"Alexei Arbuzov's sentimental yet incisive play about three orphaned teenagers trapped in the Siege of Leningrad followed the changing fortunes of their love triangle through three acts until they were in their thirties. It was a hit from Moscow across Europe to the West End where I appeared with Judi Dench and Ian McShane. Then I transferred (with Eileen Atkins and Ian McShane) to the Henry Millers Theatre on Broadway. With the Cold War raging, it was difficult for Americans to accept three Brits in a sympathetic Soviet story. As a film, it fared badly with the critics who detected its theatre origins too strongly. Still it turns up late at night on cable television. 'The Promise' was the first time I recreated one of my stage performances on film.
"We filmed at Shepperton Studios and reused the Dickensian sets from the musical film 'Oliver,' which now doubled for war-torn Leningrad."
— Ian McKellen, August 1999