This film was made with the complete cooperation of the Soviet government, the Red Army, and the citizens of Moscow which is how they managed to get 1500 horses and 120 thousand extras into the war scenes.
The Battle of Borodino took over two years to produce with over 300 actors and 120 thousand extras involved. About 200 firing cannons were filmed in the battle and about 100 thousand rifles were used by extras and stunts.
Director Sergey Bondarchuk had two heart attacks during the years of production. He suffered his first heart attack while filming part 3, the battle of Borodino. He suffered his second heart attack while filming part 4, the Fire of Moscow. Then the director was in-and-out of hospital during post-production.
Original art, jewellery, swords, guns, and period furniture from several museums, as well, as replicas of period military uniforms, decorations, ball gowns and costume jewellery pieces were used in the film.
About a thousand professional artists, designers, decorators and museum specialists worked on sets construction, design, and decoration. Several companies in Moscow and Leningrad were involved in making replicas of military uniforms, period dresses and costumes during the years of production.
Lyudmila Saveleva came to the 1969 Academy Awards, she received the Oscar on behalf of the filmmakers. But when she came back to Moscow, the Soviet authorities entered the airplane. The Soviet government took the Oscar away from the filmmakers.
Director Bondarchuk cast those Russian actors who were previously censored under Stalin, and were kept underemployed in the Soviet film industry. Thus Bondarchuk arranged for comeback of several stars of the 1930s and even of the silent-films era, such as Veronika Polonskaya, Stanitsyn, Anatoli Ktorov, Galina Kravchenko, Boris Zakhava and other notable actors.
A replica of central Moscow was built in Volokolamsk for filming the fire of Moscow. The replica was completely burned down as part of filming. For filming the scenes of the fire, actor Sergey Bondarchuk had a stand-in, Yuri Devochkin.
The US' première was held at the DeMille Theater, Seventh Avenue and 47th Street, New York. The screening for this seven-hour epic was shown in two parts, and the cost of a ticket was a staggering $7.50, for the best seats.
Her role as Natasha was the first performance for former ballerina Lyudmila Saveleva. More than 40 years later she would return to Tolstoy with a performance in a television mini-series adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.