Along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary's Baby (1968) this film is part of a loose trilogy by Roman Polanski dealing with the horrors faced by apartment and city dwellers.
Although Roman Polanski plays the leading role in the film, he is given no screen credit as an actor.
Roman Polanski visited Robert Shaw at his Irish home to discuss a part, but the meeting went so poorly, that no offer was ever made.
One of the ten most terrifying moments in history of cinema in the opinion of the French horror movie magazine Mad Movies.
At the two-thirds mark of the film, there are two shots of a chair used as a nightstand at Trelkovsky's apartment where Roman Polanski used jaw-dropping perspective effects. The first one was when a thirsty Trelkovsky tries to grab a bottle of water from the chair (2D foreshortening). The second one was when Trelkovsky walks by the chair (3D forced perspective) towards the window.
Philippe Sarde (the composer) chose the glass harmonica after having seen Polanski, at the restaurant, mimicking with his finger the action of making the glass sing. There was only one person left in the world that could play this instrument, for which Mozart wrote a few pieces.
The film was entered and accepted to screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976.
The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Roman Polanski, Jo Van Fleet, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters and Lila Kedrova; and three Oscar nominees: Isabelle Adjani, Philippe Sarde and Alain Sarde.
Director Roman Polanski would return to the Parisian city thriller milieu again around twelve years later with Frantic (1988). Some of the milieu and settings in the two pictures are similar.
According to his biographer Neil Sinyard, British director Jack Clayton originally planned to film "The Tenant" around 1970 for Universal, but this never came to fruition. He returned to the project while preparing to make The Great Gatsby (1974), believing it would be a good follow-up movie, and hopeful that it would be the first of a proposed three-picture deal with Paramount Pictures, which never eventuated. Unfortunately, while Clayton was tied up doing post-production work on Gatbsy, Paramount boss Barry Diller reviewed the project, and arbitrarily assumed that Clayton was no longer interested. Diller then handed the film on to Roman Polanski without consulting Clayton, who angrily phoned Diller to express his dismay at the fact that a project which Paramount had bought for him, had been handed to another director without consultation. This marked the second time that Clayton had fallen foul of Diller. A couple of years earlier, while Clayton was preparing another pet project, a screen version of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), it was abruptly canceled by Diller, even though the studio had already approved the script for production. The normally mild-mannered Clayton later admitted in a 1987 interview with 'The Los Angeles Times' that he was so enraged by Diller's action, that he put his fist through a window in the Paramount Pictures studio offices.
Many of the French actors are dubbed by British equity members in US accents. They were Robert Rietty, David De Keyser, Marc Smith, Sandra Dickinson, David Healy, Annie Ross, Shane Rimmer, and Peter Mariner, among others.
American actress Kathryn Leigh Scott re-voiced Isabelle Adjani while appearing in the play "Le Weekend" at the Bristol Old Vic.
The source material for this film is the French novel "Le Locataire chimérique" by writer-artist-illustrator Roland Roland Topor, first published in France 1964. The film was made approximately twelve years later.
After seeing this film, songwriter and musician David Sylvian was so impressed that he was influenced to write the instrumental piece called "The Tenant". It appears on Japan's (his band at the time) second album Obscure Alternatives.
Roman Polanski "wore a number of hats" on this picture: he was the film's lead actor, director and co-screenwriter.
Director Roman Polanski had previously directed Chinatown (1974) and Rosemary's Baby (1968) for Paramount studio. The Tenant (1976) was Polanski's third feature film for the studio.
This film is based on the novel "The Tenant" by Roland Topor and features actress Isabelle Adjani. Topor later co-starred with Adjani in Werner Herzog's film Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979),
Pirates (1986) was originally planned to be made by Roman Polanski before The Tenant (1976) and to co-star actress Isabelle Adjani. When the swashbuckler film went into turnaround a part in The Tenant (1976) was re-written specifically for Adjani.
Actress Isabelle Adjani was later originally slated to star in director Roman Polanski's Pirates (1986) with Jack Nicholson but this did not eventuate. Nicholson and Polanski had previously collaborated on Chinatown (1974).
The picture featured four Academy Award winning actors when made and released which were Lila Kedrova (Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Zorba the Greek (1964)), Jo Van Fleet (Best Actress in a Supporting Role for East of Eden (1955)), Melvyn Douglas (Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Hud (1963)), and Shelley Winters (Best Actress in a Supporting Role for both A Patch of Blue (1965) and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)). Afterwards, Melvyn Douglas won another Oscar in the same category for Being There (1979). All of the acting Oscar winning actors appearing in this film have won their Academy Awards in Best Supporting Acting categories. Later, Polanski would win a Best Director Oscar himself for The Pianist (2002) but has not won an Oscar for acting.
One of numerous screen-writing collaborations of scriptwriter Gérard Brach and director Roman Polanski (the sixth).
According to the 3rd December 1975 edition of show-business trade paper 'Variety' the period of principal photography on this picture had a production shoot length of fourteen weeks.