Dino De Laurentiis originally announced that this would be the first in a series of feature films based on the books of the Bible. However, as the film lost Twentieth Century Fox $1.5 million, plans for any sequels were abandoned.
One of the first mainstream American films to feature male and female nudity (albeit artfully filmed in a light-and-shadow style) in the Garden of Eden sequences. Reportedly, neither Michael Parks nor Ulla Bergryd used body doubles for these scenes.
It was John Huston's original idea to have Charlie Chaplin play Noah. However, Chaplin didn't much like the idea of appearing in a picture directed by someone else, and Huston wound up playing the role himself. Similarly, Huston wanted Igor Stravinsky to score the film. For unspecified reasons, this was never done, either.
This film contains three Irish actors - Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris, and Stephen Boyd. However, although O'Toole claimed to have been born in Ireland, the birth records show he was actually born in Leeds, England. John Huston got Irish citizenship in 1964, and held until his death in 1987.
Franco Nero was dubbed by an uncredited actor in this film. It is possible, though not confirmed, that several of the other Italian actors were dubbed as well, although the actors themselves can be seen mouthing the words.
As with many epics of the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Francis Webster was called in to supply promotional lyrics to the main theme. The song was titled "Song of the Bible" and Webster devised the following lyrics to fit Mayuzumi's opening theme music: "A long, long time ago / There was no earth, there was no sea / In all the endless dark, no star, no tree / And then it came to pass / Jehovah said "Let there be light" / And as the thunder rolled / He made the day and then the night."
French Director Robert Bresson was hired in 1964 by Producer Dino De Laurentiis as director. When he shot his first scene, the deluge, he requested the use of all the animals in Rome city zoo. The producers complied, but upon checking the daily rushes, saw that the only thing Bresson filmed was the tracks of the animals upon a sandy beach. They were furious, and Bresson was fired, John Huston took over the project, delaying production a further six months.
When Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden, as a storm rages, the musical soundtrack, composed by Toshirô Mayuzumi, plays a quotation of the Roman Catholic hymn Dies Irae (Day of Wrath). It is a popular musical quotation, most familiar from its use in Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique (1830, fifth movement, "Dream of the Witch's Sabbath,"), and as heard in the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick's film, The Shining (1980).
Despite the fact that they were the same nationality, and the best of friends, this was the only movie, in which Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris appeared, and they don't even have any scenes together.
Despite losing $1.5 million for Twentieth Century Fox, "The Bible: In the Beginning..." was the highest grossing film of 1966. This and Cleopatra (1963) are the only two movies to have been the highest grossing of their respective years, despite failing at the box-office.
When cast as Abel, Franco Nero could not speak or understand any English. Although his voice was dubbed by another American actor, John Huston helped Nero understand English by giving him audio recordings of William Shakespeare's plays to study, most notably "Hamlet", which strongly bares a similar plot to Cain and Abel.
In some cities (such as Atlanta, Georgia) this film, which was shot in Dimension 150, a "curved screen" process, was not shown on a curved screen during its first run, despite the fact that there existed Cinerama theaters in those cities. This did not happen with the second and last film released in Dimension 150, the much more successful Patton (1970).
Despite the fact that John Huston and Peter O'Toole lived only one hundred kilometers from each other in County Galway in the West of Ireland, this was the only time they worked together. Huston lived in a fine mansion in Craughwell, and O'Toole had a cottage in Clifden, both of which would have been very remote in the 1960s. Huston also wanted O'Toole and Richard Burton for his "Waterloo" for "The Bible" Producer Dino De Laurentiis, and for his long cherished "The Man Who Would be King", but this did not happen.
Richard Harris later portrayed the titular role in Abraham (1993), and Franco Nero portrayed the Hebrew prophet Nathan in David (1997). Both of these Scriptural-based television films aired on Turner Network Television.
In August 1963, Dino De Laurentiis signed a contract with M.J. Frankovich and Leo Jaffe of Columbia Pictures to distribute this picture worldwide. The deal, reputedly worth twenty million dollars, eventually fell through.
In a 1973 interview for the BBC's "Desert Island Discs" program, John Huston was asked if he would be making any more of the film than the first twenty verses of Genesis. He replied, "I wouldn't go a verse further!"
More than forty species of animals are seen in the dazzling 'two-by-two' promenade of the Noah's Ark sequence. Director John Huston humorously frames the majestic parade around the slow progress made by the turtle duo, who are passed by every other species and are eventually picked up and carried aboard the ark by Noah (played by Huston) himself.
Although the film only received one Academy Award nomination (for Best Original Score), it won four David di Donatello Awards (Best Production, Best Foreign Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design). The David di Donatello Awards are considered the Italian equivalent to the American "Oscars".
Because he was an Irish resident, John Huston was always eager to film there whenever he could. He was also keen to set up an indigenous Irish film industry, and helped set up a steering committee for the Irish government in the late 60's. He also tried to make a movie about the 1916 Rising with State aid but it came to nothing. For " The Bible.. In the Beginning ", the cliffs of Moher in Co Clare, near his Galway home, are used in the opening Creation sequence.
In this film, Eve is referred by name before the Fall. In real-life, Adam began addressing her by name after God expelled them from Eden and when the couple started wearing clothing because they transgressed against him. Adam's wife would labor all future generations was the reason he named her "Eve". Her name means "Mother of All Living" or "Mother of All Life". Adam referred her as "Woman" or "The woman" before God expelled them from Eden.
Though critically lambasted for its plodding pace and lack of dialogue, Huston's film does not shrink from visually representing some of the most fantastical aspects of Genesis, most notably the massive rains in the Noah's Ark section and Nimrod's long-distance shooting of his arrow into the clouds, which prompts the sweeping Tower of Babel sequence, arguably the best vignette in the film.