The movie is inspired by Hector Babenco's life story and many of the characters are his real life friends and family.
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The movie was previously spoken in Portuguese. The language was changed once Willem Dafoe joined the cast.
Davis' character is inspired by the director and painter Julian Schnabel. His real life daughter, Stella Schnabel, plays Leslie, Davis' wife in the movie.
Part of the crew eventually joined the cast. Jason Bermingham (Dr. Isaac) was one of the Dialog Coachs, Michael Wade (Dr. Feffer) was the first Portuguese to English script translator, Julia Medeiros, the casting director, was asked by Hector himself to play the Puerto Rican. Several members of the crew played extras, for example, the whole Direction team,
Hector Babenco's final feature film.