Mike Leigh first had the idea for the story while a student in Manchester in the early 1950s: "We had a very enlightened teacher who endlessly reminded us that the next total eclipse would be in August 1999. In 1992 the millennium was impending, so I brought that idea to the film."
The uncut shot of Johnny and Brian in silhouette, where Johnny expounds on his convoluted apocalyptic conspiracy theory, was shot in 26 takes, but Mike Leigh ended up using one of the earliest takes, as he felt it was best.
The song sung by Johnny and Louise near the film's end, "Take me back to Manchester when it's raining", was one Mike Leigh used to sing with his friends in Habonim ("the Builders"), the international socialist Jewish youth movement he joined as a schoolboy. After the film was released Leigh heard from a retired schoolmaster at Stand Grammar in Prestwich who had written the song for a school review in 1950.