Chloë Sevigny revealed that she was originally approached to play Charley's aunt, but her agent fought for her to play Bonnie because the latter character is a larger role with "more [for Sevigny] to sink her teeth into."
The 2010 novel followed Vlautin's previous works, The Motel Life and North line. Lean on Pete drew praise from critics in the U.S. and abroad, including a rave from Vlautin's fellow Oregon author, Cheryl Strayed, whose bestselling memoir, Wild, was also turned into a movie that filmed in Oregon.
Director Andrew Haigh has referred to Steve Buscemi and Chloë Sevigny as "the king and queen of American independent cinema," respectively.
-It was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress by Charlie Plummer.
Early in the film, a deck of cards can be seen splayed on Charley's nightstand with a king and a jack on top side by side--deliberately placed, so it seems. This may be a reference to 2015's King Jack (2015), a similarly themed film which starred Charlie Plummer in the eponymous role.
A man on the bus toward the end of the film can be seen reading The Motel Life (2012), the first book (and first book to be adapted into a film) by author Willy Vlautin, who also wrote the novel on which Lean on Pete is based.