The film was intended to have David Niven's character Sir Charles Lytton as the main character. However, Peter Sellers' portrayal of Inspector Clouseau was so loved by the crew (and later by the audience) it became his character that this film and the sequels focused on.
Somewhat overweight for much of his life up to this point and possessing a hang-dog face, Peter Sellers was obsessed with becoming a handsome leading man. Although he easily outperformed Robert Wagner in this picture, he envied the American actor's good looks. To get himself in better shape, he subjected himself to a gruelling weight-loss regimen that included the excessive use of diet pills, possibly a contributing factor to the heart attack he suffered before the film's release. Some biographers also claim he had his teeth straightened and capped.
In the bath scene with Capucine and Robert Wagner, an industrial-strength foaming agent is used, which burned both of the stars' skin. Wagner, who was completely immersed at one point, became blind for four weeks.
An animated Pink Panther was created for the opening credits because writer and director Blake Edwards felt that the credits would benefit from some kind of cartoon character. David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng decided to personify the film's eponymous jewel, and the Pink Panther character was chosen by Edwards from over a hundred alternative panther sketches. The Pink Panther introduced in the opening credits became a popular film and television character in his own right, beginning with the cartoon short The Pink Phink (1964) the following year.
This is the only known "Pink Panther" film where Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus does not appear. This is also the only film of the original series not featuring Clouseau's assistant Cato Fong, portrayed by Burt Kwouk.
With just two weeks to go before shooting begun, the producers decided that Ava Gardner's erratic lifestyle could affect filming and decided not to offer her the part of Madame Clouseau. Capucine was hired in a hurry, but Peter Ustinov's wife felt this would affect the calibre of the production and told him to withdraw . From this chaos, Peter Sellers became an international superstar.
The Pink Panther diamond is named not only for its color, but also for a tiny pink panther-shaped flaw. The overall pink however would make the Panther a very rare Type IIa diamond, in which some colors are absorbed not by impurities as in most other colored stones but by a misalignment in atomic structure caused by tectonic pressure during formation ('plastic deformation'). Though there are about a dozen large pink diamonds of name in the world, there has never been an actual "Pink Panther".
Wael Zuaiter, a PLO representative and translator assassinated in Rome by Israeli agents in retaliation for the 1972 Munich Massacre, played the waiter at the cocktail party as an extra. He is seen crossing the room after fadeout from the news headline "Rebels Demand Princess Return Fabulous Gem". Wael was the first target in Israel's Operation Wrath of God, and was portrayed by Makram Khoury in Steven Spielberg's Munich (2005).
David Niven recalled in one of his funniest anecdotes that his private parts got frostbitten during the skiing scene, which was shot on an extremely cold day in the Italian Alps. He said that, reasoning that alcohol made you feel warm, he dipped the "parts" in a glass of whiskey. He said that it worked but the pain was excruciating.
Peter Sellers modeled the character of Clouseau on the trademark of a box of matches which includes an image of Captain Matthew Webb, who in 1875 became the first person to swim the channel (his heroic mustache and proud stance are both mimicked). To lose weight, Sellers took dieting pills for a year.
Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers enjoyed working together to develop Clouseau down to every move and nuance of voice and expression. "For years I'd been getting bits of what I wanted into films, as writer or director...but I had never had an area in which to exploit my ideas to the full," Edwards said. "Then along came Peter, a walking storehouse of madness, a ham with an almost surrealist approach to the insanity of things, and we found an immediate affinity."
Between 1964 and 1993, nine Inspector Clouseau (or related) films would be released, although Inspector Clouseau (1968) and the movies made after Peter Sellers's death are mostly not considered canon. All but two would carry the "Pink Panther" title, but only four of the films actually deal with the Pink Panther diamond itself: this one, The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983). The reason they still kept The Pink Panther in the title was because it had become synonymous with inspector Clouseau.
David Niven was hoping the Pink Panther would help launch a series of films for him akin to the Thin Man Series. Due to the focus of future films being placed on Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, this never came to fruition. Niven would go on to play a parody of Thin Man Nick Charles, named Dick Charleston, in Neil Simon's Murder by Death (1976).
Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards agreed completely on the notion that comedy should be painful. Edwards had worked with director Leo McCarey early in his career, and he said McCarey had taught him an essential truth about comedy through his ability to extend tension in his comic scenes past the point at which audiences became uncomfortable. "He called it 'breaking the pain barrier,'" Edwards recalled.
Peter Ustinov was originally selected for the role of Inspector Clouseau. However, in January 1963, Ustinov was fired because the Mirsch Company sued him for $175, 000 in damages after being pulled out of production. During production in Rome, Peter Sellers replaced him and ended up playing Inspector Clouseau in all of the Pink Panther movies.
The role of Simone Clouseau was offered to Ava Gardner and Janet Leigh before Capucine got the part. In her autobiography, Leigh states she turned it down because she had recently gotten married to fourth husband Robert Brandt and didn't want to go on location and away from her new husband. Gardner accepted the role, but both her salary and personal demands were deemed unacceptable to the producers.
The character of Sir Charles Lytton does return to the Pink Panther movies in the third film The Return of the Pink Panther (1975). Peter Sellers again portrays the bumbling Clouseau but Christopher Plummer plays the role of Sir Charles. The precious Pink Panther jewel is once again the focus as in the beginning of the film it is stolen. This time from a museum.
Blake Edwards decided the title sequence would benefit from animation. The Pink Panther, meant to be a personification of the title jewel (a pink-hued diamond with a tiny flaw resembling a large cat), was created by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng and chosen by Edwards from more than a hundred other panther sketches.