Was to originally be directed by Sam Raimi, but he left the project early to direct Darkman (1990). Producers brought in William Friedkin, and the project suffered through several re-writes sending co-writer Stephen Volk into a breakdown. Friedkin eventually took over the writing duties.
Jenny Seagrove was unhappy with the film's constant re-writes, and wanted to make a completely different film. She said to The Guardian in 2007: "It was about this druid nanny who became a tree. I begged Universal to make it about a real nanny who kidnaps babies. 'No, no, we can't do that,' they said, 'the thirty somethings in America won't come and see the film.' I said, 'I think you're completely wrong; this film is total fantasy, and it's just awful.' Two years later The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) was released, so I rang up my friend at Universal and he said, 'Don't. Don't even talk about it, you were right.' "
A cable television version of the film is not billed to William Friedkin, but to Alan Smithee, a generic name which is used by directors when they don't want to be associated with a picture. This, despite the fact that Friedkin claims on the film's audio-commentary he never heard of such a version. There are two versions of "The Guardian": the theatrical cut, credited to Friedkin, and a modified cut, credited to Smithee. The Smithee cut has never been released on home video or DVD, and has only been shown on cable. It includes new scenes, including another scene in the hospital, different dream sequences, a scene of the nanny waking the wife up and alternate angles for other scenes. Also, the ending of the cable cut is different and omits much of the gore.
Actor Paul Rawson was originally cast as, Scotty. Rawson fell ill weeks into production. Despite being eight years old, devastated and ill, begged William Friedkin to shoot his scenes near the end of production. Friedkin couldn't afford to change most of the shooting schedule and therefor hired someone else. After seeing the finished film upon its release, Rawson has gone on to say that he was very grateful for having the flu when he did and still has his original script.
The film's opening prologue states: "For thousands of years, a religious order known as the druids worshipped trees, sometimes even sacrificing human beings to them. To these worshippers, every tree has its guardian spirit. Most are aligned with goodness and life, but some embody powers of darkness and evil.
One of three movies with "The Guardian" title made during the modern era of Hollywood. This supernatural horror movie was made and released around six years after the 1984 action crime thriller The Guardian (1984) and sixteen years before the sea rescue drama The Guardian (2006).