Coca-Cola approved the use of the Polar Bear ads for its product in the movie without having a full idea of what the movie was about; when the Board of Directors saw the finished product, they were furious.
According to Oliver Stone, Rodney Dangerfield didn't understand the film during shooting, and didn't understand what Stone was trying to do by shooting such a dark subject, as a father molesting his daughter, in the style of a 1950s sitcom. As such, he found it very difficult to perform his part. However, Stone was delighted that when the film came out, Dangerfield's performance was hailed as one of the movie's strongest points.
Quentin Tarantino claimed to hate the final version of the film, up until meeting Johnny Cash in an elevator once. Cash told Tarantino that both he and his wife June were fans of his and that they especially liked this movie. Tarantino also stated that the fact that the producers allowed him to publish his original screenplay helped him get over his hate, as his main concern was that viewers would credit him with material he had no hand in creating, and would not have created at all.
During Mickey's escape from prison during the tornado, there is a shot where a convict falls under a galloping horse. This was completely genuine, as the stuntman really did lose his footing and fall under the horse. Fortunately, he was uninjured.
Oliver Stone has always maintained that the film is a satire on how serial killers are adored by the media for their horrific actions, and that those who claim the violence in the movie itself is a cause of societal violence have missed the point of the movie entirely.
The prison riot was filmed at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. Eighty percent of the prisoners there are incarcerated for violent crimes. For the first two of four weeks on-location the extras were actual inmates with rubber weapons. For the other two weeks over two hundred extras had to be brought in because the penitentiary was placed on lockdown.
Over one hundred fifty rattlesnakes, real and fake, were used for the scene when Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) tread through the snake field. Initially there were concerns that the actor and actress would be working too close to so many venomous snakes. But since the scene was filmed at night (when temperatures in the desert are significantly cooler), and since snakes (like all cold-blooded animals) are very sluggish in colder temperatures, most of the rattlesnakes slept through the filming of the scene.
In the mess hall in the prison, a bald white man is staring at a black man, prompting the black man to try to attack him, before being intercepted by Warden McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones). The bald man was a real prisoner, who had been convicted of murdering his wife and children by beating them to death with a lead pipe. Oliver Stone gave him a featured role, because he said the man's stoicism terrified him.
According to Oliver Stone, the use of television commercials was an attempt to illustrate the comforting power such commercials have. Every commercial comes after a horrific moment or a flash cut of a demon, and Stone's idea was that commercials work to soothe people after they have been exposed to something extreme.
The color green is used to indicate the sickness in Mickey's (Woody Harrelson's) mind and shows up prominently several times during the film: the key lime pie at the diner, the green neon at the drugstore, the green room in the prison.
In an infamous incident after the film had been released, Oliver Stone and Time Warner were sued by Patsy Byers, with the support of author and Producer John Grisham. In March 1995, eighteen-year-old Sarah Edmondson and her boyfriend Benjamin Darras (also eighteen) allegedly dropped acid and watched this movie. Later that night, Sarah shot and paralyzed Byers, a store clerk in Ponchatoula, and Benjamin killed cotton gin Manager William Savage in Hernando, Mississippi. John Grisham was a personal friend of Savage's, and after the murder, Grisham publicly accused Oliver Stone of being irresponsible in making the film, arguing that filmmakers should be held accountable for their work when it incites violent behavior. Byers decided to take legal action against Stone and the studio, and supported by Grisham, she used a "product liability" claim in the lawsuit, which argued that Stone had incited the teenagers to commit the crime. Initially, the case was dismissed in January 1997, on the grounds that filmmakers and production companies are protected by the First Amendment. However, in May 1998, the Intermediate Louisiana Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision, and the case went ahead. The attorneys for Byers' attempted to prove that Oliver Stone and Time Warner were culpable in the murder and in Byers' injury because they had purposefully meant to incite violence by "distributing a film they knew, or should have known would cause and inspire people to commit crimes." All of Hollywood eagerly awaited the outcome of the trial, because if Stone was found guilty, it would mean a drastic reexamination of the industry practices and would carry all kinds of far reaching implications as regards the content of movies. However, in a landmark decision, Byers' action was thrown out of court in March 2001, and its dismissal was rubber-stamped by the Louisiana Court of Appeal in June 2002.
