Madonna was cast after she wrote a long letter to director Alan Parker convincing him she was perfect to play the role. The letter was accompanied by a copy of her video for "Take A Bow" where she had specifically asked the director that it should resemble the '40s and '50s. Also in the letter she compared her life to Eva Peron's; both lost a parent as a child, and both arrived young in the big city with no money or friends but managed to succeed.
Madonna changed costumes 85 times, more than Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963). Madonna wore 39 hats, 45 pair of shoes, and 56 pairs of earrings. Because of this, Madonna was an entry in "Guinness World Record" that year.
Getting permission to use the Casa Rosada was difficult because ministers from then-president Carlos Menem's cabinet demanded to see the script. More than six months after initial meetings, Madonna, Alan Parker, Jonathan Pryce, and Antonio Banderas were called to an official meeting at Los Olivos, where she asked "Let's cut to the chase here. Do we have the balcony or don't we?" Menem eventually nodded and gave his personal permission. Madonna later joked that Menem only granted use of the balcony because she let a bra strap show during her meeting with him. A replica of Casa Rosada was built in Shepperton as a backup.
In the original album and stage play, there is a line referring to Evita as "the new world Madonna with the golden touch". In the film, it was changed to "she's Our Lady of the new world with the golden touch". This was done since the actress playing Eva is Madonna.
Most of the costumes for Eva were based on outfits that the real Eva Perón wore. Some were recreated from photographs, but many of them were based on the originals, which are still kept in government vaults in Argentina. Madonna undergoes more costume changes than any other actress in film history.
Although Patti LuPone (who originally played Evita on Broadway) has never seen the film, she did admit in an interview that she heard part of the soundtrack. She expressed disappointment with the fact that many of the songs' keys had been changed, thereby altering their emotional effectiveness.
Ken Russell was the first director attached. His first choice to play Eva was Barbra Streisand, who turned him down. His second choice was Liza Minnelli, whom he screen-tested, but her casting was vetoed by lyricist Tim Rice, who wanted Elaine Paige, who had originated the stage role in London. Paige was also Rice's girlfriend.
Oliver Stone was planning to make a film about Eva Perón, but after several disagreements with Argentinian President Carlos Menem he abandoned the project. Stone receives a token credit as a writer for this film, despite having made no input to the script.
It took Alan Parker three attempts to get this film made. The first attempt was in 1977 but was dropped as producer Robert Stigwood wanted to produce the London stage version first. On the second attempt in 1979 during the opening of the Broadway version, Stigwood then asked Parker, who promised but did not reply at that time as he was doing another musical, Fame (he balked at doing another after that). Parker finally went ahead with the film at the end of 1994 when Andrew G. Vajna's company Cinergi offered him the chance to do it.
Alan Parker recalled that when he arrived in Buenos Aires, he soon realised how significant and important Eva Peron was to the Argentine people. Fearful that he would tarnish her reputation, locals had graffitiied "Go home Madonna and Alan Parker" everywhere.
Patti LuPone, who played the lead in "Evita" in the original Broadway cast, was offered the role of Evita's mother but turned it down. LuPone has reportedly never seen the movie even though Madonna wanted to know what she thought.
The song "The Lady's Got Potential" originally appeared on the concept album for Evita with an entirely different set of lyrics. There was a subplot on the concept album that involved Che developing an insecticide with hope for financial success, and the original lyrics for "The Lady's Got Potential" centered around a comparison between the death of flies and the death of democracy. When the insecticide subplot was dropped on the show's journey to the stage, the song was dropped as well. However, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice almost completely rewrote the song for inclusion in the film.