In an interview included on the DVD, Ethan Coen said, "The cat was a nightmare. The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself." A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."
After Oscar Isaac's first meeting with T Bone Burnett, advisor/composer/musician Burnett put on a Tom Waits record and simply left the room for an hour. "That was the first lesson," Isaac said. "It was a real Mr. Miyagi moment."
The folk singer Dave Van Ronk, who was an inspiration for some of the movie's characters and story, released a 1963 album called "Inside Dave Van Ronk." Its cover was a photo of Van Ronk and a cat standing in a doorway. On the "Fresh Air" NPR interview program, host Terry Gross asked the Coens if that was their inspiration for having a cat in the movie, and they said that not only was it not, but also that they hadn't even noticed the cat on the Van Ronk album cover until they'd completed shooting and an art director pointed out the coincidence during post-production.
This is the second Coen Brothers movie with a plot partly inspired by Homer's The Odyssey. When the first one, О где же ты брат? (2000), came out, the Coen brothers told several interviewers that had never actually read The Odyssey; in 2013, they told Terry Gross that they had still never gotten around to reading it. One of them said to Gross, "Yeah. It's right by my bedside table. I keep looking over at it and going, ugh."
Llewyn Davis is a fictional character, not based on the life of Dave Van Ronk. However, the creative spark for making this movie came from Van Ronk's memoir "The Mayor of MacDougal Street". The film looks at the Greenwich Village music scene in and around the real-life clubs Gaslight Cafe and Gerde's Folk City.
"Jim and Jean" were actually a real American folk-music duo, "Jim Glover and Jean Ray," who performed and recorded in 1960s Greenwich Village. As his Ohio State college roommate, Jim Glover was the person who first introduced legendary performer Phil Ochs to folk music; early on, they were also briefly a duo. Additionally, Jean Ray was noted for being the inspiration for Neil Young 's song "Cinnamon Girl."
The Coens' usual choice for cinematographer, Roger Deakins, was unavailable as he was busy shooting 007: Координаты Скайфолл (2012). Meanwhile, Bruno Delbonnel, who is French, stepped in to take the position, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, his fourth nomination in 13 years. Deakins, who is British, had been nominated 14 times for Oscars, five of those films for the Coens.
Although there was talk of nominating "Please, Mr. Kennedy" for a Best Original Song Oscar, the fact that it was an amalgam of several period songs, novelty and otherwise, meant the Academy had to pass.
The Coens told interviewer Terry Gross that working with multiple cats on the set was very difficult, and that they ended up disliking cats in general, largely because of their experience with them on this film. They also said that even the trained vulture they had worked with making Железная хватка (2010) was preferable to the cats they had to deal with, even though that trained bird of prey had been, "by vulture standards, probably a stupid vulture."
The character Troy Nelson is based on singer-songwriter Tom Paxton, who served in the army before beginning his career in Greenwich Village. Paxton's song "The Last Thing On My Mind" is featured in the film, and the Nelson character makes an implicit reference to another Paxton song "Buy a Gun For Your Son."
Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Adam Driver and others performed the music live. The exception was "The Auld Triangle", which was lip-synced, with Timberlake singing bass. (Timberlake's vocal range was on display in the film. Critic Janet Maslin, listening to a soundtrack recording, confused Timberlake's voice with Mulligan's, which she thought resembled that of Mary Travers).
When Bud Grossman (a fictional character based on Albert Grossman) suggests to Llewyn Davis that he may have an opening for him in a trio if he trims his beard into a goatee and stays out of the sun, he is referring to the real Albert Grossman putting together and managing the Peter, Paul and Mary trio. Grossman once told to Mary Travers to stay out of the sun because he envisioned her as the blond, pale, indoor type.
Chris Eldridge, guitarist of Punch Brothers, is shown on the album cover of the Timlin & Davis album "If I Had Wings." In this visual only he portrays Mike Timlin, Llewyn's former partner in the duo Timlin & Davis. Punch Brothers contributed heavily to the music and soundtrack of the movie, as well as being the "house band" for the concert "Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn Davis'" staged months before the film's release.
The valet driver for John Goodman's character mentions a stint in a play he did for three weeks called "The Brig". This refers to a Living Theatre production in the early 1960s, revived a few years ago along with a documentary about the production, by Dirk Szusies, former member of the Living Theatre and his partner Karin Kaper.
Shooting was complicated by an early New York spring, which interfered with the bleak winter atmosphere that prevails throughout the film, and by the difficulty of filming several cats, who, unlike dogs, ignore the desires of filmmakers. On the advice of an animal trainer, the Coens put out a casting call for an orange tabby cat, which is sufficiently common that several cats would be available to play one part. Individual cats were then selected for each scene based on what they were predisposed to do on their own.
Inside Llewyn Davis has been highly acclaimed, and was voted the 11th best film released since 2000 by film critics in a 2016 BBC Culture poll. It was also chosen the eleventh "Best Film of the 21st Century So Far" in 2017 by The New York Times.
J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan based Pan off of the boys of the Llewelyn-Davies family. This may be Llewyn Davis' namesake, because he shares traits with Peter Pan like irresponsibility and carelessness, or a cool coincidence.
Folk singers, however, have criticised the film for misrepresenting the friendliness of the Village folk scene of the time. Terri Thal, Dave Van Ronk's ex-wife, said, "I didn't expect it to be almost unrecognisable as the folk-music world of the early 1960s." Suzanne Vega said "I feel they took a vibrant, crackling, competitive, romantic, communal, crazy, drunken, brawling scene and crumpled it into a slow brown sad movie." The film was also criticised for the fact that, although it was to some extent based on the memoir of Dave Van Ronk, the film portrayed a character very much at odds with the real Van Ronk, usually described as a "nice guy". However, at a press interview before the film was premiered at Cannes, the Coens had stated that the character itself was very much an original creation, and that the music was the major influence they'd drawn from Van Ronk.
Unlike most Coen Brothers films, this one had a hard time finding distribution after its completion due to films about the music industry being box office poison and the lack of a major lead. Finally, CBS (who ironically shelved the Coen Brothers-written Гамбит (2012) and have yet to release it in the US) picked it up for a December 2013 release.
Two years after Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver sang "Please Mister Kennedy, don't shoot me into outer space", both played major roles in Star Wars Episode VII. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy. They got everything right except for the "Mister" part.
The browns and dirty whites that constitute much of the color palette for the film were modeled on the cover art of Bob Dylan's second album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," recorded and photographed in New York during the winter of 1962-1963. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel told American Cinematographer Magazine that the Coen brothers instructed him to give them "a slushy New York."
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen: [Kubrick] The first few shots of the scene in the bathroom were filmed as an one-point perspective, the same way Kubrick filmed the memorable meeting between Jack Torrance and Grady in Сияние (1980) also taking place in a bathroom.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Llewyn finds out at the end that the cat which escaped and found its way back home is called 'Ulysses'. Ulysses is the Latin form of 'Odysseus', a hero from Greek mythology who embarked on a journey and found his way home many years later, against incredible odds.