Oliver Stone calls the frequent cuts to black and white, where dialogue is often repeated with a slightly different intonation, "vertical cutting". Stone explains that the idea behind the technique is to create an outer moment (the color footage) and an inner moment (the black and white footage) at the same time. For example, he explains this in relation to the waitress in the opening scene (O-Lan Jones), who while taking Mickey's order in the "outer" scene, is actually flirting with him (or thinking about flirting with him) in the "inner" scene. Also, in the opening scene, when the cowboy (James Gammon) refers to Mallory as "pussy", there is a flash cut to Mickey covered in blood; this is Mickey's "inner" moment.
This film contains almost three thousand cuts. Most films have six hundred to seven hundred. Negative cutter Donah Bassett cut four thousand negative images into the film, the most complex job ever undertaken by a negative cutter.
When putting together the music for the film, Oliver Stone and soundtrack Producer Trent Reznor wanted to get Snoop Dogg involved, but Warner Brothers wouldn't allow it, as Dogg was on trial for murder at the time.
Michael Madsen was initially considered for the role of Mickey, but Warner Brothers wanted somebody less intimidating, and with a softer persona, as they felt this might alleviate the brutality of the character somewhat.
Director of Photography Robert Richardson hated the script, and didn't want anything to do with the film, but Oliver Stone used their close friendship to persuade him to accept the job. For numerous reasons, Richardson called shooting the film a "nightmare" and one of the worst experiences of his life. The story brought up bad memories from his childhood, leading to insomnia, and a dependence on sleeping pills, throughout the entire shoot. During location scouting, his wife Monona Wali nearly died from an illness (and they later came close to divorcing because of the film). While filming a difficult scene, he broke his finger, and the replacement cameraman cut his eye. Near the end of shooting, his brother went into a coma. However, Richardson has said that all of these problems actually provided him with the creative energy he needed to shoot the film.
Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth were both offered the role of Wayne Gale, and turned it down. Jane Hamsher claims in her book about the movie, that they did so because Quentin Tarantino told them he would never cast either of them in any of his movies again, if they took the role.
Oliver Stone wanted Juliette Lewis to bulk up for the role of Mallory so that she looked tougher, but Lewis refused, saying she wanted the character to look like a pushover, not like a female bodybuilder. In the end, Stone agreed, but he insisted she take kick-boxing lessons so that she looked credible when fighting.
Robert Downey, Jr. spent time with Australian television shock-king Steve Dunleavy to prepare for the role of Wayne Gale, and when he came back with an Australian accent, the filmmakers decided to go with it, and Gale became an Australian.
Oliver Stone's least favorite scene in the film is when Mickey overpowers the prison guards after the interview with Wayne Gale is terminated. Stone feels that the device of having Mickey distract the guards by telling a joke is too unrealistic.
The story told on "American Maniacs" about Mickey killing a cop after asking him for directions is taken almost verbatim from a story made up by J. Edgar Hoover in the 1930s about bank robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker to try to quash the public's growing favorable opinion of the pair. According to Hoover, Barrow approached an Oklahoma City officer, asked for directions and then blew his head off with a shotgun. The story fell apart, though, when questions were raised as to how, if the officer was alone when he was killed, Hoover could possibly have determined that it was Barrow who killed him, as there were no witnesses to the "murder".
Woody Harrelson, in an interview, spoke about the rape scene between Mickey and the hostage he takes. He expressed his hope that Oliver Stone had not added any additional footage of the controversial part into the Director's Cut. He was promptly told on camera that Stone had indeed done so.
