1998 was the only year that two performers were nominated for Academy Awards for playing the same character in two different films in the same year. Judi Dench was nominated (and won) for Best Supporting Actress for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Cate Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress for portraying Elizabeth I in this film.
The costuming and shot composition of the coronation scene is based on Elizabeth's coronation portrait. For example, Elizabeth is shown wearing her hair long. This is historically accurate, as the real Elizabeth was giving the public a sign of her virginity.
According to the director's commentary, Kapur mentioned that the role of the Pope (played by Sir John Gielgud) was originally offered to, and accepted by, Marlon Brando. However, plans changed when Kapur noted that many on set would probably be concerned that Brando would be sharing the set with them for two days.
Christopher Eccleston's character the Duke of Norfolk doesn't actually do much in the film despite being the principal villain. So, in order to create a sense of action for him, the director chose to show Norfolk in motion as much as possible.
Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) recites "My true love hath my heart" to Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), a sonnet written by Sir Philip Sidney, son-in-law of Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), trusted advisor to the queen.
First English speaking movie debut for ex-soccer star Eric Cantona. It was rumored that both stars Christopher Eccleston and Angus Deayton actually wanted the producers to cast Cantona in a small French role in the film following his retirement from football in 1997 because: 1. Cantona began to study acting during his infamous 9 month ban in 1995. 2. Eccleston and Deayton were Manchester United fans themselves.
Thomas Howard, AKA Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston) and Sir William Cecil, AKA Lord Burghley (Richard Attenborough) actually had a common relative. Norfolk's mother was Frances de Vere, whose nephew Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, was married to Burghley's daughter Anne Cecil. It has also been suggested that Edward de Vere was the true author of Hamlet (usually considered to have been written by William Shakespeare), and that the characters Hamlet, Ophelia and Polonius were based on himself, Anne, and William, respectively. Christopher Eccleston has played Hamlet on stage, and Richard Attenborough appeared in the 1996 film Hamlet (1996).
Christopher Eccleston and Daniel Craig had previously starred together in 'Our Friends in the North' (1996), and both would go on to play iconic British roles, Eccleston as Dr Who, and Craig as James Bond.
As well as both having Queen Elizabeth as a main characters in both movies, Shakespeare in Love also shared cast members Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes with this film. Interestingly enough, they were both nominated for Best Picture in 1999, but Shakespeare in Love was the victor.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The ending where numerous characters are arrested or executed by Walsingham, while Elizabeth reads scripture to herself, was, by director Shekhar Kapur's own admission, taken directly from The Godfather (1972).