The movie was Producer and Director Howard Hawks' first commercial failure. It caused Hawks to take a break from directing and travel through Europe for a few years. His next movie, Rio Bravo (1959), was the longest break between two movies in his career.
According to the liner notes of the soundtrack CD, the lyrics of most of the choruses heard throughout this movie, often thought to be Asian, Semetic, or Egyptian in origin, are actually "gibberish" that Composer Dimitri Tiomkin concocted to evoke the period and "sound" like ancient Egyptian, and are actually meaningless.
Producer and Director Howard Hawks had between three thousand and ten thousand extras working each day during the fifty-plus day shooting schedule. The government supplied those extras, half of whom were soldiers in the Egyptian Army.
Although the ancient Egyptians did indeed have a close relationship with the Nile Crocodile (which is believed to have included sacrifices and mummification), the reptiles in this movie are actually American Alligators.
For scenes showing the pyramid under construction, the film crew cleared the sand away from a ninety-foot deep shaft that was part of the unfinished pyramid of Baka. Elsewhere, they built a ramp and foundation the size of the original pyramid, where thousands of extras were filmed pulling huge stone blocks.
The movie was never released in Egypt because, according to the authorities, Vashtar (James Robertson Justice) looked like a Jew.
Jack Hawkins writes in his autobiography that during Pharaoh Khufu's funeral scene, he was carried across the desert in a palanquin, wrapped in heavy robes. It grew hotter and hotter and, while he waited because of delays, he saw some British property men drinking ice-cold bottles of beer, which he could not drink because he'd been instructed to stay put.
The extent of William Faulkner's contribution to the screenplay has been questioned more than once. Harold Jack Bloom, also credited with the writing of the film, flatly declared, years later, that "he didn't write a line", whilst the third credited writer on the film, Harry Kurnitz, often recounted the story of how Faulkner arrived in Egypt during filming for last-minute rewrites in a state of advanced inebriation which led to his being carried from the plane on a stretcher and hospitalized for several days.
Howard Hawks had a mostly bad time making this epic, a most untypical film for him. The part of Nellifer was originally to have been played by the fashion model Ivy Nicholson, whom Hawks hoped to turn into a film star; but her behavior led him to fire her almost as soon as filming started. He wasn't very happy with Joan Collins, who has reported that she expected for several days to be fired as well; but she stayed in the film. He claimed that his real problem with the subject was that he "didn't know how a pharaoh talked" - William Faulkner claimed that he could make the character "sound like a Kentucky colonel", whilst Harry Kurnitz said he'd try to "make him sound like King Lear". Neither idea proved satisfactory. Hawks also didn't like working with CinemaScope, although he told interviewers that his chief interest in making the film had been using the new process.