Reportedly, Japanese actor-composer Ryuichi Sakamoto fainted when he saw this film for the first time.
Laurens van der Post, the author of this film's source novel "The Seed and The Sower", once said of this filmed adaptation of his novel: "This is a great and deeply moving film. The only war film I have ever seen that does not exploit the surface drama and horrifics of war, but penetrates into the origins and meaning of war in the human spirit. Moreover, it is honest and brave, and looks with the same unevasive and unblinking eyes into the character of Japanese and Europeans alike."
This film is notable for the casting of two rocks stars, Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Bowie, respectively, one from the East and one from the West.
From interview with Yûya Uchida and lecture by Nagisa Ôshima: Singer/actor Kenji Sawada was first choice for captain Yonoi. After he suggested David Bowie for Celliers, Sawada dropped out due to his touring schedule. Tomokazu Miura was then considered for Yonoi briefly, before Oshima saw a photograph collection and noted the similar androgyny Ryuichi Sakamoto shared with Sawada. 'Shintaro Katsu', legendary chambara star already causing discord on the set of Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980), was first choice for Sgt. Hara. Oshima conceived Yonoi in the image of Yukio Mishima. Celliers was fashioned after Peter O'Toole's character in Arabia no Rorensu (1962).
Ryuichi Sakamoto has said of his performance in this film: "I couldn't believe how bad my acting was".
Both characters, Lawrence and Celliers, are based on the author Laurens van der Postwho spoke Japanese and was forced to surrender during a Special Forces mission in Java. Van der Post even used the English version of his given name for one character's family name.