Two years earlier, Robert De Niro won an Oscar for playing Vito Corleone, a role that had already won as Oscar for Marlon Brando two years before that. Gérard Depardieu would later be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and win a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), a role that had already won an Oscar, forty years earlier, for José Ferrer.
Bernardo Bertolucci stated that in an interview, he filmed the scenes of the movie based on the four seasons. If you notice, the meeting of the boys is summer, the adult reunion of Alfredo and Olmo takes place in a fall moment. The Fascist takeover is winter, while the end of World War Two is spring.
Principal photography started on this picture in July 1974 and was completed nine months later in May 1975 with extra filming continuing right up until September 1975 making the over shooting period spanning a period of an epic 14 months.
Bertolucci himself cut the 3.5 hour version that was originally shown internationally, which he did to appease the studios and financiers, who wanted to use an even shorter cut that was never released. He still says he prefers the original 5 and half hour cut. His main complaint with the international release was the English title "1900". With the original title "Novecento", he meant to imply a tale of the 20th century.
Bernardo Bertolucci once said of this film: "At first we planned it as six episodes for television. But in elaborating the scenario, we began to feel that for political, social and narrative reasons, it belonged on the large screen."