Theatrical release: February 20, 1963, in New York.
The French-language version premiered in Paris on December 21, 1962.
Filmed in Paris (Gare d'Orsay abandoned train station, Studio de Boulogne), Rome, and Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Welles had originally designed a number of sets, but there was not enough money to build them. Then he saw what looked like two moons but turned out to be clock faces in the Gare d'Orsay, which became his set.
Estimated budget: $1.3 million.
The producers of the film, the Salkinds, wanted to work with Welles and offered him 20 projects to choose from; Welles originally selected Franz Kafka's THE CASTLE, but the Salkinds talked him into doing THE TRIAL. The Salkinds would later have great success with SUPERMAN, but at the time of THE TRIAL, they could not even afford cab fare back from their meeting with Welles.
Shooting began on March 26, 1961, in Paris, and ended on June 5 of that year.
During the Zagreb shooting Welles met Olga Palinkas, who would become Oja Kadar, his companion and collaborator in his later years.
Talking about filming in the abandoned Gare d'Orsay, Welles told the British television show MONITOR, "I know this sounds terribly mystical, but really a railway station is a haunted place....[The story] is full of the hopelessness of the struggle against bureaucracy....People were sent to Nazi prisons from [train stations]."
Initially, Welles was not going to appear in the film. Short of actors, he originally played the priest but decided later to play the advocate, so he cut those scenes in which he played the priest and reshot them with Michel Lonsdale playing the part. His preferred actor for the advocate: Jackie Gleason, who was unavailable.
Welles altered the emotional impact of Kafka's original ending, making it more of a struggle because of the Holocaust.
A scene featuring Katina Paxinou (who appeared in Welles's MR. ARKADIN) involving the computer was cut from the final print.
Welles dubbed in the voices for about 11 characters, including some of Anthony Perkins's dialogue; Perkins was never able to ascertain which of his lines were dubbed in by the director.
Welles told Peter Bogdanovich in THIS IS ORSON WELLES that "there's not a single symbol" in THE TRIAL.
Orson Welles, who also plays the advocate, opens and closes the film with voice-over narration (as Welles himself, not in character). The final credits are narrated by Welles.
THE TRIAL is truly Orson Welles's vision; although he ran out of funding a number of times, the final cut is his; he told Peter Bogdanovich that the film is "unspoiled in the cutting or in anything else." He went on to say, "It's the most autobiographical movie I've ever made, the only one that's really close to me."
Akim Tamiroff also appeared in Welles's TOUCH OF EVIL, MR. ARKADIN, and DON QUIXOTE, a film that was started by Welles and finished by Jess Franco.