In February 2008, Iranian star Golshifteh Farahani was invited to do a screentest in London along with Gemma Arterton for the role of Tamina, but she was arrested at the airport by the Iranian authorities and banned from leaving the country for six months, because she had played a role in Ridley Scott's Body of Lies (2008).
The "Hassansins" were modelled on the infamous Islamic mystery cult called the Hashshashin, from which the word "assassin" is derived, given their use of terror and assassinations as political leverage. Their leader was named Hassan Ibn Sabbah, whose activities took place in the heart of the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran (the place was called Alamut). Legends have surrounded the indoctrination process of the members of the Hashshashin cult, which are said to involve drugging and mind control. They were likely inserted as an homage to Ubisoft's largest franchise, "Assassin's Creed", which is likewise based on the cult of Hashshashins.
It is stated that the handle of the dagger holds one minute's worth of the Sands of Time. The first time Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) presses the jewel, he rewinds time by thirty-two seconds. The second time he presses it, he rewinds twenty-three seconds. This makes up fifty-five seconds, or almost the full minute of sand. After it is refilled, it is used twice again. Dastan uses it to rewind sixteen seconds of time, and Tus (Richard Coyle) uses it to rewind forty-four seconds of time, using up exactly sixty seconds of sand. This reflects the actual time of the actions being undone from the moment of bodily repossession to the moment the jewel is pressed, as the time during which the user is in his out-of-body experience is slightly compressed by a few seconds or more.
The characters often mention "God" or "the Creator" in a monotheistic fashion, which are not references to Judaism or Christianity (as most Western audiences are accustomed), but in fact to Zoroastrianism, the religion practiced by Persians until Islam (Allah) became popular. Zoroastrianism, however, does not have a concrete concept of "Hell", despite "Hell" being mentioned by Nizam (Sir Ben Kingsley). Tamina (Gemma Arterton), of course, worships an unnamed polytheistic set of gods, which are briefly presented in juxtaposition to Dastan's (Jake Gyllenhaal's) beliefs.
At the first U.K. screening at the Disney Roadshow, Director Mike Newell stated that, as he had known Jake Gyllenhaal since Gyllenhaal was seven-years-old, he had always wanted him for the part. He went on to say that he selected Gemma Arterton because of "how very old seeing the back of her beautiful neck" made him feel.
During the invasion of Alamut at the beginning of the movie, there is a scene where Dastan is about to jump off of a wooden contraption. He stops for a moment to get his bearings, during which the camera focuses on him while moving around him in a circular motion. While this very unique scene never happens in any of the Prince of Persia games, it is an iconic feature of the Assassin's Creed franchise. In all of the Assassin's Creed games, the assassins ascend to high vantage points to get their bearings, an event that is presented in a nearly identical fashion and with similar musical cues as the way it is presented in this movie. This is likely an intentional homage to Assassin's Creed (which was created many years before this movie), as the "Creed" series is considered to be the spiritual (and more successful) successor to the Prince of Persia series.
In 2010, Gemma Arterton, also portrayed Io in Clash of the Titans (2010). In Greek mythology, Io is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of Perses (the son Perseus and Andromeda), who is an ancestor of the emperors of Persia, and from whose name "Persia" is derived.
Screenwriter Robin Morningstar approached the property owner Jordan Mechner with a script based on the original Prince of Persia (1989) game of the franchise, with the aim being working as a team to get a movie made. He and his materials were abruptly exorcised before Disney bought the movie rights to the series. The Disney movie focuses on the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003) story arc, while the game canon seemingly reboots well clear of its origins with a new game titled simply Prince of Persia (2008). Morningstar's script, much like the original 1989 canon, is out in the cold (this was referred to briefly during interview in Retro Gamer Magazine Issue 51).
None of the actors are of Persian descent. However, Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton are of partial Jewish descent, Alfred Molina is of Spanish and Italian descent, Sir Ben Kingsley, is of Anglo-Indian descent, Steve Touissant is of Barbadian descent, Reese Ritchie is of partial South African descent, and Gisli Orn Garðarsson is of Icelandic descent.