The explosions in this film were provided not by special effects technicians but by the Dutch Marines. In his DVD commentary on the film, director Paul Verhoeven states that the explosive charges were held in place with metal. When one of the charges was set off, it blew the metal to bits. One of the flying fragments nearly killed star Rutger Hauer.
This is a true story, but some names of historic persons are changed. For example, Erik Lanshof is actually Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, and Van der Zanden is actually François van 't Sant. Guus (not Gus) Lejeune is probably B. van der Stok. One of the reasons for the change in names may be that, for clarity and simplicity, the number of characters from the original story were reduced, and as a consequence, some historic actions are ascribed to other people in the movie. So as to acknowledge this deviation from reality, some names may have been altered.
In the opening scene, mock newsreel footage shows Queen Wilhelmina (Andrea Domburg) and her aide-de-camp, Erik Lanshof (Rutger Hauer) arriving in the Netherlands after the country's liberation at the end of the Second World War. The footage is intercut with genuine footage, shot by American and Dutch cameramen, of the real Queen Wilhelmina, accompanied by her real aide-de-camp, Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, the author of the book on which the film is based. To make the mock newsreel appear even more authentic, the filmmakers convinced the man who had done the voiceover work for genuine postwar Dutch newsreels to come out of retirement and provide the voiceover for the opening sequence. The airport being showed is the airport of Teuge (which is still in use today)and is situated between the towns of Apeldoorn and Twello. Near the entrance of the airport is a plaque commemorating the event of the Queen returning to Holland.
Prince Bernhard, Prince Consort to the Dutch Queen Julianna, who was inspector general of the Dutch armed forces, was a personal friend of Erik Hazelhof Roelfsma and served as protector of the film. He arranged among other things for the support of the Dutch marines of the production. However, during shooting it was revealed that Prince Bernhard had accepted a $1.1 million bribe from U.S. aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Corporation to influence the Dutch government's purchase of fighter aircraft. The Prince as forced to resign his position as inspector general as a result of this.
Rijk de Gooyer, who plays Gestapo collaborator Breitner, was part of the resistance in the Netherlands during World War II. As a result, he harbored quite some anti-German sentiments towards his fellow actor Reinhard Kolldehoff, who plays Wehrmacht General Geisman. This even went as far as firing a gas pistol next to Kolldehoff's head just before they had a scene together.
Director Paul Verhoeven originally wanted Derek de Lint to play Erik Lanshof, the title character. He had previously directed Rutger Hauer in the Dutch television series Floris (1969) and the film Turkish Delight (1973) and did not think Hauer was right for the lead in this picture. De Lint read for Lanshof several times, but Verhoeven never quite got the performance out of de Lint he was looking for. He then decided to give Hauer a try. Hauer surprised Verhoeven by giving a very strong reading, with the result that Verhoeven cast him as Erik and de Lint as Alex.
In the scene where Guus is walking trough a Dutch street he sees a shop whose windows have been whitened and written over with anti-Semitic phrases. The actual shop owner didn't wanted to change his showroom into 1940s style to favor the filmmakers, so they painted the window white and wrote anti-Jewish phrases on it so that the man wouldn't have to change his showroom.
The song that Rutger Hauer's character sings while soup is being poured on his head is called "Terang Bulan", which in 1963 became the national anthem of Malaysia. It is forbidden now in Malaysia to be used for any other purpose, whereas in the 1930s and 40s it was a popular song in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
When the production ran out of budget, a British film company and a Dutch television company provided additional financial support, under the condition that the material was also adapted into a four part mini-series, which was retitled "For Koningin en Vaderland" (For Queen and Fatherland).