The film was shot over four years during and around Al Pacino's filming schedule, also while he was not working on any major film projects. This is visible during the film because he is seen growing a beard and hair cut for the film Carlito's Way (1993) as one example.
All the actors that appear in the film, all worked for scale in which at one point Alec Baldwin jokingly admitted during the film "Here I am working for forty bucks a day and have all the donuts you can eat".
For the final battle scene, Al Pacino literally had no money to shoot the scene and didn't know where to shoot it. Director Michael Mann, who was directing him in Heat at time, volunteered some of his crew to shoot the final battle scene which was shot all in one day.
Before finally settling on a studio, Al Pacino's final choices were Miramax Films and Fox Searchlight. Harvey Weinstein who had seen the film in its rawest footage, loved the film and really wanted it badly. Pacino chose Fox because Tom Rothman who was the then head of Fox Searchlight loved the film as well and oversaw the project until he was promoted to the head of the studio. It was a decision that Pacino regretted as he was left alone without any basic help as the studio's new regime was forming into place.
While he was putting the film together, Al Pacino showed the film for his friend Director Harold Becker as Pacino didn't know where to go with all the footage he had amassed. Becker responded with "Make the film four acts" and that's when Pacino began to lay out the structure towards the final version of the film.