The title is taken from a Simon & Garfunkel song.

Olivia Wilde and Rosamund Pike were attached to play the role of Johanna. Logan Lerman and Miles Teller were attached to play the role of Thomas.

The film has been in development since 2012. On August 25, 2012, it was announced that 500 Days of Summer (2009) Director Marc Webb would direct the film (a little over a month after the release of Webb's previous movie The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)). After which, the film went through various actors and actresses joining then leaving, and different drafts of the script being written, and various of other problems. It was only until they finally cast the film, finished the full script (and the errors within the first draft), Marc Webb finishing The Amazing Spider-Man movies, and his next film Gifted (2017), that the film would finally start shooting. It's been five years since the films announcement, until it released in 2017.

Second film to be directed by Marc Webb being released in 2017. First was Gifted (2017) in April.

Screenwriter Allan Loeb had been living in Los Angeles for a decade, trying to make it as a writer with little success. He was days away from giving up when producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa spotted his screenplay for "The Only Living Boy in New York" and expressed interest in producing the movie.

The filmmakers gave each actor a book that corresponded to the character they were playing. Kiersey Clemons received Patti Smith's Just Kids, Callum Turner got David Foster Wallace's Essay's on Tennis, Pierce Brosnan's was Stories from the New Yorker, The New Atlas of New York for Jeff Bridges, and finally Kate Beckinsale would be given a copy of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

Allan Loeb's screenplay sat for 10 years in the Hollywood Blacklist of best unproduced screenplays.

The movie was shot on 35mm as opposed to digital.

The film sat in various stages of development for a full 12 years before it was finally released.

Production Designer David Gropman and Location Manager Kip Myers searched all over New York to find the locations that retained the city's "edgy, ungentrified side." They insisted that each scene would be shot in its appropriate neighborhood as stated in the film.

Director Marc Webb expressed interest in the project a full 12 years before it hit theaters. He was committed to directing The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel first, though upon completion of those two films he agreed to direct the "The Only Living Boy in New York".