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The film's working title was Ole! The viewed print contained a copyright statement for the Alpha Corporation, but the film, which was released in English and Spanish-language versions, was not registered for copyright. Although the written onscreen credits of the viewed print were in Spanish, the narration was in English. There is no dialogue or synchronized sound in the film, which consists of spoken narration or music played over filmed images. The film ends with the following written epilogue: "No one is really dead until the last man who remembers him is dead, and so Carlos Arruza must live forever." The film's closing credits contain the following written acknowledgment: "Filmed in Mexico and at Estudios Churubusco-Azteca, S.A., Mexico, D. F. and filmed by the members of the Syndicate of Photographers."
In his autobiographical account of the filming of Arruza, director Budd Boetticher, who directed the 1951 drama Bullfighter and the Lady (see below), noted that in 1955 he decided to direct a "real bullfight" film featuring the best matador in the world. Boetticher, an aficionado of the sport, decided to focus on his friend Carlos Arruza, a preeminent torero who had retired from the ring in 1953. Weary of retirement, Arruza decided to extend his career by becoming a rejoneador, or a bullfighter on horseback. Although a 1957 Daily Variety news item noted that Boetticher would partner with Randolph Scott, the star of many Westerns directed by Boetticher, Scott was not involved in the production. According to Boetticher's autobiography, the director began filming background bullfights in Nogales, Mexico, on May 5, 1958. Boetticher spent the next three years filming bullfights in Mexico with cinematographers Lucien Ballard and Carlos Carbajal, interrupting his schedule in the fall of 1959 to return to Los Angeles to direct the film The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (see below). Boetticher had planned to cast his then-wife Debra Paget in the role of Arruza's wife, Maria Carmen Arruza, but, according to an April 1971 Daily Variety article, when the director ran out of money in 1961 and started to drink heavily, Paget divorced him, and his business manager, in a move to seize control of Boetticher's film, arranged to have him institutionalized in a sanitarium against his will.
Arruza literally rescued Boetticher from the sanitarium, after which Boetticher, retaining control of his film, decided to cast his then girl friend, actress Elsa Cardenas, as Maria Aruzza. After several other financial setbacks, Boetticher, with the help of Beldon Butterfield, who is credited as one of the film's producers, raised $15,000 to film Aruzza's climactic bullfight at the Plaza Mexico, the biggest bullring in the world at the time. Boetticher's autobiography noted that in addition to the film's financial shortfall, Arruza's performance at the Plaza Mexico was delayed by the fact that the temperamental bullfighter refused to appear at the plaza until new management took over. According to Boetticher's autobiography and a June 1, 1970 Masters Seminar lecture delivered by the director at the American Film Institute, ten cameras were used to film Arruza's bullfights on 23 January and February 6, 1966, after which Boetticher and editor George Crone spliced the fights together. The film's final sequence, the filming of a fiesta at Arruza's new ranch, was to be completed in May. However, on May 20, 1966 Aruzza was killed when the car in which he was riding skidded off the road. Crone died shortly after Arruza, in June 1966. Following Aruzza's death, Boetticher decided that Mari Arruza should portray herself, forcing him to delay filming for a suitable period of mourning and also reshoot all the scenes in which Cardenas had portrayed Maria.
Still short of funds to complete the picture, Boetticher screened Arruza for director John Sturges, who agreed to finance the rest of the film through his Alpha Corporation. The final shooting was completed over three days in February 1967, and at that time, the English narration was spoken by Jason Robards. After Boetticher assembled a print of the film, Sturges recut it with his editor, Ferris Webster, and rewrote the opening narration. Boetticher, whose contract with Sturges assured him complete artistic control, re-edited the film and arranged for Anthony Quinn to redo Robard's narration. Most reviews credit Quinn as the narrator; however, the viewed print was the Sturges version of the film, featuring a narration by Robards, who in the opening sequence describes the Plaza Mexico as the "biggest bullring in the world." Boetticher stated in his autobiography that Sturges inserted that description, and that the film's narration originally started with the words "Occasionally a man is born whose life is so different, so dangerous...this is the story of Carlos Arruza." According to Boetticher's autobiography, Sturges also deleted the narration that accompanied Arruza's car ride to the Plaza Mexico for his final bullfight. The viewed version contained no narration over Arruza's drive.
An August 1966 Daily Variety news item noted that Arruza'a death caused an upsurge of interest in the film, and at that time, Avco Embassy was negotiating for the rights to worldwide distribution while Columbia was negotiating for distribution rights in Mexico and South America. According to an October 1968 Daily Variety news item, Columbia had picked up the worldwide distribution rights for the film. The film was initially shown in the U.S. on October 25, 1968 at the San Francisco Film Festival. A 1966 Daily Variety article noted that Barnaby Conrad, a member of the festival commission and a bullfight aficionado, arranged for Aruzza to open the festival. An April 1968 Daily Variety news item noted that the film was also to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1968. The film's official world premiere was in Tijuana, Mexico, on May 22, 1971. At that time, despite earlier reports, Boetticher still had not secured a distributor, and according to the May 1971 Hollywood Reporter review, Boetticher was not sure how he would release it. In an April 1971 Daily Variety article, Boetticher stated that he chose Tijuana to make the screening more accessible for "many more from Hollywood to attend." In addition to the screening, the weekend featured Boetticher performing in a bullfight exhibition for the audience.