Marianne Lane's concert scene was filmed in Milan, at the San Siro Stadium, which is like the Madison Square Garden of Milan. They shot the scene in front of 70,000 people during the show of Italian Rock star Lorenzo Jovanotti. Tilda Swinton has a mutual friend with Jovanotti, so they asked him if he could lend his crown for 15 minutes and the audience was asked to shout "Marianne Lane" before Jovanotti came out.
Ralph Fiennes told that he accepted the role of Harry Hawkes when he received the screenplay and it was written that in a few minutes down the film, his character would express himself through dancing. He had never been asked to do that before, so he said "yes, thank you."
Four actors (the main cast), their director and an Italian crew were stuck together for eight weeks. At one point, the underwater camera needed for the climactic scene didn't work, and they had to wait a week for a replacement. Matthias Schoenaerts felt uncomfortable and trapped, Tilda Swinton was calm and later described it as "like an extended family holiday". Ralph Fiennes, who loved their individual houses built into the rocks, didn't want to leave.
Initially, Tilda Swinton didn't want to do this movie. Not this one nor others, due to the recent death of her mother. She ended up changing her mind and proposed the idea of this woman unable to speak into the established story of ancient histories and new lives thrown into relief by one another. Not only as a twist to ramp up the tensions between the characters, but also as a way of exploring the possibilities of silence in a portrait of a character surrounded by the noise of others and the legacy of the noise she had herself made in the past.
Luca Guadagnino told at the Venice Film Festival in September 2015 that he had one of the best on-set experiences of his career with the cast of 'A Bigger Splash', and that he wanted to reunite with them in Suspiria (2018). Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson were cast as the main characters in Suspiria.
A Sony leaked e-mail revealed that Cate Blanchett was the original choice for the role of Marianne. The part eventually went to Tilda Swinton. Blanchett was performing a play in New York at the same time of the filming.
The Rolling Stones helped with the script. Work with the band began with the filmmakers screening I Am Love (2009) for Mick Jagger and the rest of the band to introduce them to Luca Guadagnino's work. Jagger was intrigued. Ralph Fiennes was also friendly with Jagger and the duo went on a pilgrimage to a Stones concert in Rome to pitch A Bigger Splash. According to the film's producer Michael Costigan, it went even better than they could have ever hoped. Mick and Ronnie Wood, particularly, were so excited about the movie and about Ralph's character, he actually got a couple of notes back from Mick and from Ronnie so that the dialogue would be so authentic, in terms of describing the recording sessions that Harry discusses. When he puts the record on, Harry is now relaying some authentic details from the original recording sessions that the Stones provided.
Ralph Fiennes' brother, Magnus, is a music producer just like his character Harry. Fiennes told to Collider website that his brother was his main source of referencing and talking to him about [music] stuff.
Marianne Lane's Dior wardrobe was created especially for Tilda Swinton by Raf Simons, Dior's creative director at the time. The rest of the characters laid back looks were fashioned by costume designer Giulia Piersanti, to compliment Marianne's casual style as well as their own intentions. Harry, for instance, has an eccentric mix of city and holiday clothing. Piersanti imagined that he didn't necessarily plan this trip and that he's being there was a spur of the moment decision to go mess things up for Marianne and Paul. She went to Charvet in Paris with Ralph Fiennes to get shirts made for the movie and it was very funny to see him change into Harry as soon as you would drape a fabric over him since he is so different from his character. Penelope has a similar starting point as she's basically been dragged along on her father's unexpected adventure. Piersanti wanted her to have very city girl feel to her look at the beginning, but her relative youth is a constant undercurrent as she finds herself swimming in her underwear because she hasn't bought a swimsuit yet. Her Smiley face sweater at the end of the movie when she is trying not to cry says a lot about her need to always look aloof to things that secretly matter to her, according to Piersanti . Paul, on the other hand, is a photographer and filmmaker who out of the whole crew probably cares the least about what he's wearing. Piersanti wanted his wardrobe to be uncared for, very worn in and repetitive like a uniform. She ended up referencing storied photographers such as Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton who always seemed to take self-portraits of themselves in a jean shirt or t-shirt and jeans. Piersanti also suggests viewers pay attention to the very subtle moments when one character wears the other character's clothing items to show their true motivations. For instance, Penelope putting on Marianne's espadrilles shoes to go hiking with Paul or Marianne wearing Harry's shirt while cutting his hair as a reminder of their shared history together. "The most important thing was the state of mind the characters were in", Piersanti says.
