A pile of Lee Israel books ("Beyond the Magic", an unauthorized biography of Estée Lauder) are shown on sale at a bookstore for 75% off. Lauder was publishing her own memoirs and initially tried to pay Israel *not* to write her book, but she refused and rushed her book to publication. The autobiography was released in October 1985 and Israel's biography one month later. The book buying public chose to buy the Lauder autobiography rather than the Israel biography. Lee Israel later said she regretted not taking the money when it was first offered.
Richard E. Grant was recording an interview with Terry Gross for her National Public Radio program "Fresh Air" when Gross was the one who informed his that he had just been nominated for a SAG Award: "GROSS: I want to take a short break here and then talk with you some more. So if you're just joining us, my guest is Richard E. Grant. And he stars with Melissa McCarthy in the film Can You Ever Forgive Me? He won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for it, the San Diego Film Critics Society. Now he's nominated for a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award and others as well. Oh, you just got nominated for a SAG. My producer just told me you're nominated for a SAG Award. GRANT: Wow. Wow. That's amazing. GROSS: Did you not know that? GRANT: No, how would I know that? GROSS: Oh, congratulations! GRANT: I've been talking to you. Sorry, I'm talking to you, so I had no idea. Goodness me. Thank you. GROSS: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm taking you away from the big news. Do you want to check your phone for a second and see? GRANT: I'm sure my daughter might have texted me. Can I just... GROSS: Sure. (Laughter) Take a break. GRANT: Let's have a look. Oh, wow, and Melissa has got one too. That's fantastic. Wow. God, I'm absolutely thrilled. Goodness me. There's nothing like the approbation of your own peers. GROSS: No, no. I know. I know. GRANT: Wow. You've got me at a emotional moment here. I never thought this would happen to me. Thank you. GROSS: Now that we've heard that good news, we're going to take the real break (laughter). And after we take a short break, I'll be back with Richard E. Grant. This is FRESH AIR."
During an October 18, 2018, interview on the National Public Radio program "Morning Edition," Melissa McCarthy recounted a story that Jane Curtin (who plays Lee Israel's agent Marjorie in this movie) had told her about actually meeting the real Lee Israel: "[Curtin] was at a book party in Manhattan with her husband. And someone just kind of came in the door and like--she said it was just like this disruption, not necessarily noise, but just like muttering. And just--she's like, almost just energy wise, people kind of clearing and moving and interrupting conversations and went through, got some food, got a couple--like, pounded a couple drinks and like went right back out the door.... And [Curtin] said, it was Lee. She goes, because once she left, she turned to either her husband or somebody at the party and said, who the hell was that?"
Most of the scenes in which Lee and Jack drink at a bar were filmed at Julius' Bar, a working business that bills itself as New York City's oldest gay bar. It has been in operation as a bar at 159 West 10th Street since 1864, it was a popular speakeasy during the 1920s, and it started to cater predominantly to gay male customers by the 1950s. In 1966 (three years before the more famous protests at the Stonewall Inn, which is around the corner), Julius' was the site of a Mattachine Society protest against the New York State Liquor Authority's discriminatory regulations prohibiting businesses from serving alcoholic beverages to LGBTQ people (which had made it essentially illegal to run or visit a gay bar). The Mattachine Society was one of the earliest American gay rights organizations. The protest, which its organizers dubbed a "Sip-In" (a playful reference to the Sit-Ins of the Southern Civil Rights Movement) was successful; the next year, New York State courts ruled against the State Liquor Authority's practice of revoking the liquor licenses of businesses that served alcohol to LGBTQ patrons.
Melissa McCarthy has previously worked with Jane Curtin (her agent) in "The Heat" (2013), Ben Falcone (her husband) in "Bridesmaids" (2011) and writer Nicole Holofcener in an episode of "Gilmore Girls" in (2002)
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In reality, Lee Israel and Jack Hock never reunited or communicated by phone after the FBI arrested him for acting as her accomplice. A few months before his death from an HIV-related cause (1994), she saw him in the waiting area of a Manhattan medical clinic for poor people. According to Lee's memoir that inspired the movie, she had the urge to trip Jack after he stood up from his seat, but she restrained herself. He did not see her.
At the premiere of the film, Richard E. Grant happened to meet Judy Sheindlin (Judge Judy) and asked her what she would have done had Lee Israel been standing in her court. Judy said that she would have given her a light fine because she did not kill anybody and, besides, the people dealing in celebrity memorabilia are possibly a little dodgy themselves.