FILM 1350: MURDER IN THE FIRST
TRIVIA: Blanche, the prostitute that James Stamphill brings to visit Henri Young (Kevin Bacon) in prison, is played by Kyra Sedgwick who was (and still is) Kevin Bacon's real-life wife.
The real life Henry Young was a bank robber who had taken and brutalized a hostage on at least one occasion and committed murder in 1933 - some 3 years before being incarcerated at Alcatraz. He had served time in State prisons in Montana and Washington before entering Federal prison for the first time in 1935 at the U.S. Penitentiary on McNeil Island, Washington (which is now a State prison).
The warden in the film, James Humson, is based on Warden James A. Johnston, who served as warden of Alcatraz from 1934 to 1948. Far from being a befuddled bureaucrat, Warden Johnston was very much in charge during his tenure on Alcatraz. Johnston had previously served as warden of both San Quentin and Folsom Prisons prior to his appointment to Alcatraz, but he did not (as depicted in the film) serve as warden for all three prisons simultaneously. (This would have been impossible, because Alcatraz was a federal prison, and San Quentin and Folsom are both state prisons.)
Kevin Bacon lost 20 pounds to play Henri Young.
According to an interview, film director Oliver Stone claims to have auditioned for the role of D.A. William McNeil, that was ultimately given to William H. Macy.
According to Stephen Tobolowsky, Oliver Stone was originally cast as Mr. Henkin but did not show up on the day of filming. Mark Rocco called Tobolowsky to take over the role just hours before shooting.