Actor Clint Eastwood's then-partner Sondra Locke, who had co-starred with him in six previous films, was not cast in the lead female role of Beryl Thibodeaux in this film. 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, which was played by Geneviève Bujold. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sarandon said she turned it down because "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'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".
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).
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 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.
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. About four years after this movie, Eastwood would make the jazz biopic Bird (1988) about 'Charlie "Bird' Parker'.
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).