The Dashwoods moved to their humble cottage when the weather was cold and the sheep still had their long, winter coats. The scenes were in fact filmed in late May, and in one take a sheep keeled over from heat exhaustion. So the sheep were immediately sheared and later appear with their haircuts, despite the wintry setting.
Whilst working on the script, Emma Thompson's computer developed a problem and she was unable to locate the file. She took the computer to Stephen Fry, an expert in Apple computers, who, after seven hours, finally managed to retrieve the script. This is why Stephen is thanked in the credits by the producers.
Ang Lee originally was considering Kate Winslet only for the smaller part of Lucy Steele, even though she really wanted to play Marianne. When Winslet arrived at her audition she pretended that her agent had sent her to read for Marianne, and her reading won her the role.
Emma Thompson has recounted that, during the scene where Colonel Brandon approaches Elinor and Marianne on horseback, many takes were ruined by the horse's flatulence. Eventually, they were forced to shoot the scene with the farting horse, and the rather loud reports later were edited out of the soundtrack.
Kate Winslet admitted that she was terrified of Alan Rickman when she met him in the hair and makeup trailer. She thought he would think she was a terrible actress and get her fired. After a week or two, she got to know him, and realized how sweet and warm he was. She ended up adoring him, and would work with him again, as her director and co-star, on A Little Chaos.
The excerpt that Colonel Brandon reads to Marianne near the end of the film ("nothing's lost but may be found if sought...") belongs to Edmund Spenser's epic poem 'The Faerie Queene' (1590). It is part of the second canto in Book V: Justice.
A largely dull character in the novel, Edward Ferrars - the potential suitor for Elinor Dashwood - was given more personality by the casting of Hugh Grant. Emma Thompson deliberately wrote the part with Grant in mind.
Given that this was his first English-language film, Ang Lee was taken aback when stars Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant would come to him with suggestions about their characters. Lee wasn't used to this method of working, as it is not the style in Hong Kong.
There is an ironic twist surrounding the casting of Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson and Greg Wise. Although they portray love interests on screen, Kate Winslet and Greg Wise dated only briefly in reality before Greg took to Winslet's on-screen sister Emma Thompson. Thompson and Wise were together for 8 years before getting married. Together they have one adopted son and one biological daughter. Interestingly, Richard Lumsden, who portrays Thompson's on-screen brother-in-law Robert Ferrars, is her actual brother-in-law. Lumsden is married to Emma's younger sister, Sophie Thompson, who was also featured in two movie adaptations of Jane Austen's books, Screen Two: Persuasion (1995) and Emma (1996). In Screen Two: Persuasion (1995), Sophie Thompson played the younger sister of the story's main character, Anne Elliot, which was played by Amanda Root, who ironically enough was sought for the role of Marianne in Sense and Sensibility (1995). Root, however, could not accept the role due to her obligations to film Persuasion. In a nutshell, Amanda Root landed a role in a Jane Austen adaptation and was coincidentally asked to star in another one. When she could not appear, another actress who dated the future husband of her on-screen sister's sister was given the role, and her on-screen sister's actual husband portrayed the on-screen brother-in-law of his actual sister-in-law in the same film that she could not star in.
At 36, Emma Thompson was considerably older than the character of Elinor Dashwood in the novel, who is generally thought to be around 19. Kate Winslet was closer to her character's age, being 20 in relation to Marianne's 16.
In the DVD extras, Emma Thompson relates how Patrick Doyle was challenged to set Ben Jonson's 'The Dreame' to music. The result is the piece Col. Brandon requests Marianne to play on the pianoforte and the end title music.
Amanda Root was originally sought for the role of Marianne, and performed the role at a read-through of an early draft of the script. However, by the time the film was being made, Root could not appear, as she was already working on another Jane Austen film, Screen Two: Persuasion (1995).
In her book "The Sense and Sensibility (1995) Screenplay & Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen's Novel to Film", Emma Thompson writes that after a particularly difficult day filming a sequence that involved a flock of sheep, Ang Lee swore that he would never again use the animals on a movie set. Ten years later, however, Ang Lee went on to direct (and win a directing Oscar for) Brokeback Mountain (2005), which is about two men who meet while sheep herding.
With a budget of $16 million, this was the biggest budget Ang Lee had ever worked with. The film was effectively bankrolled following the surprise success of Gillian Armstrong's version of Little Women the year before.
In at least one of the trailers for this movie, the background music is actually from the soundtrack to Little Women, which came out the previous year. This is a common practice when advertising a film that is still in post-production, for which the musical score has probably not been finalized. For instance, the trailer for Regarding Henry uses the score from Terms Of Endearment.
The film received an award from a Christian organization for incorporating a character, Edward Ferrars played by Hugh Grant, who preferred becoming a clergyman rather then choosing a military or legal career.
The wine-colored muslin dress, beige pelisse and matching bonnet Kate Winslet (Marianne Dashwood) wears for the Dashwoods' arrival at Barton Cottage is the same costume Cesca Martin wears for her arrival at Regency House in The Regency House Party (2004). The dress is also worn by an extra at the Meryton Assembly Ball in Pride & Prejudice (2005).
The pale blue dress with checked trim on the sleeves Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood) wears at Barton Cottage is the same costume Anna Madeley (Lucy Steele) wears when Edward calls at Mrs. Jennings' London house in Sense & Sensibility (2008), and by a guest at the Meryton Assembly ball in Pride & Prejudice (2005).
The apple-green day dress Harriet Walter (Fanny Dashwood) wears trimming hats with Lucy Steele is the same costume worn by Henry's new partner (seated next to Mary's new partner) at the end of Mansfield Park (1999).
The white muslin dress with yellow overdress Kate Winslet (Marianne Dashwood) wears during the picnic scene is the same costume a farmhouse servant wears in Eroica (2003), and Michelle Ryan wears during the scene in which Sir Thomas asks Maria if she wants to marry Mr. Rushworth in Mansfield Park (2007).
The tall green military-style hat with a peacock feather worn by an extra at the Covent Garden coffee shop is the same one worn by Christina Cole (Caroline Bingley) at Pemberley during the shooting contest in Lost in Austen (2008).
The dark purple velvet and silk gown Harriet Walter (Fanny Dashwood) wears to dinner at Norland Park is the same costume worn by the theatre guest seated next to deSade's wife in Quills (2000), and by Jane How (Lady Holland) at the London party in Byron (2003).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When the film was first released, many moviegoers thought that the final scene showed the double wedding of Marianne and Colonel Brandon, and Edward and Elinor. However, Edward and Elinor are already married at this point. He was the wedding officiant, and Elinor was Marianne's Matron of Honor.
Originally, there was to be a scene in which Hugh Grant would kiss Emma Thompson. This scene was deleted, however, because the film was too long already and the scene was felt to be inappropriate for Austen's time. They deleted another scene between Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood for time, and the belief that it was unnecessary exposition.