Paul Bowles, author - and thinly disguised subject - of the autobiographical novel on which the film is based, said, "It should never have been filmed. The ending is idiotic and the rest is pretty bad." This quote comes from a rare interview that was part of the film Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (1998).
Most of the settings named in the film are situated in present day Algeria in Africa though the picture was actually filmed in such places as Erfoud, Niger, Tangier, Morocco, Ouarzazate, and Tamnougalt.
According to his biography "Without Stopping: An Autobiography" (1972), source novelist Paul Bowles named his 1949 novel "The Sheltering Sky" after a phrase in a song, "Down Among the Sheltering Palms", which Bowles had heard regularly as a child each summer season.
Reportedly, Doubleday publishers originally rejected the manuscript for source author Paul Bowles's novel "The Sheltering Sky" (1949), according to Bowles' biography "Without Stopping: An Autobiography" (1972). Bowles has said of this: "I sent it out to Doubleday and they refused it. They said "We asked for a novel." They didn't consider it a novel. I had to give back my advance. My agent told me later they called the editor on the carpet for having refused the book - only after they saw that it was selling fast. It only had to do with sales. They didn't bother to read it".
First theatrical feature film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci after his multi-Oscar nominated film The Last Emperor (1987) which had been made and released about three years earlier, and had won 9 Academy Awards, including the top statuette gong for Best Picture, winning in each and every one of the nine categories that film had been nominated for.
The movie features in a small role Italian actress Nicoletta Braschi as a French Woman. Her spouse, Italian comic actor and director Roberto Benigni, also has appeared in an earlier film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, that being in the previous picture Luna (1979), where Benigni also played a small role, as an upholsterer. The couple met on the set of the Italian film You Disturb Me (1983).
The picture was nominated for no Academy Awards but was nommed for two Golden Globe Awards including Best Director for Bernardo Bertolucci but won a Globe for Best Motion Picture Original Score each for its composers Richard Horowitz and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Horowitz was the composer of the film's North African music.
According to website Wikipedia, source novelist Paul Bowles " . . . achieved critical and popular success with his first novel The Sheltering Sky (1949), set in what was known as French North Africa, which he had visited in 1931".
Uncredited, the film's source novelist as a man at a café. Show-business trade-paper 'Variety' said of this: "In a marvelous directorial conceit [by Bernardo Bertolucci], Bowles himself, 80 years old, watches his characters from a seat in a Tangiers café". According to Bowles official website, Bowles makes "appearances" in this movie. Bowles is also credited in the film's billing heard in the movie as the picture's narrator.