After its official showing at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival the movie was given what has been called "the longest standing ovation in the history of the festival". Although the exact length of the applause is a matter of debate, journalists at the screening have reported it being in the area of 15 to 25 minutes.
Michael Moore decided not to submit the film for consideration for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar, because the rules for that Oscar category dictate a long waiting time for an eligible film to be broadcast on television. He wanted to attempt to have it broadcast prior to the US Presidential Election on 2 November 2004, in the hope that it would result in George W. Bush not being re-elected. In addition, since he already won an Oscar in that category for Bowling for Columbine (2002), he felt the above reason took precedence and he might as well let other documentarians have a fair chance at the award. Instead, Moore submitted his film in the Best Picture category which has less strict submission rules (and in which it failed to get a nomination). The film was subsequently broadcast on pay-per-view on 1 November 2004, but did not prevent Bush from being re-elected. When asked about it, Moore commented that Americans have very short memory spans, and had mostly forgotten about the controversies that the film addressed.
Moore interviewed American contractor Nick Berg, who was later kidnapped and killed by insurgents in Iraq, but removed the interview from the final cut. He said that the interview would not be released to the media and dealt privately with Berg's family.
On the first submission to the MPAA, the film received an "R"-rating. Michael Moore, stating that if kids that are 15 or 16 years old in 2004 may be drafted to fight for the war in Iraq, they should be able to see this movie. Former New York State governor Mario Cuomo appealed to the MPAA on Moore's behalf to request a "PG-13" rating. The appeal was not successful, and the movie ended up with the current rating of R for "some violent and disturbing images, and for language".
Fahrenheit 9/11 was banned in Saudi Arabia due to the criticisms of the Saudi Royal Family. It was also banned in Kuwait as there is a law that forbids criticism on friendly countries. Since the film criticized George W. Bush, the Kuwaiti censor board decided to ban it entirely.
In May 2004, Michael Moore announced that Disney (which owns Miramax, the film's distributor) had officially prohibited Miramax from releasing the film and expressed his frustration that the film was being stifled. Disney said that the decision had been made a year earlier in May 2003 when it told Miramax that it would not be willing to distribute the film. Disney chief executive, Michael Eisner, said that Moore was announcing it at that time to create publicity for the film's screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Michael Eisner also accused Harvey Weinstein of hiding the financing of the film from Disney. Ari Emanuel (Moore's agent) claimed that Eisner had expressed concern that the film might jeopardize tax breaks granted to Disney for its theme park, hotels, and other ventures in Florida, where Jeb Bush, President George W. Bush's brother, is governor. Finally, Disney agreed to sell this film to Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein after they agreed to donate 60% of this film's profit to charity.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed the rule for Best Feature Documentary nominations after this film was knocked out of consideration for airing on television. The new rule qualifies films for Oscar consideration even if they are shown on television, provided that they are given a minimum of 25 commercial theatrical exhibitions in 15 states.
With a worldwide gross of $222,446,882, this was by far the most commercially successful film (documentary or feature) of the decade based on or inspired by the events of 9/11 or the Iraq war. Most other films about the Iraq war (such as In the Valley of Elah (2007), The Hurt Locker (2008) and Green Zone (2010)), performed particularly poorly at the box office.
Michael Moore said his film is targeted at "the 50 per cent of the American people who don't vote. Are they the elite? Are they the rich? Are they the well-educated? They are the poor, the working class, the single moms, the young people and the African-Americans."
The segment with Bush talking about the nations of the world having to condemn the terrorist actions while he was golfing was about the suicide bombing in Israel on 4 August 2002 in which 13 people died in a bus that was bombed.
Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 (1966), has voiced his displeasure at Michael Moore appropriating the title of his book. Mr. Bradbury, however, has written many works throughout his long and distinguished career that "appropriate" their titles from other authors' works. For example, Bradbury's novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) takes its title from a line from William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth," and Bradbury's short story collection (and included short story) The Twilight Zone: I Sing the Body Electric (1962) take their title from a line in the poem "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman. His collection of poems and essays, 'Beyond 1984: Remembrance of Things Future' takes its title from George Orwell's '1984' and Marcel Proust's 'Remembrance of Things Past'.
Michael Moore retained Chris Lehane, a Democratic Party strategist or opposition research, used to discredit detractors. He also hired outside fact-checkers of The New Yorker to vet the film. He has consulted with lawyers who can bring defamation suits against anyone who maligns the film or damages his reputation.
Was nearly disqualified for Oscar consideration because of a July 2004 airing on Cuban television. After this was revealed to be an illegal broadcast from a bootleg disk, the Academy cleared it for eligibility.
This film was originally planned to be financed by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, which had promised to give Michael Moore eight figures in upfront cash and potential back-end. Later, this film got financed from Miramax and Wild Bunch in May 2003 after Icon Productions had abruptly dropped the financing deal it made.
The music used at the beginning of the film (amid the chaos of the September 11 attack) is "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, for string orchestra and bell", written in 1977 by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
Michael Moore was still fighting with the MPAA over their verdict of giving the film an "R" rating during time it was being played in limited release. Because of the MPAA's indecision, the film was initially released as "Not Rated" until the surprise box office success and inevitable wide release. Moore lost his bid for "PG-13" and the film carried an "R" rating from then onward
A headline from the Pantagraph (a newspaper in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois) dated 19 December 2001, is shown in big letters to read, "Latest Florida recount shows Al Gore won election." In fact, the only time those words appeared in that newspaper was in a headline over a letter to the editor dated 5 December 2001.
Moore's speech that begins "George Orwell once wrote that" is almost identical to a block of dialogue in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). That dialogue occurs when Winston is reading Goldstein's book to himself. It's assembled from widely separated parts of Goldstein's book within the novel with some paraphrasing.