As part of her audition process, director Nikolaj Arcel took actress Alicia Vikander out drinking to see how well she could understand Danish. Vikander faked that she could understand and speak it well but at the end of the process when Arcel told her she got the part she didn't understand what he was saying until he switched to English.
The picture was Denmark's official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category at the 85th Academy Awards held in 2013, where the movie won a nomination in this category, but in the end lost out to the Austrian film Amour (2012).
The film's director, Nikolaj Arcel, made a Director's Statement for the picture. It reads: "A ROYAL AFFAIR is based on one of the most dramatic events in Denmark and indeed European history; whenever I used to pitch the film to foreign investors, people had a hard time believing that the story was true, that these momentous events had actually happened in the late 1700's. In Denmark however, it is taught in school, more than 15 books have been written about it (both factual and fictional) and there has even been an opera and a ballet. I feel honored and extremely lucky to finally bring the full story to the screen. Tonally, I was inspired by the great epics from the 40's and 50's where films would often feel like literary works, structured around characters and the passage of time, and not clearly following the obvious screenplay roadmaps. But my creative team and I were also fired up by the idea of bringing the Scandinavian historical drama into the new century. We wanted to achieve this by adhering to a self-imposed rule; we didn't want to "show" history, didn't want to dwell pointlessly on the big official events, the fancy dresses and hairdos, or the way the food was served. Rather, we wanted people to simply experience the story through the eyes of the characters, taking the 1760's for granted. Even though the period is obviously there in the set designs, the costumes it was filmed and edited as we would have filmed and edited a film taking place in modern Copenhagen. Finally, Gabriel Yared and Cyrille Auforts' beautiful score has brought the film full circle, and home to its epic roots. - Nikolaj Arcel, Director / Writer".
In the scene when Doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) first meets King Christian VII of Denmark (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) they quote three different William Shakespeare plays. They are: "Hamlet, prince of Denmark"; "As you like it"; and "All's well that ends well".
The film was made and released about seventy-seven years after the earlier British film, Loves of a Dictator (1935), from the Gaumont Studios, which covered the same subject matter and historical events.
The picture was made and released about thirteen years after the novel "Livläkarens besök" (aka "The Royal Physician's Visit" (USA) and aka "The Visit of the Royal Physician") by Per Olov Enquist had been first published in 1999. The film is not directly based on nor credited to this book but covers the same subject matter and historical events.
The film's opening prologue English translation reads: "Europe at the close of the 18th century. The nobility rules by oppression, supported by strong religious forces. But winds of change are blowing . . . Across the continent intellectuals and freethinkers demand reforms and freedom for the people. It is the age of Enlightenment".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The film's closing epilogue English translation states: "With his father [King Christian VII of Denmark]'s help, Frederik [King Frederick VI of Denmark] staged a coup d'état and seized power at the age of 16. Guldberg, Julianne Marie and their Cabinet were banished from the Court. In the course of Frederik's 55 year long reign, almost all of Struensee [Dr. Johann Friedrich Struensee]'s laws were reinstated. Frederik went even further than Johann when he abolished serfdom and liberated the peasants".