The screenplay was written by Robert Ramsey and Matt Stone and then refashioned by the Coen Brothers in the mid 1990s. Initially the screenplay was attached to Ron Howard and then Jonathan Demme, who had planned to cast Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the lead roles.
A line from Herb's speech to Miles is inspired by the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln said "testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." Herb said, "This firm cannot prosper... nor long endure..."