First big-screen Saint film since the 1950s. Plans for a Saint film date back to the 1980s, when Pierce Brosnan was reported to be a leading contender for the Templar role in a Saint movie that was to be produced by Roger Moore. This project never materialized.
In the original version of the film, Dr. Russell collapses while giving a lecture and dies in The Saint's arms. The Saint sees Tretiak, Jr. stabbing her in the leg with the tip of his cane. Thus the final half-hour has him set to destroy the villains' plans and avenge her death. With Dr. Botvin's help, he switches the formulas around and humiliates Tretiak during his show trial of the Russian president. The Saint battles Dr. Russell's killer on a stairwell as Russian tanks pound outside, exposing and setting fire to the vast stockpile of heating oil in the basement. With the stairwell disintegrating around them, the fight spills out on to the chandelier, suspended above the blazing oil. The Saint teases Treatiak, Jr. with the disc containing the formula for cold fusion. As he reaches out for it, The Saint cuts the rope and Tretiak, Jr. plummets to a fiery death. Returning to Dr. Russell's home, the Saint finds a letter from her, a tear fills his eye and he vows from now on to use his skills only for good. Test audiences didn't like the way Dr. Russell died three-quarters of the way into the film. Footage from the original ending features prominently in the film's primary trailer. Director Phillip Noyce hopes one day to be able to restore the original version for a Director's Cut DVD.
Simon uses a Nokia 9000 Communicator cell phone. This phone was very cutting-edge when it was introduced in 1996, as it functioned as both a handheld phone and a clamshell pocket computer, complete with a mini-QWERTY keyboard and several built-in apps.
While filming in Oxford, England, the producers had the Bodleian Library (the main library of The University of Oxford) closed to the public for several days. This caused much complaint in the University, as a large proportion of the students were studying for exams.
When Simon Templar is disguised as a long-haired artist, his accent is a passable imitation South African, specifically Capetonian. He refers to his "home in Africa" and uses the vernacular Afrikaans pronunciation of Jesus ("Yissus!") as an expletive. It is interesting to note that in the short story "The Man Who Was Clever", someone does describe the Saint as South African; however, since the Saint has resorted to deception in the past to achieve his goals, the reliability of this information remains questionable.
The name of the production buyer, John Lanzer, appears as the author of the book, "The Knights of Templar - Their Crowning Crusade", which Simon is reading in secret at the beginning of the movie during class at the orphanage.
This film uses the classic 'Saint' theme tune that, though often thought of as starting with the 1960's television show, actually began in the 1930's and 1940's RKO Saint films and appeared in the radio show with Vincent Price. This theme tune, having appeared in numerous post 1960's television adaptations of the Saint, serves as one of the most frequently and longest lasting theme tunes of a media franchise.
Paramount Pictures' attempt to make the film with Robert Evans as producer, Steven Zaillian as writer and Sydney Pollack as director. Ralph Fiennes was offered $1 million for the lead, but eventually passed. In a 1994 interview for Premiere magazine, Fiennes said the screenplay - racing fast cars, breaking into Swiss banks - was nothing he hadn't seen before.
On May 29, 1991 Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat wrote that Finnish director Renny Harlin had signed a contract with Paramount to direct the new film adaptation of The Saint with Robert Evans producing.
Jonathan Hensleigh's draft cast Simon Templar as a mercenary hired by a billionaire Russian oil and gas tycoon to steal the secret of cold fusion from an eccentric but beautiful American scientist. The story would take place in Washington, D.C., Upstate New York, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. Setpieces included Dr. Russell skydiving while strapped into a wheelchair and a plane landing in Red Square. Darwin Mayflower described it as one of the top unproduced screenplays.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
At the end when Simon Templar is driving and listening to the radio news announcer state that $3 billion was donated to the American Red Cross and other charities, the reflection of sunlight in the windshield creates a halo around Simon's head.