The original Broadway production of "Tribute" by Bernard Slade opened on 1st June 1 1978 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater and ran for 212 performances until 2nd December 1978. The setting of the play is described in its intro as: "The living room of a New York townhouse and on the stage of a New York theatre".
Jack Lemmon once said of his Scottie Templeton character: "If I had to choose one role as my favorite this has got to be it!". Moreover, Lemmon once said of "Tribute"'s story, it's "the most fascinating mixture of comedy and drama that I've found since The Apartment (1960)".
The film was entered into competition at the 31st Berlin International Film Festival in 1981 where Jack Lemmon was awarded the prestigious Silver Bear for Best Actor. Lemmon was also nominated for Best Actor Academy Award as well as the Golden Globe equivalent. Moreover, Lemmon won the Canadian Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor.
Prior to the film's source play opening on Broadway, playwright Bernard Slade and producer Morton Gottlieb sold the film rights to the Paramount Pictures studio for more than US $1 million. On the play's big opening night party at Tavern on the Green, Gottlieb gave payment in full checks to investors without even having to rely on monies from the film sale.
Producer Michael Douglas amended the shooting schedule of The China Syndrome (1979) to allow Jack Lemmon to attend rehearsals for the Broadway stage play of Tribute (1980). Douglas was enormously grateful to Lemmon as he remained ready to start work at very short notice for over a year before production started and in the process cost himself a lot of other work. Lemmon agreed to play his role in that movie as early as 1976 and Douglas returned the favor.