Future husband James Cameron suggested to Bigelow that she use the ready-made ensemble cast from his recent hit Aliens (1986), and thus Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein all appear in Bigelow's film. Michael Biehn had also appeared in Aliens and was considered, but declined to participate.
The writer and director both were intent on making a Western but realized that the interest in the Western genre at the time was almost non-existent, so it was recommended that they mix genres. Since the horror genre was in vogue at the time, the two decided to make a Horror Western.
During filming, the cast and crew had to deal with a train that would stop at the same intersection every night. One night, Bill Paxton (in full make-up with half of his face missing) saw one of the train workers leave the diesel engine, and went up to him saying, "Hey, man, there's been an accident... and if you think I'm bad, wait 'til you see the other guy!"
While shooting in the desert, Lance Henriksen relieved the boredom between takes by hopping in his car and taking short drives through the desert, still in costume and often staying in character. According to Henriksen and Bill Paxton, the two were stopped by a policeman who became so unnerved questioning Jesse about his speeding that the officer became visibly uncomfortable, stepping back and placing his hand on his firearm. The obviously flustered officer decided to send them on their way rather than write them a ticket.
According to Bill Paxton, the driver that gives him the finger when he's hitchhiking is played by none other than James Cameron, who had visited the set that day.
At approximately 21:13 of the movie, when Caleb is stumbling through the town in Texas, in the background there is a Warner cinema playing Aliens (1986), a movie also starring several of the main characters from Near Dark - including Lance Henriksen (Jessie), Bill Paxton (Severen) and Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback) - and directed by James Cameron who would marry director Kathryn Bigelow two years later.
This film marked Kathryn Bigelow's first solo directorial effort and the film's producer, Edward S. Feldman told her that if she couldn't handle or didn't know what she was doing while filming after five days, she would be replaced. She kept the job.
According to Lance Henriksen, he prepared for his role of Jesse by coming up with a background for his character and acting it out. The origin story he came up with was that Jesse was in the Confederate navy when he became a vampire. Henriksen painted his hair black with tar, since that was an actual thing seamen did in the 1800's. He then added broken fake nails to make his fingers look like the extensions of his finger bones and went to town at night like that while in character. He managed to scare a waitress in Denny's and a hitchhiker twice his size he picked up on the road one night. The hitchhiker quickly asked to leave the car as soon as they drove up to the first inhabited area, so Henriksen, without revealing that he was just an actor messing with the guy, gave the man all 80 dollars he had on him for being a good sport. Henriksen always jokingly adds that he was lucky, since the hitchhiker could have easily overpowered him in a fight and "make him cry like a baby."
At the start of the bungalow gunfight scene, a cross can be seen in the handle of Jesse's pistol alluding to the idea that these vampires do not follow the same "rules" of traditional vampire mythology.
Was the last movie produced and released by DEG (DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group) as the studio went bankrupt. As a result, the film did not receive much publicity during its release in the fall of 1987 which lead, in turn, to its box office failure.
According to the Making of Near Dark that appears on the DVD, the fog under Adrian Pasdar's shirt was caused by a complicated series of tubes leading to five lit cigars under his shirt.
The vampire mythology in the film is left deliberately vague. It is never seen if they cast reflections in a mirror or if they are affected by holy objects, roses, garlic, running water etc. It is seen that they are extremely strong, non-aging, surviving on human blood, cold to the touch, destroyed by sunlight and fire but cannot be killed by most conventional methods.
When Severen and Jesse torch the motor home, Severen asks Jesse if he had remembered about a "fire that they had started in Chicago". It is assumed that they mean the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that left more than 100,000 people homeless and destroyed businesses. Though apocryphal legend attributes the fire to a cow who kicked a lantern, the cause still remains a mystery.
The lack of almost any material relating to traditional vampire mythology (at least as it related to how vampires were common represented in movies up to the 1986 time when this film was in production) except for their vulnerability to being burned to death by sunlight or common fires was intentional on the part of Kathryn Bigelow. She wanted to make the vampires into a cross between traditional horror villains and Western gunslingers, because that would make them characters who could drive the narrative--not least because of the also-deliberate denial of a traditional heroic role to Caleb Colton--but who were able to be, through great effort and sacrifice, destroyed by the film's conclusion.
The patron in the bar (Robert Winley) who is killed by Severen also played the lead cigar smoking biker in the bar in the clothes stealing scene of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Bill Paxton had a role as a punk in the clothes stealing scene in The Terminator (1984). Kathryn Bigelow was at the time married to James Cameron.
When Caleb lets the young cowboy from the bar get away, a billboard can be seen in the background spray paint with "Bill + Louise". Bill Paxton, who plays Severen, was married to Louise Newbury.
Both of the two 1987 movies about a "family" of attractive vampires who lure a young man and make him into a half-vampire before he seeks a cure (Near Dark (1987) and The Lost Boys (1987)) feature a son of Jason Miller in their casts: Joshua John Miller is in Near Dark, and his half-brother Jason Patric is in The Lost Boys.
Bill Paxton sued Jenny Wright in 1997 in small claims court for building a koi pond 15 feet over his property line. Jenny Wright lost the case, had to redesign the koi pond and pay court fees.
Before it became a cult favorite, the film had a showing at New York's Museum of Modern Art with Kathryn Bigelow in attendance.
Near Dark got a K18 rating in 1988 by the Finnish Board of Film Classification. That meant, in those days, 'for theatrical release only'. However, some film critics received VHS copies (most probably from Transworld Video) with Finnish subtitles ca. 1990. There were also reports that videos were accidentally available a few days to the general public before they were drawn back from video stores.
Michael Biehn was offered the role of Jesse Hooker but turned it down because he was not satisfied with the script.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
Although the area where filming took place was going through a major drought that lasted for the entire shoot, a scene was quickly written and filmed in which an overnight sequence is completely filled with thunderstorms. The reason for this was simple: with the film's limited budget, it was a cheap way to allow for complex lighting and some special effects that were easy to create on water-soaked, reflective surfaces.