Two actors from the movie, Roger Rees and Omar Sharif, died on the exact same day: 10 July, 2015.
The actual real-life Mountains of the Moon can be seen in David Attenborough's natural wildlife documentary TV series Africa (2013).
The film is not only based on the historical biographical "Burton and Speke" novel by William Harrison, but as outlined in the opening credits, also on the original journals of the explorers John Hanning Speke and Richard Francis Burton.
The movie was made and released about 133 years after the expedition in search for the source of the Nile River in Africa commanded by Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke and depicted in this film had taken place in 1857.
The phrase 'Mountains of the Moon', according to website 'Wikipedia', "is an ancient term referring to a legendary mountain or mountain range in east Africa at the source of the Nile River. Various identifications have been made in modern times, the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda being the most celebrated". Website 'Entertainment Weekly' stated that "according to geographical legend, [the Mountains of the Moon] hid the [River Nile's] source".
Final [to date, February 2015] full produced movie screenplay of director Bob Rafelson.
English actor Richard E. Grant, who plays Larry Oliphant, was actually born in Africa, in Mbabane, Swaziland. Grant has starred in such other Africa set movies as Adventures in Zambezia (2012) and The Story of an African Farm (2004) as well as writing and directing the Swaziland set Wah-Wah (2005).
The actual real-life Mountains of the Moon are shown in David Attenborough's 2013 natural wildlife television documentary series Africa (2013).
During the closing credits actor Rod Woodruff is billed as playing a fencer but his role in fact is missing from the final film.
The film was made and released about eight years after its source historical novel "Burton and Speke" by William Harrison had been first published in 1982.
The movie features the famous African explorer character of Dr. David Livingstone ( Bernard Hill ), who is well-known for being referenced in the famous greeting of reporter Henry Morton Stanley, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", which was spoken deep in the heart of Africa at the culmination of an arduous search for the missing missionary / explorer.
In the early 60's, producer Joseph E Levine announced plans for a large 70mm Roadshow presentation, " Burton and Isabel " with a screenplay by John Michael Hayes but it never went into production. During the 70' s, Sidney Lumet planned a biography of the Explorer. Instead he directed Richard Burton in "Equus ".
The opening scene, which is supposedly the arrival at Mombasa, was actually filmed at Lamu island at the far northeastern tip of Kenya. The boat is called a dhow. Of ancient design - going back several thousand years - these boats are in daily use by fishermen in Lamu. It is also one of the two ways that, at the time of shooting, provided the means for accessing Lamu. One was by land, which took passengers on an exhausting seven-hour jungle ride through the mangroves, on a corrugated dirt road that included a couple of wet river crossings. The other was by small plane, which would land at an airstrip on nearby Manda Island, after which one would take a dhow to Lamu. Except for the expansion of tourists hotels to the south of Lamu town, the place is largely unchanged. For a more authentic experience, one may stay in one of the tiny hotels there, sleeping in rooms that have been there for a thousand years, some of which were used for filming. The streets are so narrow that there are no cars on the island. The most popular form of transportation for the residents is on the backs of donkeys.
The spear through Burton's face was an actual event, although the scar as depicted was wrong. The spear split his palate, causing a serious internal fracture of the jaw. It also came close to severing his tongue and it knocked out a half-dozen teeth, as well. The fact that he could survive such an extreme injury was near miraculous.
Slavery is an issue in this story. The fact is that the Arab slavers did not capture slaves but traded for them. In almost all cases, they had been prisoners of conflicts between rival tribes. The slaving routes culminated in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika. The slaves would be transported to the island of Zanzibar, which was ruled by a sultan. The old slave pens and auction areas in Stone Town there are important tourism sites.
The lake they encounter is Lake Tanganyika. The name is a combination of the words for savanna and sail. It was give this name when first encountered by western expeditions, whose bearers would sighted the tip of a distant sail that appeared to be traveling through grass.
The film claims, and it is generally believed that Speke discovered the source of the Nile. This remains an issue of debate. One reason is that the upper (southern) Nile ends in a series of cataracts - or broken stretches of water separated by land. In certain times of the year, as a result of the monsoon in east Africa, the water rises and the Nile flows, which is the reason for the annual flood which, until the building of the Aswan Dam, was an annual event and a major source for fertilization, which created rich farm land. As for Lake Victoria being the only source, this is incorrect. There are many tributaries that feed the Nile. This being said, Lake Victoria is certainly the major source, even if there is not an actual river that connects it directly to the Nile.