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.
According to his biographer Neil Sinyard, British director Jack Clayton originally planned to film 'The Tenant' ca. 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 (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', 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 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.
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.
At two-thirds of the film, there are two shots of a chair used as a nightstand at Trelkovsky's apartment where Polansky used jaw-dropping perspective effects. The first one when a thirsty Trelkovsky tries to grab a bottle of water from the chair (2D foreshortening). The second one when Trelkovsky walks by the chair (3D forced perspective) towards the window.
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.
After seeing The Tenant 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.
The Tenant (1976) was the first lead starring role in a major motion picture for actor-writer-director Roman Polanski since his Dance of the Vampires (1967) around nine years earlier. The two movies have years which are the digit reverse of each other ('67 & '76).