Roman Polanski was hired by Dino De Laurentiis to direct this film, but when Polanski fled the country to avoid prosecution on a statutory rape charge, Jan Troell was hired to replace him at the last minute.
Filmed entirely on location in Bora Bora. The island was not the tourist destination it is today, so the production effectively had to build its accommodation. Producer Dino De Laurentiis bought up a plot of land and had a luxury hotel constructed on it. Actor Trevor Howard later claimed that one of the reasons for the film's failure was because De Laurentiis was more interested in his lucrative real estate venture than in his movie.
Composer Nino Rota died two days before the film premiered. This is his final work.
Trevor Howard kept a diary during the making of this film and it goes into much detail about the production's many troubles.
Mia Farrow and cinematographer Sven Nykvist were reputed to have had an affair during the production.
In an onset report (after Roman Polanski had quit the picture), Roger Ebert states that the film was using a script by Polanski and Lorenzo Semple Jr., also that it was being heavily rewritten. Polanski is not credited in the final picture.
According to Mia Farrow's biography by Sam Rubin and Richard Taylor, the star had a fistfight with co-star Timothy Bottoms, resulting in 16 stitches.
The second disaster movie for Mia Farrow in 1979, having also appeared in Avalanche (1978). Both films were critically derided and box office bombs.
Visual effects supervisor Glen Robinson also worked on the 1937 John Ford version, The Hurricane (1937).
Trevor Howard complained to Roger Ebert when he visited the location that he " had been on the set for 30 days and only been used once".
The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Jason Robards; and two Oscar nominees: Max von Sydow and Trevor Howard.
Dino De Laurentiis originally offered the role of Charlotte to singer Anne Murray, who declined due to recording schedules.