Neil Jordan first drafted the screenplay in the mid-1980s under the title The Soldier's Wife, but shelved the project after a similar film was released. He sought to begin production of the film in the early nineties, but found it difficult to secure financing. Potential investors were discouraged by his recent string of box office flops, as well as the difficult themes of the script; most studio heads believed the role to be un-castable.
The film went into production with an inadequate patchwork of funding, leading to a stressful and unstable filming process. The producers constantly searched for small amounts of money to keep the production going and pay disgruntled crew members. The film was known as The Soldier's Wife for much of the production, but Stanley Kubrick, who was a friend of Jordan, counselled against the title saying that audiences would expect a war film.
The opening sequence was shot in Laytown, County Meath, Ireland and the rest in London and Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire UK.