The project was greenlit as a vehicle for Ralph Fiennes and Kate Hudson. The latter dropped out because she didn't want to wear a wimple for the role, resulting in the funding being pulled. By the time more money was acquired, the original director Mike Newell had moved onto another project. Ralph Fiennes too had to move onto other projects due to waiting too long.
Kirsten Dunst was the second choice for Griet and was cast. But she dropped out to do Spider-Man (coincidentally taking the role that Kate Hudson turned down).