The film retains most of Shakespeare's original play and does not change the order of scenes, as Olivier's Hamlet or Richard III do. The only major omission is the Fool's scene, although other minor lines are cut here ...展开and there. (The stage version contained more of the play than did the film.) Derek Jacobi (Cassio) and Michael Gambon both made their film debuts in Othello while Edward Hardwicke, would go on to work with the National for seven years.
The film of Othello used enlarged duplicates of the original stage settings, rather than having elaborate new sets built. Olivier's former backers for his Shakespeare films were all deceased by 1965, and he was unable to raise the money to do a film version on location or on elaborate sets. Nearly a decade earlier, Olivier had been attempting to find financial backing his own film version of Macbeth after hie performed the role in 1955 at Stratford, but ultimately without success. The National Theatre Company had already produced a staged film of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya (1963) and would later produce Strindberg's The Dance of Death (1969). The Olivier Othello is the first English-language filmed version of the play made in colour (there had been a Russian version in color in 1955) and widescreen. In the U.S., it did not play the usual several-week run given to most films; instead, it played for only two days. The film was exhibited as a roadshow presentation.
Of all Olivier's Shakespeare films, Othello is the one with the least music. Iago and the soldiers sing a drinking song in one scene, and in another, musicians are seen playing briefly on exotic instruments, but otherwise the film has no music.