In the original script, Marianne Lane would be an English actress learning an American accent. but Tilda Swinton suggested that she would be a singer, a music person in the same way that Harry is, to stress their closeness as a couple, the legacy of the couple and the script was changed. The filmmakers found it extremely important that the link between Harry and Marianne was the music, the substance of their connection as music. Then, having established that, Tilda also came up with the idea that Marianne, unlike Harry who has this great capacity with words, should have a sort of impairment that forces her to express herself in another way.
Although he likes The Rolling Stones, Ralph Fiennes had never seen them in a concert until the summer in which the film was shot in 2014. The band performed in Rome and the cast and crew went to see them.
At the 2015 London Film Festival, director Luca Guadagnino confided that his favorite scene was one that didn't even make it into the film. "We shot it in London, at the Tate Gallery, and it happened in front of the great painting by David Hockney. It's a beautiful scene, but we ended up not having room for it." Only Dakota Johnson was in the scene looking at the painting and reflecting on it.
Tilda Swinton appeared on the cover of the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of AnOther Magazine as her character Marianne Lane. In a work of fiction co-authored by Tilda Swinton, Glenn O'Brien, Luca Guadagnino and David Kajganich, Marianne Lane gives an interview for the magazine based around events in the film.
When asked if anything about the script had intimidated him about taking the role of Harry, Ralph Fiennes told that he was intimidated by the dance and by having to sing karaoke, because he's not a singer/dancer person.
This film marks the first time that Matthias Schoenaerts plays a Belgian character in a non-Belgian and non-French film and also in an English-language film. The last time that he had played a Belgian character prior to this film was in the French film Rust and Bone (2012). In the meantime, Schoenaerts played American, British, German, French and Danish characters.
The tattoos on Penelope's body are Dakota Johnson's real life tattoos. The director and the actress decided not to hide them because Penelope, like Dakota, is not afraid of regretting something that is permanent.
Before David Kajganich started the first draft of the script, he read every official and unofficial book about The Rolling Stones and watched every official and unofficial documentary about them. He needed to build a space in the factual world of 1990s rock-n-roll that Marianne Lane and Harry Hawkes could have occupied. What Rolling Stones albums, for instance, could Harry have produced. Once he decided that, he found as many first-person accounts of being in the studio during the recording of those songs as he could. Incidentally, he had a very interesting email forwarded to him during prep for the shoo, it was to the film's music supervisor and it was from Mick Jagger. At some point The Rolling Stones read the script. The filmmakers wanted their blessing since they were asking for the rights to some of their music and they gave it to them, but in this email Mick Jagger was asking how Kajganich knew the story Harry tells in the film about recording "Moon Is Up" and having Charlie Watts play a trash can instead of a drum. Kajganich had read the substance of that anecdote in one of Stanley Booth's books about The Rolling Stones. But he'd used it in the script in this sort of ball-out way and was a little concerned at first that Mick Jagger might be annoyed about it, but he couldn't have been more game. He was essentially writing to correct a detail in that scene as Kajganich had written it. Kajganich told that he was very happy to have the adjustment, because you're not going to get a better fact-checker for a story about The Rolling Stones than Mick Jagger. Kajganich also listened almost exclusively to The Rolling Stones for a year.
The sunglasses that Matthias Schoenaerts' Paul wears throughout the film, is a reissue of the Vuarnet 006 sunglasses worn by Alain Delon in The Swimming Pool (1969), which became a sensation at the time. Vuarnet didn't pay for the product placement in A Bigger Splash.
Luca Guadagnino met Matthias Schoenaerts in 2012, because someone told him that there was this fantastic young Belgian actor who played in a very powerful film called Bullhead (2011), which he hadn't seen. Guadagnino was in LA and got a screener of Bullhead and he saw it and thought, 'Oh my god, this guy is really a force of nature.' Schoenaerts happened to be in Los Angeles, and Guadagnino met him. Guadagnino had this meeting with Schoenaerts that was really touching for him because he saw in Matthias the integrity and solidity of a man of great skill and great inheritance, because Matthias's father is one of the greatest European actors of the 70s, Julien Schoenaerts. But according to Guadagnino, Matthias has his own identity as an actor, and has his own way of being. Actor and director met again after Schoenaerts made Rust and Bone (2012), and they had a sort of aim to work together, so for Guadagnino it was only natural that when they started to cast, he said, 'okay, let's get him to play this brooding character who is always accepting the heat from Harry until he cannot accept them anymore, and unconsciously goes for what he should not do'. And Guadagnino felt that Matthias would be perfect to play Paul.
