Actor Clint Eastwood's housemate since 1975, Sondra Locke, who had co-starred with him in six previous films, was not cast in the lead female role in this movie or any of the five others Eastwood made during the remainder of their relationship. Sudden Impact (1983) was the last Eastwood film that Locke appeared in and reportedly, the Warner Brothers studio executives told Eastwood that the public had tired of seeing movies of him teamed with Locke and not to make any more pictures with her.
Susan Sarandon turned down the role of Beryl Thibodeaux, explaining to the Los Angeles Times in 1992: "The link between violence and sex was very strong. I met with Clint Eastwood and I said, 'Aren't you worried, especially you, who everybody thinks is like Man Personified, [that] when your character starts to do some of this stuff, that it's going to have a link between sex and violence and treating women badly?' And he said, 'I don't think that it's my job to worry about that, I'm an actor.' "
The movie was originally set in San Francisco but because that city was associated with the "Dirty Harry" movies, the picture's setting had to be relocated to another American city. New Orleans was chosen for this.
Director Richard Tuggle had a habit of not wearing any underwear in muggy New Orleans. One day, standing up on a camera truck, Clint Eastwood noticed that Tuggle's private parts were hanging out of his shorts. In front of everybody he ordered Tuggle to go back to his trailer and put on some underwear, pronto.
The movie features a significant amount of red tint photography. Even the movie's film poster featured a strong red color component. The color red motif connects with the film's adult sexual themes and references the film 's "Red Light" district's prostitutes and seedy sex. Similary, movie poster artwork for the later Clint Eastwood movie Blood Work (2002) also featured red tint over black print, but this time, the red color symbolized the color of blood.
Second of two consecutive cop films for Clint Eastwood where the main killer shares same or similar personality traits with the detective Eastwood is portraying. The other movie was Sudden Impact (1983).
One of only three cop films made during the "Dirty Harry" era of the 1970s and 1980s which Clint Eastwood played a police detective character who was not Inspector Harry Callahan. The films include Tightrope (1984), The Gauntlet (1977) and City Heat (1984).
French sounding Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold was cast in the main female role of Beryl Thibodeaux as the casting gave a "French Connection" to the film as much of it is set in the "French Quarter" of New Orleans.
Clint Eastwood has long been a jazz enthusiast. The movie features a riverboat sequence with traditional jazz playing. Four years after this movie, Eastwood made the jazz biopic Bird (1988) about Charlie "Bird" Parker.
Producer Fritz Manes said that the production wanted to the movie to reflect New Orleans on two levels. Manes said: "First of all we wanted to capture then historic charm and tradition of the city. In addition, we wanted the jazzy, sultry quality".
The movie's Tightrope (1984) title is mentioned in the film when a crime expert says: "There's a darkness inside all of us. Some act it out. Some try to control it. Most of us walk a tightrope between the two".
The opening aerial shot of New Orleans featured the unfinished site which hosted the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition - the monorail system (at the time of filming which was under construction) is seen in the shot.
The film featured a serial killer who was a former New Orleans police officer who was charged for sexual assault - it was until the mid-1990s where the department was under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice concerning police corruption and misconduct.