According to an April 2003 NPR radio interview with Elvis Mitchell, Justin Lin's production company was on the verge of folding unless he could secure a certain amount of funding. Lin had essentially resigned himself to failure; but on a whim called a celebrity he had met once in Las Vegas. Lin got a call the day before the deadline from the celeb saying that he had read the script and wanted to provide some backing. Two hours later, the new investor had wired Lin the money and saved the production. The celebrity: MC Hammer.
In a February 2016 interview with the New York Times, Justin Lin recalled than when he was struggling to arrange financing for Better Luck Tomorrow, he had one potential investor who offered Lin $1 million, but only on the condition that the movie had to have Macaulay Culkin in the lead. Lin said, "If I would have said yes, I would have gotten $1 million and I would have gotten to make the movie with a white cast, but it didn't interest me."
During a Q&A after the screening at Sundance, one audience member asked the filmmakers if they thought they were being irresponsible by portraying Asian-Americans negatively. Renowned film critic Roger Ebert stood up and shouted at the man that Asian-Americans can make whatever films they want, about whoever they want, and do not have any obligation to represent their people.
Although some people thought that the film was inspired by the 1992 murder of Stuart Tay, an Asian-American youth who was killed by four of his peers on New Year's Eve in Orange County, California, filmmaker Justin Lin has stated that "at the very beginning of the writing process, [he] made a conscious decision not to base it on that, or any other, real event."