In September 2007, thieves broke into Francis Ford Coppola's home studio in Buenos Aires and stole all the electronics, including his computer with the film's script.
Adriana Mastrangelo, an Uruguayan opera singer who settled in Buenos Aires, has a cameo as herself as the singer at a party.
A scene where Tetro holds a bouquet of flowers pays tribute to On the Waterfront (1954), where Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) does the same thing.
According to Mihai Malaimare Jr., the flashback scenes were filmed in colour, but treated to give a slightly faded texture: "Usually, when we think about the past, we think about photos and home movies, so it's nice to preserve that feeling even if there wasn't someone shooting there..."
The flashback scenes were originally to be shot using 16mm film to truly emphasize past events, but since this type of film/camera was almost out of date the whole film was shot with a digital camera and the flashbacks had to be digitally treated.
Francis Ford Coppola claimed that this is the kind of film he set out to make as a young man, before he was sidetracked by fame and fortune.
According to Francis Ford Coppola in an interview with Empire magazine, this is what he considers to be "the most beautiful film (he's) ever made", and a very "personal" project.
Francis Ford Coppola decided to shoot this film the same way he shot Rumble Fish (1983) (in black-and-white, with occasional bursts of colour), since both films held "a spiritual connection" with each other (both are dramas about relationships, primarily that of brotherhood).
Francis Ford Coppola's take on the autobiographical elements of his film: "nothing in it happened, but all of it is true".
Originally, the tutor Alone was going to be played by Javier Bardem, but upon revising the script Francis Ford Coppola decided the relationship between Alone and Tetro would be more appealing if it was between a man and a woman, so Alone became a woman played by Carmen Maura.
Francis Ford Coppola wanted Matt Dillon in the title role, but Dillon was unavailable due to conflicting schedules with other films. Later, Coppola realized it would be too close to Rumble Fish (1983) (which also starred Dillon), so after a long search he settled on Vincent Gallo for the title role.
To attain the film's visual style, director Francis Ford Coppola and cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. watched La Notte (1961), Baby Doll (1956) and On the Waterfront (1954); films Coppola had admired during his student years.
One of Francis Ford Coppola's very early films, Dementia 13 (1963), is referenced in the film when the protagonist arrives at a prize ceremony carrying an axe.
The ballet sequence was directly influenced by the Michael Powell/ Emeric Pressburger classic The Red Shoes (1948).
Francis Ford Coppola's first original screenplay since The Conversation (1974).