Set in Cuba, the film was made entirely in Mexico, with Veracruz doubling as Havana. Julian Schnabel said the crew was so pleasant to work with that, if he was making a film in the arctic, he would use a Mexican crew.
Almost every scene, according to Guillermo Rosas, was photographed with a chocolate-colored filter on the camera lens. The contributed a great deal to distinctive colors and textures in the film, especially the skin tones, and the vibrancy in green hues.
Olivier Martinez first English speaking role. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino were offered the role of great Cuban man of letters Lezama Lima. The part was finally played by a friend of Julian Schnabell who was Global Art Executive of David Rockefeller Founded Chase Bank Art Collection.