- Creator Backlash: Donald Sutherland was so horrified by his performance as Attila after seeing early rushes that he refused to watch the finished film for decades.
- Doing It for the Art: Burt Lancaster waived his salary to appear in the movie.
- Executive Meddling: Bernardo Bertolucci was contractually obliged by Paramount to deliver a 195 minute cut, but refused to edit the film when he completed the movie. Nor was Paramount keen on Bertolucci's initial idea of releasing the film in two separate parts. Producer Alberto Grimaldi went behind Bertolucci's back and edited a 190 minute version, which so disgusted Bertolucci that agreed to supervise a 245 minute compromise edit. This version played overseas, while the longer 317 minute version was released in Europe.
- Fake Nationality: The film's setting and characters are Italian, but it's (very large) cast includes various Americans (Robert de Niro, Sterling Hayden, Burt Lancaster), Frenchmen (Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda), Germans (Werner Bruhns, Anna Henkel-Grönemeyer, Ellen Schwiers), and a lone Canadian (Donald Sutherland).
- Hostility on the Set: Bernardo Bertolucci and his three stars, Robert de Niro, Gérard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland, spent most of the filming butting heads with each other.
- De Niro, who had only worked in American films until then, found that his Method acting did not agree with Bertolucci's meticulous direction. The two frequently argued over De Niro's performance and their differing approaches to Alfredo; Bertolucci said that working with De Niro was "a nightmare", while De Niro admitted that his problem with Bertolucci was that "he told me what to do." De Niro also felt that he had the weakest of the three male leads and projected his resentment onto his costars.
- Sutherland, in contrast, found his part expanding throughout filming. He read several books on fascism to understand Attila's mindset, and believed that Bertolucci's rewrites (including the infamous cat headbutting scene, which was added just a day before it was filmed) undermined his performance by making Attila absurd. He recalled Bertolucci telling him "let's do [the character] your way and my way," a conflict that Sutherland notes "never works in the actor's favor."
- Depardieu, meanwhile, resented being paid less than his costars and clashed with both of them while filming their scenes together. It didn't help that Depardieu didn't yet speak English; not only did this isolate him from his costars, it angered Bertolucci, who had planned to shoot the movie in English and was forced to dub the movie in post-production to accommodate Depardieu.note Though Depardieu eventually managed a cordial relationship with Sutherland (in part because the latter spoke French), he and De Niro never warmed to each other and their interactions remained tense throughout the shoot.
- Playing Against Type: Robert de Niro who in American movies usually played Italian-American Working-Class Hero or intense anti-heroes from lower-classes plays a naive, romantic and self-deluding rich kid.
- Romance on the Set: Robert de Niro and Stefania Sandrelli had an affair during filming.
- What Could Have Been:
- Bertolucci's initial casting choices included Jack Nicholson as Alfredo, Peter Boyle as Attila, Orson Welles as the older Alfredo, and Maria Schneider as Neve the prostitute. Nicholson and Boyle weren't able to commit to the project; Welles quit due to the film's long gestation, while Schneider refused to work with Bertolucci again after her experiences making Last Tango in Paris.
- Oliver Reed was considered for Attila Mellanchini.
Trivia / Novecento