The film was shot entirely on-location in Mexico. One day during a break in filming Charles Bronson and Ernest Borgnine decided to go to the nearest town for cigarettes. This meant saddling up in costume, sidearms and all, and riding to town. On the way, the pair was spotted by a truck full of federales, Mexican federal police, who, mistaking them for bandits, stopped them and held them at gunpoint until representatives from the film company showed up to vouch for them.
Burt Lancaster recalled that Gary Cooper would object to anything in the script that implied his character was anything other than good (despite the fact that he was playing a former Confederate Colonel, who fought to maintain slavery), and demand it be changed.
Eli Wallach has said that the Mexican government was so upset about the negative portrayal of Mexicans in this film that they insisted that the making of The Magnificent Seven (1960) be monitored by censors.
For being made in the mid 1950s, this film has a quite fast cutting rate. In ninety minutes of action, it contains about one thousand one hundred thirty edits and other transitions. This equates to an average shot length of just under five seconds.
In his biography, Ernest Borgnine reports that, during the shooting, Burt Lancaster brought his children on the set and all of them laughed at Jack Elam because of his walleyed eye. Elam, of course, was upset because of this, and he had a tough argument against Lancaster in a fierce fist fight.
One of the first major Hollywood films to be filmed on-location in Mexico. Filmmaking legislation in Mexico meant that a local director had to be involved in the production in some capacity, though he wasn't actually used.
Director Robert Aldrich was so keen on this period of history, that he planned to shoot a biopic of Emperor Maximilian. In 1964, he announced that he would begin filming after The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), but it failed to materialize.
The Mexican authorities were appalled at the way their citizens were depicted in this movie, so any subsequent Hollywood productions had to conform to some strict rules. This explains why in The Magnificent Seven (1960), the locals are all wearing pristine white clothes.
In her biography "Playing the Field", Mamie Van Doren claimed Burt Lancaster interviewed her for the role of the Countess and attempted to seduce her. She told him she did not wish to get the part in that way, and that her mother was waiting for her outside in the car. Lancaster told her she was right, and gave her the script to study, and although she officially auditioned, she didn't get the part.
About halfway through the film, the expedition goes past the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, which lies about forty kilometers (twenty-five miles) northeast of Mexico City. Their destination, Veracruz, lies about four hundred kilometers (two hundred fifty miles) east of Mexico City, and a little bit further south. At least in 2017, as this is written, Teotihuacán is not on the way to Veracruz.
Gary Cooper was fifty-two at the time of filming, although his character was only supposed to be a couple of years older than Burt Lancaster's character. Joe Erin was meant to be forty, Lancaster's actual age.
First film released in the SuperScope widescreen process. Shot at a conventional 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the film was cropped to 2:1 in post-production, given a CinemaScope-compatible (2x) squeeze, and blown up to normal frame height. SuperScope was designed to achieve anamorphic prints from standard flat 35mm negatives. The MGM DVD approximates the 2:1 release print aspect ratio. SuperScope was the forerunner of "Super 35".
Statement at end reads: "Vera Cruz" was filmed entirely in Mexico. The producers gratefully acknowledge the friendly cooperation of the people and the government of Mexico and the contributions of the Mexican motion picture technicians, without whose aid this film would not have been possible.