Writers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen suffered writer's block while writing Miller's Crossing (1990). They took a three week break and wrote Barton Fink (1991) a film about a writer with writer's block. The name of Tom Regan's residence is "The Barton Arms". In one of the newspapers an article reads 'Seven Dead in Hotel Fire,' another reference to Barton Fink.
The character Eddie Dane was originally written for Peter Stormare and was to be named The Swede. Stormare had to decline as he was appearing as Hamlet in the Broadway production. The part was then re-written and re-cast, and became The Dane.
Steve Buscemi was cast as Mink Larouie because he could speak faster than anyone else.
Bernie is referred to as a Schmatte. 'Schmatte' is a Yiddish word for an old rag and was also used colloquially as a label for things of poor quality or anything worthless. Caspar's use is derogatory, labeling Bernie worthless both as a man and as a Jew.
The Coen Brothers reportedly turned down Batman (1989) because it would have interfered with this film.
The character of Leo was written for Trey Wilson, who played Nathan Arizona, Sr, in the Coens' previous film, Raising Arizona (1987). Wilson died shortly before production began, so Albert Finney took over the role.
Jon Polito was originally offered the role of Eddie Dane but he campaigned for the part of Johnny Caspar.
The Miller of the title comes from the Coen Brothers' frequent film editor, Michael R. Miller.
In the argot of the criminal element, as often heard in early cops and robbers movies, yegg is a term normally used to refer to a safe-cracker. It has a couple of other, less used, definitions to refer to criminal types.
Irish tenor Frank Patterson performance of "Danny Boy" was recorded under the Coen Brothers direction so it would be precisely timed for the scene it plays in the film.
John Turturro based his performance on the film's cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld.
This was the Coen Brothers' first collaboration with Steve Buscemi and John Turturro.
Although he was a native Irishman playing a lieutenant to an Irish mobster, the Coens did not originally want Gabriel Byrne to use his own accent in the film. Byrne argued that his dialogue was structured in such a way that it was a good fit for his accent, and after he tried it, the Coens agreed. Ultimately, both Byrne and Albert Finney used Irish accents in the film.
The last Coen brothers film on which Barry Sonnenfeld worked as cinematographer. He claims it as his favorite because it was an easy shoot.
Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld told the Coen brothers that the forest scenes should be shot during overcast days only. The brothers did not want to delay the filming based on the weather, but as luck would have it, on all but one of the scheduled days, it was overcast anyway. Sonnenfeld further muted the colors by using Fuji film instead of Kodak for the forest scenes. In one scene, when the Dane, Tom, Frankie and Tic-Tac are in the woods at Miller's Crossing, some sunlight can be seen faintly and out of focus in the background.
Reagan toasts Volstead outside Caspar's premises during the police raid. Andrew Volstead was the sponsor and facilitator of the National Prohibition Act in the U.S. Congress, which supported the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and effectively established Prohibition.
This is one of three Coen Brothers films to not be edited by the brothers themselves under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. The others are Raising Arizona (1987) and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994).
The fight poster in Drop Johnson's apartment has as the under card a fight featuring "Bunky Knudsen." Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen was the President of Ford Motor Company in 1969, and before that a top executive at General Motors. the poster also includes the name Lars Thorvald, which is a reference to 'Alfred Hitchcock''s Rear Window (1954).
The film never expressly states in what year it takes place. The Model A Fords seen throughout the film may provide a baseline, as that automobile was introduced in 1927, but other cars are also visible, ranging from 1926 to 1930 model years. The calendar in Johnny Casper's office could also provide a hint, but it does not appear to be reliable. The month is not visible on the calendar, but the first is shown to be on a Saturday. That Saturday is in red to indicate a holiday, and the only holiday on the 1st of the month in the US is New Years Day. However, the weather in the film certainly does not seem like winter weather in what is probably New York City. Ultimately, it seems likely that the calendar is not a useful guide. If you choose to ignore the weather, and note that the film takes place during Prohibition, the only possible years (when the 1st fell on a Saturday) are 1921 and 1927.
The city where the story takes place is never named directly in the film. However, there is a clue late in the film which points to the New York City area: Tom tells Verna to leave town and go to "the Palisades" until everything blows over. The Palisades is stretch of rocky cliffs of Bergen County in Northern New Jersey and Rockland County of New York State.
This is part of a small group of films that weren't edited by the Coen brothers themselves (under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes) along with Tricia Cooke. Michael R. Miller was the editor.
The line "Jesus, Tom" is said 8 times: 3 times by Leo, and once each by Frankie, Mink, Bernie, Chief O'Doole and Mayor Levander.
The character of "Rug" Daniels takes his name from his unconvincing hairpiece. A child is seen removing the hairpiece from the character after he is killed.
The 1988 draft written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen included a cast list of potential actors to play the main characters as for the following: Tom Reagan: Willem Dafoe, Andy Garcia, Elias Koteas, Dylan McDermott and Tom Sizemore. Verna: Kathy Borowitz, Linda Fiorentino, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Sametz and Diane Venora. Bernie Bernbaum: Eric Begosian, Ned Eisenberg, Michael Mantel, John Pankow and John Turturro. Leo: James Gammon, Ian Holm, Richard Jenkins, John Mahoney and Trey Wilson. Johnny Caspar: Phillip Bosco, Michael Gambon, Michael Gazzo, Joe Mantegna and John Seitz Eddie Dane (originally named Bluepoint in the script): Ray Barry, Kevin Spacey, David Strathairn, Ron Vawter and Gary Cole. Of this list, only Marcia Gay Harden and John Turturro ended up being cast in their respective parts.
When Tom visits Clarence Johnson, he searches for his flat number on the mail boxes. The last one of these belongs to Louis Medrano. Louis Medrano worked in the art department on the movie.
Richard Jenkins was heavily considered for a role, but ended up losing it to Albert Finney.
While writing the screenplay, the Coen brothers tentatively titled the film "The Bighead"-their nickname for Tom Reagan. The first image they conceived was that of a black hat coming to rest in a forest clearing; then, a gust of wind lifts it into the air, sending it flying down an avenue of trees. This image begins the film's opening credit sequence.
Among other details that give hints as to where the events of the film may take place (although it is never explicitly stated), one is when Verna tells Tom that they could "pack up and leave town", to which he replies sarcastically: "...where would we go Verna, Niagara Falls?" This supports the theory that the events of the film take place somewhere in New York state.
The film's cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld married his wife Susan at the wrap party on a riverboat on the Mississippi. Understandably, Miller's Crossing (1990) remains his favorite collaboration with the Coen brothers.
Albert Finney: In the ladies restroom scene, when Tom enters, Albert Finney (who also plays Leo) can be seen in drag as a (rather big) matron dressed in black and white on Tom's left side.