Michael Caine has said many times that he acted in this film purely for monetary reasons and considers it the worst project he's ever done. Caine once said that the film was "the worst, most wretched film I ever made".
Due to the extreme high temperatures, a camel collapsed during the shoot and fell on Michael Caine. Caine once said "It was so bad that my camel fainted and rolled on top of me. I thought it was a bit much to expect me to act in that heat when my camel was collapsing!".
The film's "Ashanti" title refers to the name of a proud African tribe who fought the Dutch and British armies during the 18th and 19th Centuries. The descendants survived to form the modern African state of Ghana.
'Beverly Johnson (III)' was pregnant during principal photography but did not tell the producers. The white dress she wears during the end of the film had to be let out due to this. It was designed by veteran Hollywood costume designer Edith Head.
The name of Prince Hassan (Omar Sharif)'s yacht was "Odalisque" of the port of Panama. The word "Odalisque", according to the Oxford Dictionary, is from the Turkish "Odalik" and means "a female slave or concubine in an Ottoman seraglio, especially the Imperial Harem of the sultan".
The film's title "Ashanti" was somewhat confusing for audiences as many people tended to think that the character played by model-actress Beverly Johnson was called "Ashanti". Johnson's image appeared prominently on one of the movie's main posters where she was positioned above the film's bold title, sitting chained in the desert in a red dress showing much cleavage, and comprising 60% of the poster. Her character was actually named Anansa (full name: Dr. Anansa Linderby) and not "Ashanti", which refers to the African tribe Anansa was a descendant of.
In this film, actor Michael Caine's character, Dr. David Linderby, is married to Dr. Anansa Linderby, who was played by African-American super-model turned actress Beverly Johnson, her character's genealogical lineage being from the Ashanti tribe in West Africa. In real life, since 1973, Caine has been married to Shakira Caine (formerly Shakira Baksh), who was born in South America in British Guiana, now Guyana.
The casting of actor Michael Caine in the lead role in this picture connected to his past on-screen persona as Caine had starred in the earlier Africa set classic Zulu (1964) around fifteen years earlier.
George MacDonald Fraser worked as a script doctor for scenes concerning Omar Sharif as the Arab Prince so as to enlarge his part on the picture as the role Sharif was playing was originally written as a small part.
Actor Omar Sharif was cast in this desert movie based on his well-known screen persona from having starred in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), a classic desert picture. Sharif was originally going to play the Lawrence of Arabia (1962)-type role of desert-guide Malik (played by Kabir Bedi) but had to bow out. Instead, Sharif played the smaller role of Prince Hassan.
According to the "Citizen Caine" website review of the film, "Director [Richard] Fleischer...and co-star Beverly Johnson, not to mention several other key employees, were both unceremoniously sacked two-thirds of the way through the shoot once the studio got a look at the rushes." Moreover, Fleischer apparently also left the production after suffering sunstroke and requiring admission to hospital.
Publicity for this picture stated that the United Nations had at the time the film was theatrically released a Special Committee on Slavery operating within the UN's Human Rights Division. Factual reports on slavery presented to the UN were a key source when author Alberto Vázquez Figueroa wrote this movie's source 1975 novel "Ebano".
Actress Beverly Johnson, who plays Dr. Anansa Linderby, was pregnant during the making of this movie. Johnson's daughter, is named Anansa Sims, being first named after Johnson's character in this film.