The film takes place in Chicago, Illinois, as opposed to New York, to where the novel and original film took place. Interesting to note, that the original film, Death Wish (1974), ended with the main character, Paul Kersey moving to Chicago, as well as the novel's sequel, Death Sentence, taking place in the same city too.
Director Eli Roth and actress Camila Morrone did the "snowball challenge" all throughout shooting during the cold, snowy winter. The challenge was to ask a serious question during a scene but then suddenly throw a snowball in the other's face and post it on social media. Roth was nearly always the recipient of said snowball, posted to Morrone's 1 million fans on social media.
In the film Bruce Willis' character learns to fire a glock by watching a YouTube show called "Full Metal Tactics," hosted by real life green beret Shawn Vance. Roth named the show as a nod to Willis' co-star Vincent D'Onofrio who starred in "Full Metal Jacket."
After the debut of the film's first theatrical trailer, it sparked criticism from left-wing journalists and film critics, with many criticizing the film as "alt-right" and "racist", due to the film's premise and setting.
Although not credited, Dean Georgaris re-wrote the screenplay from page one with director Eli Roth. There were 9 writers on the screenplay by the final shooting draft, and the Writer's Guild ultimately decided to give Joe Carnahan sole credit despite the fact almost none of his dialogue remained in the final version of the film.
Director Eli Roth met with Chicago musician Chance the Rapper before shooting to discuss violence in Chicago and talk about possibly collaborating on the film musically. Although the collaboration did not happen, Chance's brother Taylor Benett's appears in the opening montage of radio calls, talking with Sway in the Morning about violence in Chicago.
Director Eli Roth wanted the film to be a modern, contemporary take on the story and used morning radio DJs Sway in the Morning and Mancow Muller as a Greek chorus to comment on the violence and function as the film's moral compass. Roth wanted the scenes to feel totally authetnic, and sent them the situations and let the DJs film and direct themselves and comment how they would naturally as if it was happening. Roth also used viral videos, memes, and the urban gossip site mediatakeout.com, which director Roth is a fan of. Roth wanted to show the reactions the way they would really happen, making the point that tragic violence becomes a internet meme within hours.
Roth cast actress Camila Morrone in the lead role of Jordan Kersey despite her never having acted in a feature film before. Roth met Morrone with her mother actress Lucila Sola in 2011 at the Ischia Global Film Festival, and Roth thought she would be perfect for the role. After shooting the movie Morrone signed with agency WME and booked two other films.
Director Eli Roth was a huge fan of Dean Norris from "Breaking Bad," and at one point was going to get second dog and name him after Norris character Hank Schraeder. Roth had confessed this to Norris at a party years ago, and Norris did not forget. Although Roth only has one dog (Monkey) he still swears that his second dog will be named Hank Schraeder.
Director Eli Roth spent a lot of time with Chicago detectives to get the details of the police district (station) correct. In the film in the corner of an open murder case board appears a card that says "We're gonna need a bigger board," a reference to the famous "Jaws" line "We're gonna need a bigger boat." This was something Roth actually saw on a board in the police captain's office.
Director Eli Roth was influenced by the Chicago "drill" sound and used a lot of Chicago music in the film. He also worked with composer Ludwig Goransson to blend elements of drill music into the score to create a sound that felt like a heartbeat, or racing pulse.
After the script lay dormant for three years, it was announced in March of 2016 that Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, most noted for their film "Big Bad Wolves," had been hired to direct after gaining the approval of star Bruce Willis following their 2013 hit. However, after three months, the duo announced they were leaving the project, after MGM refused to allow them additional rewrites for the film.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Director Eli Roth cast medical technical advisor Dr. Alan Azuelos in the film, and he was such a natural that he's the one who delivers the painful news to Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) that his wife has been killed.