The film attracted controversy on its original release due to an early use of the word "fuck."
When the film was submitted to the BBFC in 1967 they requested 29 cuts to remove strong language and crude sexual references from Molly's final soliloquy. In return director Joseph Strick replaced all the offending footage with a blank screen and a high pitched shrieking sound. This resulted in the BBFC rescinding the cuts and passing the film fully intact.
This was passed for cinema in March 1967 and thus became the first film in the UK to feature the word "fuck". Marianne Faithfull's single use of the word in the film I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967) would follow 3 months later.
The film was not passed by the film censors in Ireland until September 27, 2000, 33 years after its release.
When first released theatrically the film was deemed so controversial by the New Zealand censors that it could only be screened before gender-segregated audiences in that country.
Peter Sellers had also wanted to film James Joyce's novel with a Wolf Mankowitz screenplay, and with Peter O'Toole and Diane Cilento also starring, but like many Sellers announcements of the time, it failed to get off the ground.
A poster advertising the appearance of Mme. Marion Bloom at Belfast Concert Rooms on the given date of July 25th. 1966 (about 17 minutes in) shows no intention to represent the film taking place in 1904.
Joseph Strick's father smuggled a copy of the book Ulysses into America from Paris, An outline of the film was completed in 1959 but the idea of a film was nipped in the bud when Fox successfully bid for the rights for which Jerry Wald was to be involved but when he died the option was picked up by Jack Cardiff who later abandoned it as being unfinancible. . Strick then entered the scene again and 99% of the screenplay which he prepared with assoc. prod. Fred Haines is James Joyce.
A huge close up of a single June day in the intermingled lives of a group of middle class Dubliners presented Strick and Haines with a mammoth task of condensing the 783 page book, which if it had been filmed in its entirety, would have run over 18 hours, but they managed to cut it down to about 2 hours.
One morning Maurice Roeves arrived on set in his underclothes. He'd been posing for publicity stills on the rocks of Sandycove when a big wave knocked him into the sea which wasn't serious as he was a strong swimmer, but the suit he was wearing for a scene was ruined, delaying filming until a replacement was found.
Although the British Board of Film Censors had passed the film on 14 March 1967 with an "X" certificate after cuts, the Greater London Council granted a local "X" certificate to the uncut version in May 1967. The uncut version was a huge success, opening at the Academy Cinema One (516 seats) on 1 June 1967 for 44 weeks before moving next door to the smaller Academy Cinema Two (404 seats) for a further 26 weeks. When the film finally closed on 2 October 1968 it was still being advertised as "X" (London).
With some 100 speaking parts - with the exception of Barbara Jefford, Maurice Roeves and Graham Lines - the entire cast is Irish.
Joseph Strick got unprecedented cooperation when he chose to shoot the film in Dublin, The Guinness Brewery donated a huge vat of beer into which some Dubliners would jump into, the Central Criminal Court and the Richmond Hospital were made available and police stopped traffic for street scenes to be shot.