The film is not only based on the historical biographical "Burton and Speke" novel by William Harrison, but as outlined in the opening credits, also on the original journals of the explorers John Hanning Speke and Richard Francis Burton.
The movie was made and released about 133 years after the expedition in search for the source of the Nile River in Africa commanded by Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke and depicted in this film had taken place in 1857.
The phrase 'Mountains of the Moon', according to website 'Wikipedia', "is an ancient term referring to a legendary mountain or mountain range in east Africa at the source of the Nile River. Various identifications have been made in modern times, the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda being the most celebrated". Website 'Entertainment Weekly' stated that "according to geographical legend, [the Mountains of the Moon] hid the [River Nile's] source".
Star Patrick Bergin portrayed Victorian poet, linguist, explorer, and anthropologist Sir Richard Burton who had the same real first name and same last stage name as the later famous stage and screen actor Richard Burton.
The movie features the famous African explorer character of Dr. Livingstone (Dr. David Livingstone), who is well-known for being referenced in the famous quotation "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", and who is portrayed in the picture by actor Bernard Hill.
In the early 60's, producer Joseph E Levine announced plans for a large 70mm Roadshow presentation, " Burton and Isabel " with a screenplay by John Michael Hayes but it never went into production. During the 70' s, Sidney Lumet planned a biography of the Explorer. Instead he directed Richard Burton in "Equus ".