Real-life racing car driver José Carlos Pace doubled for Al Pacino in the car racing scenes. Billed as Carlos Pace in the credits, Pace is credited as being a Formula 1 car driver on this 1977 movie. Tragically, Pace was killed in a plane crash in Sao Paulo, just after the beginning of the 1977 season. Pace was 32. This film was dedicated to him.
Star Al Pacino was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor for his performance in this picture but did not win. The nomination was one of few award accolades that the movie received.
Sydney Pollack once said of actor Al Pacino's performance and characterization in this film that Al is "one of the few actors around who can play a seemingly passive, uninteresting man, and make it not boring to watch".
The make and model of the race car used by Al Pacino in the movie is a Brabham Alfa Romeo BT-45, which belonged to the Brazilian Racer José Carlos Pace, who actually drove it during the race (South African Formula One Grand Prix, in 1976) scenes.
Twenty-five minutes of the film were cut for the network TV showings; premium movie channels (such as Cinemax) show the complete 124 minute version. According to Hal Erickson at Allmovie, the film was "originally released at 124 minutes, Bobby Deerfield (1977) was pared down to 99 minutes by director [Sydney] Pollack for cable-TV consumption".
Al Pacino's trainer on this movie was also called Al. He was former professional boxing trainer and bit-part actor Al Silvani. They were affectionately referred to as being "The Two Als". Silvani also played a mechanic in the movie. Previously, Silvani had buddied around with the Rat Pack.
Marthe Keller satisfied the productions selection criteria for this picture. Keller was a European actress, from Switzerland, who could speak fluently French, German, Italian and English. The Swiss actress also had appeared in two American movies released during 1976 and 1977. They were Black Sunday (1977), and Marathon Man (1976).
The opening credits state that "technical assistance [for this picture was] provided by [the] Martini Racing Division with special participation of Bernie Ecclestone and the Alpha / Brabham Formular 1 Racing Team".
To prepare for her role as Lillian, a seriously ill character, actress Marthe Keller went on an exercise regime of almost Olympic proportions. Reportedly, Keller got up at six o'clock each morning, ate green lettuce, swam in thermal baths, drank carrot juice, hiked on mountain trails, and played tennis for an hour each day, then at night, sometimes had a second game of tennis right up to dusk time at nine o'clock. Keller lost ten pounds in weight and as such could no longer fit into her American wardrobe.
The picture was filmed in several European countries which included France, Belgium, Italy, Monaco, Spain, England and Switzerland. This included such major shooting locations as Paris & Le Mans in France, Florence, Bellagio & Lake Como in Italy, and the Swiss village Leukerbad, which is situated between the 10,000 feet high peaks of the Wildhorn and Schwarzhorn of the alps in Switzerland.
Background shots and second-unit photography for this picture was filmed at real 1976 Formula One races by Sydney Pollack and a camera crew spending many weekends in such European countries as Spain, France, England, Belgium and Monte Carlo.
Whilst in Monte Carlo shooting background shots and second unit photography of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, director Sydney Pollack and the production were the special guests of the Prince and Princess of the small European nation-state of Monaco.
Publicity for this picture declared that the film's source sombre setting of a sanitarium nestled high in the forbidding peaks of the Swiss Alps also served as a backdrop for Guy de Maupassant's gothic horror tale "L'Auberge" ("The Inn").
The first words that Bobby and Lillian said to each other were when Lillian said to Bobby: "You must know a lot about death, about dying" (Lillian). Bobby's reply was: "I don't think about death. I don't think about speed. I just drive".
A short behind the scenes promotional documentary, "Filming a Love Story: Bobby Deerfield (1977)", about the making of this major motion picture, was made for theatrical release. It is included on the DVD for the movie.