Marlon Brando was signed for the role of T.E. Lawrence in 1960 but dropped out to take the role of Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty. After that, Anthony Perkins was also briefly considered.
David Lean didn't see his first royalty check for the film until 1978.
David Lean happened to catch a B-movie called The Day They Robbed the Bank of England which featured a young Peter O'Toole. He was immediately taken by the striking looking young actor.
David Lean hoped to film in the real Aqaba and the archaelogical site at Petra. Much to his regret, however, the production had to be moved to Spain because of cost overruns and outbreaks of illness among the cast and crew before these scenes could be shot.
David Lean never saw any dailies while filming. He only missed one day of work, though the production endured many illnesses.
David Lean personally supervised the first cuts that brought the film down to 3 hours as he wanted it to enjoy more showings per day. During the 1989 restoration, he would later pass blame for the cuts onto the then deceased Sam Spiegel.
David Lean wanted Malcolm Arnold to score the film, while Sam Spiegel wanted William Walton to do it. Both composers turned down the chance to work on the film.
Sam Spiegel was much taken with Robert Bolt's successful play A Man for All Seasons. When he and David Lean weren't happy with Michael Wilson's stab at the screenplay, he sent it to Bolt for rewriting. Bolt found the script lacking in good dialog and also character depth. He essentially rewrote the whole thing, using T.E. Lawrence's book 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' as his starting point.
Sam Spiegel, the producer of this film, was once known as S.P. Eagle. He had an amazing talent for finding unusual material and hiring exactly the perfect director to execute it. He produced one of Orson Welles's few commercial successes The Stranger. David Lean, the director of this masterpiece, was a well-respected director of moderate-budgeted English films when Spiegel brought him to international prominence with Lean's direction of The Bridge on the River Kwai. He also worked with John Huston, first on We Were Strangers and most notably on The African Queen. Finally he found the funding from Harry Cohn at Columbia for Elia Kazan's controversial On the Waterfront. Perhaps no other independent producer has been associated with so many brilliant film directors on so many diverse and original stories.
Steven Spielberg estimated that to make the film today would cost in the region of $285 million.
Alec Guinness had a life-long interest in T.E. Lawrence, and had played him in a production of Terence Rattigan's play "Ross" on stage. Guinness wanted very much to play Lawrence, but David Lean and Sam Spiegel both told him he was too old. Laurence Olivier was the original choice for Prince Feisal, and Guinness was shifted to that role when Olivier turned it down.
Alec Guinness shaved his head for his role.
Alec Guinness was made up to look like the real Faisal as close as possible. When they were shooting in Jordan, several people who knew the man mistook him for the real thing.
Montgomery Clift coveted the role of Lawrence and actively lobbied for the part with David Lean. 'Sam Spiegel', however, had a low opinion of Clift after the latter's drinking problems surfaced on Suddenly, Last Summer and refused to consider his casting.
Cary Grant was Sam Spiegel's first choice for General Allenby, but David Lean convinced him to cast Jack Hawkins due to his work for them on The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Dilip Kumar was offered the role of Sherif Ali but declined.
Anthony Quinn applied his own make-up and would often arrive in real Arab clothes. At one point, David Lean mistook him for a native on the studio lot and so he sent his assistant to tell Quinn that he had replaced by this new arrival.