Martin Scorsese was originally working on this documentary for the Weinstein Company back in 2008, but he swiftly left citing "scheduling conflicts," and was replaced by Jonathan Demme. The project came to a standstill in August 2009 when Demme left the project after he and producer Steve Bing had creative differences in the middle of editing. Finally Kevin Macdonald was appointed.
One of the reasons Kevin Macdonald wanted to make the film as he was curious to explore the enduring appeal of Bob Marley and why, some 30 years after his death, he remains as popular as ever. This was partly motivated by the fact that when he was making The Last King of Scotland (2006), he would often encounter posters of Marley in some of the poorer parts of Kampala in Uganda where they were filming.