Laurence Olivier wanted Carol Reed (who was then the top British director during that period) to direct the film, but Reed turned the offer down outright. It was his then-wife Vivien Leigh and friend Alexander Korda who persuaded him to direct. Filming took seventeen weeks whereas in Olivier's previous Shakespeare film,Hamlet, it took six months to film.

Michael Gough got his part (Dighton, the first murderer) by making a fuss to his fellow actor friends about only established stars getting cameo parts and leaving nothing for struggling actors like himself. One night he got a phone call, and a voice said "You've been stirring it, haven't you? Right little shit." Gough demanded to know, "Who is this?" only to be stunned by the response, "It's Larry", which of course was Olivier himself. Olivier in fact was just having some fun at Gough's expense, had taken on board his criticisms and was ringing to offer him the part of one of the murderers in Richard III. When asked which one he wanted to play, Gough quickly said "Whichever one has the most lines", and he got his wish. Olivier actually arranged matters so that Gough's scenes were split over several days, instead of all being done on the one day, so that he, Gough, would maximise his per diem fee.

Esmond Knight, who plays Ratcliffe, wanted to make his appearance at Richard's tent (at dawn during the Battle of Bosworth) longer by "loosening his sword in the scabbard, then look over the shoulder through the flap in the tent towards the horses, and then say it." However, Olivier refused his request and told him to "Play straight and piss off!"

Although Laurence Olivier was 47 when the film was made, the real King Richard III was only 32 when he died. King Edward IV was 40 when he died but was played by 61-year-old Cedric Hardwicke.

During the Battle of Bosworth an archer shoots at Richard, on his horse, from a gully below. One of the UK's top archers was employed for this stunt. The horse was padded, but the arrow missed its mark and wounded Laurence Olivier in the lower leg. However, this worked to Olivier's advantage, as the Battle of Bosworth scenes were the first to be shot for the film. For the rest of the shoot, Olivier did not have to fake Richard III's famous limp.

Filming of Clarence's murder in the Tower of London could have been completed in one day, but was lengthened to three days. The actor playing one of the murderers was short of work and Laurence Olivier was helping him out.

Hastings's line "The cat, the rat/And Lovell the dog/Rule all England under the hog" is from eighteenth-century actor David Garrick's alteration of the play.

In the opening of the film, Richard accidentally drops the Duke's coronet after the royal party leaves. It was an accidental mistake that Olivier made but left in the film. However, it became a running joke throughout the film and later, you can see the same gag again.

Olivier based his characterization of Richard on a much-despised theatrical director named Jed Harris. Years later he learned that the animators at Disney used Harris for the basis of the Big Bad Wolf.

Olivier wanted to cast Orson Welles in the role of Buckingham, but life-long friend Sir Ralph Richardson wanted the role, and Olivier gave it to him. In his autobiography, Olivier says he wishes he had disappointed Richardson and cast Welles instead as he would have brought an extra element to the screen, an intelligence that would have gone well with the plot element of conspiracy.

The actor Bernard Hepton was a technical advisor on the battle-sequence and can be seen in close-up as one of the soldiers putting the knife into Richard.

The failure of the film to earn a profit in the U.S. during its theatrical release, together with the untimely death of Alexander Korda , who had backed the production of Richard III, effectively ended Olivier's dream of filming Shakespeare as a director. He is accorded the honor of being the greatest Macbeth of the 20th century, but he could never raise the financing to make the film after the financial failure of this film.Michael Todd expressed interest in financing an Olivier version of Macbeth, but Todd was killed in a plane crash before those ideas could come to fruition. Olivier never again directed a Shakespearean film, possibly the result of the fabled actors' curse attached to "The Scottish Play".

The film actually begins with nearly all of the final scene of Shakespeare's "Henry VI: Part III", and from then proceeds to the opening lines of "Richard III".

The first film to have its U.S. premiere in theaters and on TV simultaneously. This occurred on the afternoon of 11 March 1956, when NBC-TV broadcast the film on the same day it had its U.S. premiere in New York. (It had already had its world premiere and first run in London in 1955.) The telecast was the longest single presentation of a film or play (three hours counting the commercials) ever shown on TV up to that time. Classic British films presented by J. Arthur Rank, such as Caesar and Cleopatra, had already made their network TV debuts on an ABC-TV program titled "Famous Film Festival", but many of these were either drastically cut to fit a ninety-minute time slot or shown in two parts. Walt Disney had already begun, on his Disneyland TV program, to telecast some of his theatrical films, but these were shown in two or more one-hour segments, one segment per week, or edited down to one hour, as in the case ofAlice in Wonderland . It was not until CBS showed The Wizard of Oz in 1956, that an uncut, full-length theatrical film was shown on network TV during prime time in one evening.

The first widescreen film version of a Shakespeare play. The shape used, however, was not especially wide; it was VistaVision, not Cinemascope.

The line "Richard's himself again" spoken to camera on the morning of the battle of Bosworth is not by Shakespeare. It comes from an acting edition of Shakespeare's text by Colley Cibber (1671-1757). Richard's line "Off with his head! So much for Buckingham" also comes from Colley Cibber's alteration of the play.

The liner notes on the Criterion Collection's DVD of this film states mistakenly that NBC-TV's premiere broadcast of the film in March 1956 was in black-and-white. Actually, NBC, the network that prided itself as the color pioneer of the three major U.S. TV networks at the time, did indeed run the movie in color. In fact, the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times, dated March 11, lists numerous advertisements by Manhattan merchandisers for new color television sets, coinciding with the Sunday afternoon broadcast of the movie.

The only Shakespeare film made in VistaVision (so far).

The recently-restored version includes shots of opposing forces reconciling after Lord Stanley changes sides.