The protagonist Jirô Horikoshi is a fictional character made from a mix of the actual lives of Tatsuo Hori, the author of the short story of the same name, and Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Zero fighter aircraft. The title comes from Hori's translation of a quote from Paul Valéry's poem "Le cimetière marin".
The film is based on a manga Miyazaki authored in 2009. It was Toshio Suzuki who suggested to Hayao Miyazaki to adapt the manga into a film, when Miyazaki was interested in making a sequel to Ponyo (2008).
In early 2013, the 72 year old Hayao Miyazaki announced that he would retire after the release of "The Wind Rises", marking his sixth such announcement. Since then, many rumors have circulated stating that he has announced his return to feature films once again - however, these are unfounded and based on pure speculation from Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki. Suzuki himself has since stepped down as producer.
The original Japanese version of film poster shows Naoko painting alone on a hillside, her skirt billowing in the wind. The US version portrays the same scene, but adds Jiro leaning over to kiss her and a paper plane flying overhead.
The song sung by Jiro, Castorp and others at dinner is "Das gibt's nur einmal, das kommt nicht wieder" " ("This happens only once, it doesn't come again") from the German musical comedy film Der Kongreß tanzt (Congress Dances (1932) ).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Hayao Miyazaki originally intended Naoko's line in the last scene to be "Kite" ("Come along"), identifying her with Beatrice in paradise in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, but later changed it to "Ikite" ("Live on").