After Quentin Tarantino had written the script, he promised his friend Rand Vossler, a fellow clerk at Video Archives, the director's chair. The pair couldn't find funding, and eventually decided to shoot it guerrilla-style (without permits) on the streets of Los Angeles, on black and white 16mm film stock. Shortly before production, Oliver Stone found the script and wanted to buy it. In exchange for giving up his directorial debut, Rand is credited as a co-producer.
Oliver Stone says that his biggest regret about the film is the fact that he had to cut out most of Pruitt Taylor Vince's performance as the prison guard Kavanaugh. As filmed, Kavanaugh becomes a comic character, who Mickey uses as a shield while moving through the prison, and who ends up being shot sixteen times by the time Mickey meets Warden McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones) at the stairs. In the finished version of the film, you don't actually see Kavanaugh being shot at all, prior to the stairs. Stone says he was forced to cut much of this, because the studio insisted that the movie be under two hours. Strangely however, the footage of Kavanaugh was not restored by Stone for his Director's Cut, nor was it included as a deleted scene on the DVD.
During the scene where Micky and Mallory take a hostage to a motel room, the films Midnight Express (1978) and Scarface (1983) are showing on television. Oliver Stone wrote the screenplays to both films.
Oliver Stone met with singer Tori Amos and openly offered her the part of Mallory. Early in her career, Amos had been pursing acting as well as singing. She was interested, until he explained he also wanted to have her song "Me and a Gun" play during each scene where Mallory kills someone. The song is an a capella account of Amos' real-life rape. In response, Amos slapped him across the face and stormed out. Amos details this story in her autobiography "All These Years". She also references the incident in her hit song "A Sorta Fairytale", with the lyrics: "Feel better with Oliver Stone until I almost smacked him; it seemed right that night."
Owen (Arliss Howard), the inmate that helps Mickey and Mallory out of the prison, is shown in the first scene. He is at a table reading a newspaper that reads "666 death". He is only shown for a second. He is also seen in the prison as Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.) tells Warden McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones) how famous he could become; Owen is mopping the floor behind them as they walk past a cell.
The drugstore scene was filmed in an Albuquerque building that was a real drugstore that had closed just prior to filming. The original fixtures and pharmacy area were still in the store, making set-up very easy. The sign above the door was added for the movie, and was still there several months after filming ended. The building is now a Hobby Lobby. One thousand green fluorescent bulbs were used to light the scene.
For the numerous scenes involving rear projection, the projected footage was shot prior to principal photography, then edited together, and projected live onto the stage, behind the live actors and actresses. For example, when Mallory drives past a building and flames are projected onto the wall, this was shot live using footage projected onto the façade of a real building.
When Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) goes into Mallory's cell, and throughout this scene, you can read two different paragraphs above the door in the cell, and below Mallory, on the bedside. The one near the door reads: "Come let's away / to prison we two / alone will sing / like birds in a cage." This is from 'King Lear', a play written by William Shakespeare, as Lear and his daughter Cordelia are being taken away to prison. The other paragraph reads: "He is coming! He is coming! / Like a bridegroom from his room / Came the hero from his prison / To the scaffold and the doom." These lines are from the poem "The Execution Of Montrose" by William Edmondstoune Aytoun.
Tommy Lee Jones has said that his over-the-top performance was partly inspired by Molière's play 'Le Bourgeois gentilhomme'; a satirical look at social climbing and the bizarre things people will do to achieve fame.
The main characters are loosely based on Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate, a young Nebraska couple, who in 1958, embarked on a mass murder spree across the Midwest, that horrified the country. The characters in Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973) are also loosely based on Starkweather and Fugate.
In late 1994, the film was banned from theatrical distribution in Ireland. The Irish Film Centre, which is a membership club, and not subject to the same rules as public theaters, booked the film and had it scheduled to screen for a month long run in early 1995. The film censorship board threatened legal action if the film was shown, and it was withdrawn.
