Merchant Ivory Productions faced strong objections from Francoise Gilot and her son, Claude, when making this film. Claude Picasso met once with the Merchant-Ivory team but then strongly objected to the making of the film, petitioning the studio to stop production. Gilot had written her story in the book "Life with Picasso" in 1964, which Picasso had tried to stop from being published; the filmmakers were unable to acquire the rights. Instead they used Arianna Huffington's "Picasso: Creator and Destroyer" as the basis for Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's script.
A few years after this film, Anthony Hopkins had already signed on to play Hannibal Lecter again in Hannibal (2001), but Jodie Foster had declined. When director Ridley Scott let Hopkins know what actresses were being considered to play Clarice, Hopkins remembered how much he enjoyed working with Julianne Moore on this film, and recommended her.