Albert Brooks was the last actor to be offered the role of Harry. In an interview with Playboy magazine, he stated that he received a nice letter from Woody Allen offering him the role. Brooks responded, "It was insane that [Allen] didn't do it himself." Apparently, Woody took his advice.
The film is a general reworking of Woody Allen's earlier film Stardust Memories (1980), which also had an artist go to a ceremony in his honour, while reminiscing over past relationships and trying to fix and stabilize current ones.
The film is similar to 8½ (1963), in that it is about an artist struggling with his current relationships and remembering his old ones, interspersed with dream sequences, as well as his work being based on events from his life.