Scagnetti's (Tom Sizemore) story about how his mother was killed, was based upon a real-life incident involving one of America's first mass murderers, Charles Whitman, who shot people randomly from the University Tower in Austin, Texas, in 1966.
In the UK, the film's video release was to be the same week that Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school, in the Scottish town of Dunblane, and killed sixteen children and a teacher, before killing himself. Warner Brothers immediately went to the British Board of Film Classification to take another look at the certification granted the film. The BBFC however stood by their decision, so Warner Brothers took it upon themselves to withhold video release. Thus, when the film had its television premiere on the UK's channel 5 two years later, it became one of the few films to be broadcast on television, without having a video release beforehand.
The red glasses Mickey wears during the opening scene of the movie are reminiscent of chicken glasses, tiny red glasses once sold to farmers to keep their chickens from murdering one another. The red glass kept the chickens from seeing the color red, or more specifically, blood. For some strange reason, when chickens see red, they peck at it. If they see red on a chicken in the flock, they gang together and peck at the bloody spot until the offending chicken is dead. Conversely, in that opening scene, once Mickey and Mallory saw red, they didn't stop until almost everyone was dead. Industrialization now keeps chickens pinned up, and incapable of getting at one another, so chicken glasses are no longer used.
The unique look of the film was based upon Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), one of Oliver Stone's favorite movies. In particular, Stone was influenced by the famous death scene, which used innovative editing techniques provided by multiple cameras shooting from different angles at different speeds. Stone had used similar, although considerably more restrained, techniques in his previous two films, JFK (1991) and Heaven & Earth (1993), and would continue to employ these techniques for his next two films, Nixon (1995) and U Turn (1997).
The film was originally going to be shot in Panavision, as Oliver Stone's previous four films had been, but he decided that it should be framed in standard 1.85:1. The Panavision E-Series anamorphic lenses that had been reserved for the film were used to shoot The Pelican Brief (1993) instead.
According to Tom Sizemore, he got the part of Detective Jack Scagnetti after writing a monologue for the character, which he made Oliver Stone listen to in the parking lot of a bar. In addition to reading up on Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, he got clean for ninety-seven days before filming. Unfortunately, the sobriety didn't last.
According to Oliver Stone, the headless man is Mickey's father, who killed himself by blowing his own head off with a shotgun. The three shots of the headless man all occur during scenes of great strife and tension for Mickey (during his dream at the Indian's house, during his interview with Wayne Gale, and during the prison riot), and they could represent the fact that even though his father is dead, Mickey is still not free of him. When things get tense, and when pressure starts to build, Mickey automatically thinks of his father, a man who made his early life miserable. In the third shot of the headless man, he is rising out of the chair, and starts moving towards the camera, possibly representing Mickey's fear that he may still come and "get him".
An urban legend states that Rodney Dangerfield refused to shoot the brief black-and-white shot in which Mallory's father gropes her buttocks, either out of respect for his co-star, or because he felt it was too disturbing, and that the hands seen on-screen do not belong to him. In fact, the hands and the buttocks in this shot belong to body doubles. Accounts vary as to whether Rodney Dangerfield, Juliette Lewis, or both refused to film the scene, if the scene was a last-minute addition for which one or both were unavailable, or if it was always intended to use doubles.
Robert De Niro and Juliette Lewis had worked together on Cape Fear (1991). When De Niro praised her work in the film, Lewis explained that she improvised most of her lines, which De Niro did not like. He admonished the young actress for disrespecting the film's writers.
