Marlon Brando was not the first choice for the lead role. It was offered to Rock Hudson, but he chose to make A Farewell to Arms instead.
Audrey Hepburn was offered the role of a Japanese bride opposite Marlon Brando but turned it down. She explained that she "couldn't possibly play an Oriental. No one would believe me; they'd laugh. It's a lovely script, however I know what I can and can't do. And if you did persuade me, you would regret it, because I would be terrible."
Dennis Hopper provided dubbed voices for a few of the smaller characters in the movie.
Burt Reynolds auditioned for this movie.
Miyoshi Umeki's Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress made her the first Asian actor to win an Oscar. Also, as of 2010, she is the only person of East Asian descent to win an Academy Award for acting.
According to Turner Classic Movies, William Holden was originally slated to play Ace Gruver, but left the project to film The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Also according to Turner Classic Movies, Marlon Brando insisted on playing Ace Gruver with a Southern accent, against the will of the director and producers. Brando adopted a nondescript Southern accent for Gruver, despite the objections of director Joshua Logan, who didn't think that a general's son who was West Point-educated would speak that way.
Film debut of James Stacy.
Film debuts of Miiko Taka and Miyoshi Umeki. Umeki, for this debut performance, won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.
In 1956, more than 10,000 American servicemen had defied regulations and married Japanese women, as indeed had the novel's author, James Michener.
The "Matsubayashi Girls Revue" stage shows in the film were performed by the Shochiku Kagekidan Girls Revue.
The 1957 film "Sayonara" (starring Marlon Brando) was shot at the famous Yamashiro Sky Room restaurant, which resembles an oriental palace. It is located in the hills right above Grauman's Chinese Theatre (at 1999 N. Sycamore Avenue) in Hollywood.