually took the train home."
Directors John McKenzie and Abel Ferrara were considered before Brian De Palma was hired. De Palma was originally reluctant to accept the job because he did not want to make another film about a Latino gangster as he did in Scarface (1983). But the script convinced him otherwise.
According to writer David Koepp, Al Pacino and Sean Penn had trouble with the hospital scene, so Koepp kept rewriting it to the point of being requested on set by Brian De Palma when the scene was shot. Before shooting, Pacino wasn't really convinced with it because he sensed his character would never go to the hospital. They eventually shot it anyway.
The film is adapted from the novel "After Hours" by Edwin Torres. However, it took the title from Torres' first novel about the rise of crime boss Carlos Brigante so that it would not be confused with Martin Scorsese's New York club-based comedy-drama, After Hours (1985). Actor Rocco Sisto, incidentally, appears in both this film and the earlier Scorsese film.
According to John Leguizamo in his autobiography, he and Penelope Ann Miller did not get along during filming. He claims he got revenge on her by having the wardrobe department take in her clothes an inch at a time causing Miller to go on a crash diet.
Director Brian De Palma wanted to shoot the climax of the film at the World Trade Center in New York but it was the target of a bombing, and he had to shoot it in "another railway station again." (De Palma's The Untouchables (1987) also featured a scene at a railway station.)
The several minute steadicam shot in the railway station was initially meant to end with it revealing Al Pacino. They only had one chance to make the shot work due to scheduling and the lengthy time it would take to reset. The shot went just as they wanted except at the very end when a miscue between the AD and the steadicam operator resulted in him panning to Pacino before he was ready. As such, the shot didn't end the way they wanted, so they filmed a cutaway to another character and then revealed Pacino in another shot.
A teaser trailer was shown in theaters which began with audio clips of memorable dialogue previous Al Pacino performances (in order Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Serpico (1973), The Godfather (1972), Scarface (1983), Sea of Love (1989), and Scent of a Woman (1992)) before launching into clips from the actual film. Due to copyright reasons, this trailer hasn't been included on any home video release of the film.
Pachanga's lines were originally written in phonetically spelled, heavily accented slang. But some of the crew members of Latino descent were offended by this. David Koepp rewrote Pachanga's lines in standard English and Luis Guzmán was directed to speak with a heavy accent and improvise some slang.
Sean Penn has said he took the role of David Kleinfeld to work with Al Pacino and for the money so he could use it to fund his second film The Crossing Guard (1995). This was the follow-up to Penn's directorial debut The Indian Runner (1991). Incidentally Carlito's Way (1993) co-star Viggo Mortensen also starred in that film.
The location used as Gail's apartment (5-7 Minetta Lane according to movie-locations.com) is the same building used to represent Frank Serpico's apartment in Serpico (1973), which also starred Al Pacino. Minetta Lane in Greenwich Village is used often in films, TV and commercials because it is only one block long, with a bend in it. Both ends of the street can easily be blocked off for filming.
The first scheduled shoot was actually the Grand Central climax, but this had to be rethought when Al Pacino showed up on crutches. Instead, the ill-fated drug deal in the pool hall, kickstarted production. This was a scene that the studio originally asked Brian De Palma to make shorter. De Palma actually extended the scene but used tension building techniques that tricked the studio execs into thinking it was shorter and therefore loving it.
Tony Taglialucci's escape from Rikers Island, a night shoot mid-river, was considered impossible. Instead, the production used a Brooklyn shipyard where Kleinfeld's boat was lowered into an empty "lock" into which river water was pumped. Smoke machines and towers of space lights were installed.
Pacino's character in Scarface (1983) often quotes his enemies as "cockroaches." Scarface references include: Frankie Taglialucci calling Sean Penn's character a cockroach, and Pacino capturing and releasing a cockroach while devising an escape plan.
The hospital scenes were written 25 to 30 times because the actors had trouble with the sequence, with Al Pacino even thinking that Carlito would not go to the hospital. With one final re-write David Koepp managed to make the scene work to Pacino's satisfaction.
On August 31st 1997. The film had been scheduled to air at 8:30 on Sunday night on the TV3 channel in New Zealand. But, the film was moved to a later date due to extensive coverage on the death on Princess Diana Spencer whom died earlier that day.
Actor John Leguizamo, who portrays mobster Benny Blanco, later co-starred as Federal U.S. Customs Service special agent Emir Abreu in Brad Furman's espionage gangster drama The Infiltrator (2016), a movie's whose story-line also involved drug trafficking.
When Carlito is walking out of the courthouse, he shouts, "I am free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last!" This is resemblant to the closing words of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech.
Ghostface Killah sampled, "Sorry boys, all the stitches in the world can't sew me together again, Lay down...lay down. Gonna stretch me out in Fernandez funeral home on Hun and Ninth street. Always knew I'd make a stop there, but a lot later than a whole gang of people thought.... Last of the Mo-Ricans.... Well, maybe not the last. Can't come with me on this trip, though. Getting the shakes now, last call for drinks, bars closing down.... Sun's out, where are we going for breakfast? Don't wanna go far. Rough night, tired baby.... Tired...." for his 1996 song "The Soul Controller."
When Carlito and Gail are having an argument, Gail states that "I know how this dream ends Charlie. It isn't in paradise. It ends with me carrying you into...inside an emergency room at 3:00 in the morning. And standing there, crying like an idiot, while your shoes fill with blood and you die!" Although some details are skewed, this indeex foreshadows how Carlito's dream actually ends. He does indeed gets shot (implied in Gail's story by "blood filling your shoes", Gail stands over him crying and he is taken to a hospital (instead of an emergency room).
At Carlitos' court hearing where he is released, the judge tells him to cut short his remarks saying that he is not "accepting an award", coincidentally Pacino had received an Academy Award in 1993 for his role in Scent of a Woman (1992)