Lesley Ann Warren and Sally Ann Howes turned down the role of Elizabeth. Kim Novak was also approached, and Diana Rigg was set to star as Elizabeth but was forced to withdraw due to illness.
Lee Marvin had to be made to look older in the movie, since at 44 he was only six years older than Clint Eastwood.
Lee Marvin was apparently drunk nearly every day of filming.
Lee Marvin was set to star in The Wild Bunch, a project that he helped put together with stuntman Roy N. Sickner, when Paramount offered him $1 million plus a percentage to star in this picture.
Jean Seberg's singing voice was dubbed by Anita Gordon, while Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin did their own singing. Marvin's recording of the song "Wanderin' Star" went to #1 on the British charts, earning him a gold record.
George Maharis was a close contender for the role of Pardner.
After five months of filming and ever-escalating budgetary and production problems, the studio fired director Joshua Logan and had assistant director Tom Shaw complete the film, without credit.
Although a musical, no choreographer was ever hired.
In the DVD version the 4'20'' intermission is kept in the film.
Only one number is sung by a trained singer - "They Call the Wind Maria" by Harve Presnell. (The word "Maria", spelled Maria without the H, is sung/pronounced as "Mariah".)
Paramount advertised for extras, and Portland's hippie population turned out, complete with long hair, mustaches and beards, period clothing, and camping gear. The local rednecks were infuriated that 'dirty hippies' got the plum jobs...until they began buying groceries, beer, and antiques in town.
Released at a time when musicals were rapidly going out of fashion, the film went notoriously over budget and behind schedule. Opening to mostly negative reviews, it was not the huge box office success that the producers had hoped.
The first attempt to film this property was by Louis B. Mayer and Jack Cummings in 1957. Planned as a Cinerama release with a screenplay by John Lee Mahin and new songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Arthur Schwartz, the project was abandoned when Mayer died. Gary Cooper was being sought to play Ben Rumson.
The original Broadway production of "Paint Your Wagon" opened at the Shubert Theater on November 12, 1951 and ran for 289 performances.
The play was produced on Broadway in 1951 and was one of the two properties Louis B. Mayer took with him after being ousted from MGM. Advancing age and the fact that Mayer had been so removed from actual film production for 30+ years rendered him unable to get it underway as a film.
The song "Hand Me Down That Can of Beans" was performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who were also extras in the movie. The band is most famous for singing "Mr. Bojangles".
This film version bears little resemblance to the Broadway musical on which it is ostensibly based. After the success of several musical films in the 1960s, most notably The Sound of Music, producers went looking for other projects to make, and "Paint Your Wagon" made the list. The original plot, about an inter-ethnic love story, was discarded as being too dated. The only elements retained from the original were the title, Gold Rush setting and about half of the songs. In the play, Elizabeth has a very minor role, Pardner does not even appear, and Ben Rumson dies at the end.
This was the only film produced by Alan Jay Lerner.