In an interview Shirley MacLaine stated that she was granted permission to live with real Geishas for two weeks, learning the intricacies of the delicate tea ceremony, the Japanese dance and how to play the stringed instrument. She also said that the makeup process caused a lot of problems. Her eyes were slanted by attaching gauze to the corners of her eyes with liquid adhesive. Strings were then fastened to the gauze and pulled around her head. She said that by the end of the picture her temples were raw and they had to shoot the picture carefully so that the damage did not show. She also had problems with the contact lenses, especially during the scene on the hillside when the smoke that was used to simulate mist got under the lenses.
Shirley MacLaine wrote in her book "My Lucky Stars" that Yves Montand bet her husband Steve Parker that he could seduce her. Parker took him up on the bet; Montand won.
Shu Uemura took over the makeup for Shirley MacLaine's Geisha role after Michael Westmore fell ill. The international recognition Uemura received for his work enabled him to launch his own cosmetics company.