Mallory responds to Mickeys by dreamingly saying, I see angels Mickey. "They're coming down for us from heaven. And I see you riding a big red horse. And you're driving the horses, whipping them, and they're spitting and frothing at the mouth. They're coming right at us. And I see the future. There's no death, cause you and I, we're angels." Perhaps the most obvious interpretation of this cryptic vision is a biblical one. In the Book of Revelation, the second of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rides a red horse; Revelation 6:4 (King James Version), And another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. The rider of the red horse is usually taken to represent war, hence he takes peace from the earth, leading people to kill one another. The horse itself is often interpreted as being red to signify the blood spilled during battle. Interestingly, of the Four Horsemen, the rider of the red horse is the only one who represents a specifically manmade agency. The other three riders all represent disasters that are above or beyond the immediate power of man; the first (on a white horse) represents strife, the third (on a black horse) is famine, the fourth (on a pale horse) is death. Only the red rider represents something which Man can visit unto himself, and as such, he is the only one of the four who actually represents humanity itself. In this sense then, the obvious symbolism is that Mickey is the red rider who will remove peace from the earth, slay his fellow man, and cause blood to be spilled. The rider of the red horse is described as having a great sword with which to kill all those he encounters. Mickey is armed for almost the entirety of the film, and seems capable of killing just about anybody at any given stage of the movie. In the bible however, the red rider's primary function is not to kill people himself, but to remove peace from the earth, prompting Man to kill his fellow Man. In this sense, a biblical reading of Mallory's vision also makes sense. One could argue that Mickey is responsible for Jack Scagnetti's (Tom Sizemore) murder of the prostitute Pinky (Lorraine Farris), insofar as Scagnetti uses this murder to jack himself up so as to go after Mickey (as Oliver Stone makes clear on his commentary track). One could push this even further and argue that Mickey is responsible for the prison riot, which is, in very real terms, a war in which blood is spilt and in which people kill other people. In this sense then, the rider of the red horse has done his job, he has removed peace and caused the shedding of blood by means of human conflict. As such, Mallory's vision has come true.
According to an early draft of the script, this movie was originally intended to be directed by Rand Vossler, until Oliver Stone came to the project and Vossler ended up being a co-Producer. The story behind this change in directors was chronicled in the book "Killer Instinct" written by Producer Jane Hamsher.
Whilst shooting the POV scene, wherein Mallory runs into the wire mesh, Robert Richardson broke his finger, and the replacement cameraman cut his eye. According to Oliver Stone, he wasn't too popular with the camera department that day.
Although famously distancing himself from the final film, Director of Photography Robert Richardson and Quentin Tarantino later became frequent collaborators, and as of 2018 made five films together. That constitutes half of Tarantino's filmography.
In 1994, Oliver Stone told Roger Ebert: "When Quentin [Tarantino] wrote those two characters, Mickey and Mallory, they were originally based on, I guess, Bonnie and Clyde. But he basically wrote a different movie than the one I've made. He wrote a very nice, clever take-off on an AIP picture with a '90's wryness. It was mostly about the TV journalist, and Mickey and Mallory were just sort of crazy, stick figures. It was a clever script but he didn't want to do it so he moved on to do 'Reservoir Dogs.' I think he was hurt that I rewrote it so much. But I told him that I really can't make what he, as a 26-year-old, would make as a first film. As a 47-year-old filmmaker, it doesn't interest me. I want another level of socio-political comment and I want to deal with the whole justice system. I want to deal with the killers; where they come from, who their parents are. Quentin hasn't seen the movie, so who knows what he'll say?"
The song "Back in Baby's Arms" plays on the soundtrack at one point. That song also played in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), which also featured Edie McClurg in a brief role. She has a small role in this film as Mallory's mother.
During their Mexican standoff, Scagnetti tells Mickey: "We've had this date with each other from the beginning." This is a line said by Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. Another possible nod to Streetcar is Mickey's entrance in the sitcom segment, where he walks in carrying a package of meat; Stanley makes his entrance the same way in that play.
Although Tarantino is reported to have warned several of his collaborators not to get involved in this film, Juliette Lewis's involvement did not stop him from co-starring with her in From Dusk Till Dawn (which he had also scripted) the following year.
