One of the first mainstream American films to feature male and female nudity (albeit artfully filmed in a light-and-shadow style) in the Garden of Eden sequences. Reportedly, neither Michael Parks nor Ulla Bergryd used body doubles for these scenes.
Dino De Laurentiis originally announced that this would be the first in a series of feature films based on the books of the Bible. However, as the film lost Twentieth Century Fox $1.5 million, plans for any sequels were abandoned.
It was John Huston's original idea to have Charles Chaplin play Noah. However, Chaplin didn't much like the idea of appearing in a picture directed by someone else, and Huston wound up playing the role himself. Similarly, Huston wanted Igor Stravinsky to score the film. For unspecified reasons, this was never done, either.
Franco Nero was dubbed by an uncredited actor in this film. It is possible, though not confirmed, that several of the other Italian actors were dubbed as well, although the actors themselves can be seen mouthing the words.
As with many epics of the 1950s and 1960s Paul Francis Webster was called in to supply promotional lyrics to the main theme. The song was entitled "Song of the Bible" and Webster devised the following lyrics to fit Mayuzumi's opening theme music: "A long, long time ago / There was no earth, there was no sea / In all the endless dark, no star, no tree / And then it came to pass / Jehovah said "Let there be light" / And as the thunder rolled / He made the day and then the night."
When cast as Abel, Franco Nero could not speak or understand any English. Although his voice was dubbed by another American actor, John Huston helped Nero understand English by giving him audio recordings of William Shakespeare's plays to study.
French director Robert Bresson was hired in 1964 by producer Dino De Laurentiis as director. When he shot his first scene - the deluge - he requested the use of all the animals in Rome city zoo. The producers complied, but upon checking the daily rushes saw that the only thing Bresson filmed was the tracks of the animals upon a sandy beach. They were furious and Bresson was fired, John Huston took over the project, delaying production a further six months.
This film contains three Irish actors - Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Stephen Boyd. However, although O'Toole claimed to have been born in Ireland, the birth records show he was actually born in Leeds in England. John Huston got Irish citizenship in 1964 and held until his death in 1987.
In her memoirs, Ava Gardner wrote that she hated having to speak the stilted dialogue as it felt unnatural. Her director, John Huston, told her that she would speak them and make them sound convincing.
In some cities (such as Atlanta, GA) this film, which was shot in Dimension 150, a "curved screen" process, was not shown on a curved screen during its first run, despite the fact that there existed Cinerama theaters in those cities. This did not happen with the second and last film released in Dimension 150, the much more successful Patton (1970).
Despite the fact that John Huston and Peter O'Toole lived only 100kms from each other in County Galway in the West of Ireland, this was the only time they worked together. Huston lived in a fine mansion in Craughwell and O'Toole had a cottage in Clifden, both of which would have been very remote in the 1960s. Huston also wanted O'Toole and Richard Burton for his "Waterloo" for "The Bible" producer Dino De Laurentiis, and for his long cherished "The Man Who Would be King", but this did not happen.
When Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden, as a storm rages, the musical soundtrack, composed by Toshirô Mayuzumi, plays a quotation of the Roman Catholic hymn Dies Irae (Day of Wrath). It is a popular musical quotation, most familiar from its use in Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique (1830, fifth movement, "Dream of the Witch's Sabbath,"), and as heard in the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick's film, The Shining (1980).
In August 1963, Dino De Laurentiis signed a contract with MJ Frankovich and Leo Jaffe of Columbia Pictures to distribute this picture worldwide. The deal, reputedly worth $20m, eventually fell through.