Even before its release, Marlon Brando was asking that his name be removed from the credits. According to Variety Magazine, Brando was upset that the film failed to portray Columbus' complicity in the genocide of Native Americans.
According to Variety Magazine, Marlon Brando was paid $5 million for his cameo as Torquemada. Over ten years earlier, Brando had set an industry record when "Christopher Columbus" producer Ilya Salkind had paid him $3.7 million for twelve days work on Superman (1978) against a percentage of the gross. That deal yielded Brando $14 million, though he had to sue the producer to get it. It was widely suspected that Brando took the role to raise money to pay for the defense of his son Christian Brando, who had been indicted on murder charges after shooting his sister Cheyenne's lover, Dag Drollett.
Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind's first choice for director was Ridley Scott. Four months after rejecting their offer, Scott started working on a rival "Christopher Columbus" project which ultimately became 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992). As a consequence of this, the Salkinds unsuccessfully tried to sue Scott for stealing their idea. They were forced to drop their lawsuit when it was proved that "1492"s producer Alain Goldman and writer Roselyne Bosch's first proposal of a Christopher Columbus project predated theirs.
Director John Glen cast Michael Gothard with the intention of him replacing Marlon Brando in the role of Tomas de Torquemada should Brando not arrive on-set. When Brando did not appear on the first day of shooting, Gothard shot a scene as Tomas, but Tom Selleck told Glen that he would leave the film if Brando did not show. Word got to Marlon Brando of this and he showed for the following day of filming, with the earlier scene being re-shot with him in the role.