Ashley Judd had a lengthy courtroom scene (see deleted scenes) in which she was the sole survivor of one of Mickey and Malory's killing sprees in a sorority house. Mickey interrogates her on the stand before ultimately stabbing her to death with a pencil.
Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, and Woody Harrelson, are in Marvel films, Downey Jr. and Jones as Tony Stark aka Iron Man and Col. Chester Jones in the MCU, and Harrelson as Cletus Kassidy "Red", aka Carnage in Venom (2018).
In Christianity, snakes are often seen as a symbol for Satan, or for evil in general. In the Book of Genesis, Satan takes the form of a serpent to steal into the Garden of Eden and convince Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge; Genesis 3:1-15, Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"  The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;  but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die'."  The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.  They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"  He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself."  And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"  The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate."  Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."  The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;  And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. Satan again assumes the form of a serpent in the Book of Revelation, 20:1-3, Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;  and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. In this context then, the snake is simply the evil that assists Mickey and Mallory on their journey, as if Satan is lending a hand (for example, it is a snake which helps Mickey escape from prison during the tornado). however, the Christian reading may not be the only valid reading. According to Oliver Stone on his commentary track, the snake is "a creature of knowledge", because every time Mickey encounters one, he learns something important from it. This culminates in the snake field after the Indian shaman (Russell Means) has been killed, and both Mickey and Mallory are bitten by rattlesnakes (bites which should prove fatal but don't). In relation to this scene, Stone points out, they will be consumed by the knowledge that they have absorbed from the Indian. The knowledge takes the form of the rattlesnakes, which will come at them [...] The knowledge is ripped into both of them, their consciousness is in a sense altered, and raised [...] They never die from it, it doesn't become an issue, consciousness doesn't kill them, knowledge does not kill them. Looking at it this way, the snakes represent wisdom and knowledge. Indeed, it is worth noting that Oliver Stone is a Buddhist, and in Buddhism, snakes (known as nagas) are openly associated with wisdom and knowledge. The legend goes that Buddha gave the Prajñaparamita Sutras (or Perfection of Wisdom Sutras) to the King of the Naga (Nagaraja), because Mankind wasn't ready for them yet. When the time came, Nagaraja handed the sutras over to Nagarjuna, founder of the school of Mahayana Buddhism. Hence, snakes are seen as intelligent, wise and trustworthy, carrying none of the negative connotations associated with them in Christianity.
Tarantino trademarks: The Mexican stand-off between Mickey and Scagnetti. (See also: Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Volume 2, Inglourious Basterds.) Focusing on a woman's bare feet (when Mallory stamps out her cigarette). (See also: Pulp Fiction, Death Proof, Kill Bill Volume 1.) "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" followed by "My mother told me to pick the best one and you are it" in the opening diner scene. (See also: Pulp Fiction.)
When Detective Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) is speaking with Warden Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones), he says something about being as big as Jack Ruby. Later, Scagnetti is shot to death on live television, like Lee Harvey Oswald.
The Director's Cut of the film shows the death of Warden McClusky. In the theatrical version, you can only guess that he dies in the huge riot of prisoners, but the Director's Cut shows his body parts and impaled head. This is one of many large differences between the theatrical and Director's Cut.
An alternate ending depicts Mickey and Mallory murdered by Owen (Arliss Howard) after picking him up in their RV. Mallory begs in vain for mercy, her last line being "Wait!" before being shot. Oliver Stone admits that the ending is foreshadowed by Owen's ghostly appearance in the diner at the beginning of the film, and that it reflects karmic justice, but stated he preferred the ambiguous ending in which it is possible that "love beats the demon."
During the end credits Malory, now a mother, wears the same style of hair and clothing that her own mother wore.l at the start of the film. One of the themes of the film is history repeating itself and that violence is passed down through generations. Scagnetti is psychotic because of the trauma of seeing his mother murdered when he was a boy, while both Mickey and Malory were abused by their fathers.