Luca Guadagnino had been a fan of Ralph Fiennes for many years and always dreamt of working with him. When Guadagnino saw Fiennes in the trailer of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), he thought, "hang on a minute, this guy has always played such brooding and intense characters; I didn't know he had such levity or that he could be so garrulous". So Guadagnino gave him the script and told him that the character of Harry was id unleashed. But when Fiennes read the script, he said, "There is something in this character that is very close to me. How did you know?", Guadagnino's response was, "Instinct. Intuition."
A scene involving Marianne Lane's backstory with her mother was filmed and subsequently cut out. In the original script, Marianne's mother was a famous film star, someone like Ingrid Bergman. There was a scene where Marianne is in San Gaetano, the big fiesta, a little girl comes up and thinks Marianne is her mother. The whole idea of Marianne being mistaken for her famous mother and stepping into her mother's milieu. The scene was cut because the filmmakers felt that it was distracting, but all the way through shooting they kept thinking of Marianne's mother as being a sort of different kind of famous woman, and someone who has negotiated the fact of being a superstar, becoming a mother and becoming a domesticated person even in the public's eye.
In one scene, Penelope mentions "La Mamma Morta" and "I am Love". The title of Luca Guadagnino's previous film, I Am Love (2009), comes from a line of the aria "La Mamma Morta", which is part of the 1896 opera "Andrea Chénier" by Umberto Giordano.
Marianne Lane's sunglasses are an exclusive pair of Dior Futurist Palladium Mirrored sunglasses designed especially for the film. Paul briefly wears Marianne's sunglasses in the airport scene. In the studio scene, Marianne is wearing a pair of Dior So Real sunglasses.
Director Luca Guadagnino has some hesitation in considering "A Bigger Splash" a remake of The Swimming Pool (1969). He told L'Uomo Vogue that he's not a fan of the Jacques Deray movie and kept only the idea of two couples who meet around a pool in a suspended moment of time, which is to say summer. For The Guardian, Guadagnino explained that he started thinking about David Hockney instead. In Hockney's famous painting A Bigger Splash. He considered the painter's rendering of surfaces, and thought: "What is behind - what is beyond, what is before - the crashing of the surface?" He filched Hockney's title, opened the action around a swimming pool, and made everything else his own. The idea was to portray behaviour, which is a neglected concept in contemporary cinema.
The Spanish song being played on the turntable, the one Harry stops and takes away from the turntable, is "El el ultimo trago" (The last drink) interpreted by renowned ranchera singer Chavela Vargas. Covers of this Spanish language standard have been made by many artists including a favorite and muse of Pedro Almodovar's, flamenco singer Concha Buika, who is featured singing at a party in Almodovar's "La piel que habito" ("The Skin I live in").
Screenwriter David Kajganich was on set and also has an executive producer credit on this film. Kajganich ended up being a part of nearly every phase of the production, including post. He was there for a lot of the scouting, for physical prep, and for prep with the actors. During the shoot, he was on set every day making tweaks and adjusting to production needs, and he was also in the editing room with director Luca Guadagnino and editor Walter Fasano, and for some of the ADR sessions. David Kajganich told that this is how Guadagnino likes to work, and it requires so much trust between the writer and director, and such a level of openness and in his experience, directors aren't usually built this way, most directors he met have this fever of ego and insecurity, while Guadagnino has a great sense of play and fairness.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Spoilers for I Am Love (2009) and Melissa P. (2005) follow: Luca Guadagnino cannot swim. This is the second film directed by him in which a death scene happens in the swimming pool. The previous was I Am Love (2009), also involving the death of a character connected to Tilda Swinton's character. In Melissa P. (2005), the predatory host of a teen party emerges from the pool to begin a relationship of one-on-one and group sexual humiliation and abuse of the fifteen-year-old lead character, who can't swim.