Georg Wilhelm Pabst nearly signed Marlene Dietrich to star, although he greatly preferred Louise Brooks. According to Pabst, Dietrich was in his office waiting to sign the contract when a cable came from Paramount saying that Brooks was willing to play the role.
This marked the first of three films produced in Europe for Louise Brooks. Brooks remarked that she much preferred her European films because she felt they challenged her as an artist, but she also admitted that the European films proved more exhausting than those filmed in Hollywood.
Louise Brooks, who had faded into obscurity by the late 1930s, was delighted by her renewed popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, much of which was actually the result of intensive self-promotion by herself and her mentor, James Card, and even went so far as to attend re-releases of her films in crowded revival houses.
The character of Lulu, the free-spirited and sexually-promiscuous Berlin flapper, her iconic haircut, blatant sexuality, and manner of dress momentarily influenced the model of what became known as the "new modern woman" in Europe and the United States.
Director Georg Wilhelm Pabst approached Paramount about loaning Louise Brooks to star in this film. Paramount refused, and Pabst was forced to turn to Marlene Dietrich as his second choice. However, Brooks and the studio were in the midst of a heated dispute about her salary. With Paramount unwilling to pay Brooks more money, she walked out on her contract and immediately agreed to replace Dietrich on the film.
After a warm critical reception immediately upon release, this film fell into relative obscurity until British film historian Kenneth Tynan's article, "The Girl in the Black Helmet," published by The New Yorker in 1971 reacquainted the film public with Pandora's Box (1929) and its star Louise Brooks
According to Louise Brooks' memoir, "Lulu in Hollywood", Alice Roberts was not aware her character was a lesbian until filming began, and she was initially opposed to playing the role as being attracted to Lulu. Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Brooks writes, convinced Roberts to pretend she was making her love gestures to Pabst, who was standing just off-camera.
For the scene in which Lulu picks up and seduces Jack, Georg Wilhelm Pabst selected one of Louise Brooks's own suits - her favorite - for Lulu's costume and soiled, scuffed and rent it. Brooks claimed that, without spoken direction, Pabst thus established the desired effect of making her feel worn, cheap, and desperate, as the character of Lulu was intended to be portrayed.
Georg Wilhelm Pabst initially incurred a lot of wrath when he cast American Louise Brooks in the role of Lulu, a part which was considered to be quintessentially German. Ultimately Brooks' performance silenced her critics.