The movie was almost canceled in 2004, when many of the (foreign) companies that had promised to fund the movie, had not yet paid up. Production was abruptly green-lit again in the autumn of 2005, when the 16 million Euro budget was finally secured. This allowed the production team only a couple of months for principal photography.
Most actors speak more than one language in the film. Carice van Houten speaks four languages fluently in the course of the film: Hebrew in the scenes in Israel, German with Nazi soldiers, English with Canadian army personnel, and Dutch for the majority of the film.
When principal photography took longer than anticipated, Carice van Houten had to return to the production, while she was already scheduled to appear in a stage play. The theater company successfully sued Zwartboek's production company Fu Works for the delay of several months that was caused by Van Houten's absence.
Director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Gerard Soeteman got the idea for the movie while doing research for Soldier of Orange (1977). Instead of simply working the controversies surrounding the Dutch Resistance into the already top-heavy screenplay of Soldaat van Oranje, they decided to make a separate movie out of it. Verhoeven and Soeteman wrote the screenplay over a period of almost 20 years, and they finally solved many script problems by making the main character a woman.
The first Paul Verhoeven movie in 23 years to feature a full frontal nude man. This was quite commonplace in Verhoeven's Dutch films, but due to the movie rating system being much more strict in the USA, the practice was abandoned.
This film was the official Netherlands entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 79th Academy Awards. It was on the shortlist of nine films competing for a nomination, but it did not make it to the final five, announced on the 23 January 2007.
Carice van Houten (Rachel Stein/Ellis de Vries) starts a relationship with Sebastian Koch (Ludwig Müntze) in the film. Koch had played the part of Colonel von Stauffenberg in Stauffenberg (2004), whereas van Houten would later portray von Stauffenberg's wife in Valkyrie (2008).
The role of resistance leader Gerben Kuipers was originally to be played by Gijs Scholten van Aschat. When the production was delayed due to budgetary problems, Scholten van Aschat had become unavailable because of his theatre commitments. Director Paul Verhoeven got the idea of casting Derek de Lint, with whom he had worked 28 years earlier on Soldier of Orange (1977), when he accidentally came across De Lint's picture in the casting directors office. Ironically, De Lint played the complete opposite, a collaborator to the Germans, in 'Soldaat van Oranje'.
Matthias Schoenaerts, who played Joop, a member of the Dutch Resistance in this film, made a reference to RoboCop (1987) (another film directed by Paul Verhoeven), years later in the French film Rust and Bone (2012), when his character, Ali, nicknames Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) as "RoboCop". In 2012, Schoenaerts was also considered by director José Padilha for the title role in the remake RoboCop (2014), but he dropped out because he thought that he wasn't prepared for a big movie like that yet.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The feces that are poured over Carice van Houten near the end of the movie consisted mainly of mashed potatoes, ginger cake, peanut butter and some coloring additives. Because the filming of this scene was quite grueling nonetheless, director Paul Verhoeven allowed Van Houten to throw the artificial feces at him after shooting.