Marlon Brando did not initially want the role of Terry Malloy after producer Sam Spiegel offered it to him because he was disgusted with Elia Kazan's friendly testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Spiegel, who had originally offered the role to Hoboken native Frank Sinatra, who had enthusiastically accepted, then tried to interest Montgomery Clift in the part. Spiegel wanted a bigger box-office attraction than Sinatra, who eventually filed a lawsuit against Spiegel for breach of contract when Brando did sign for the part.

Marlon Brando objected to certain aspects in the famous taxicab scene. When filming began, Brando began to improvise some dialogue, surprising Rod Steiger. After a while, Elia Kazan told Brando to "knock it off". The problem Brando had with the scene, as he explained to screenwriter Budd Schulberg and Kazan, was that he felt he (as Terry Malloy) would have difficulty trying to talk reasonably with his brother (played by Steiger) with a gun at his ribs. At this, Kazan agreed and told Brando to improvise. Kazan maintained that he did not direct Brando nor Steiger in this scene, he simply stood back and let the two actors direct themselves.

Marlon Brando was paid $100,000, Elia Kazan received $100,000 plus 25% of the box office.

Marlon Brando would improvise several different lines while filming the famous "I coulda been a contender" scene such as asking Rod Steiger "How's mom?" or "Do you think the Yankees are going to win it this year?". At one point director Elia Kazan said, "Buddy, cut the crap."

Marlon Brando's Oscar for Best Actor was either lost or stolen. The award did show up later when Brando was contacted by a London auction house, intending to sell the item.

Marlon Brando's performance as Terry Malloy is ranked #2 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).

Sam Spiegel forgot to pay for rear-projection equipment, hence the reason why the cab where Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger play out the film's most famous scene has blinds.

Sam Spiegel sent the script to Marlon Brando and it came back with a refusal. Spiegel however had inserted small pieces of paper between the pages which were still in place when the script was returned to him, indicating that it hadn't been read. While Spiegel continued to work on Brando, Frank Sinatra agreed to take on the role.

Frank Sinatra was originally considered for the role of Terry Malloy. Elia Kazan approached Sinatra about the part but producer Sam Spiegel favored Marlon Brando for his greater pulling power at the box office.

Elia Kazan later remarked that the biggest problem he encountered with his actors was getting them on set on time (the weather was so severely cold, most of the actors didn't like to hang around the set for long).

Elia Kazan was loath to do business with Darryl F. Zanuck who had insisted on multiple cuts on Man on a Tightrope. Fortunately when Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg met with Zanuck, he started talking about widescreen Technicolor pictures. Zanuck eventually came clean and said he didn't like a single thing about it, stating "Who's going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?" This led Kazan and Schulberg to meet with independent producer Sam Spiegel who set up a deal with Columbia.

Elia Kazan, in his autobiography "A Life", says that the choice of an actress to play Edie Doyle was narrowed down to Elizabeth Montgomery and Eva Marie Saint. Although Montgomery was fine in her screen test, there was something well-bred about her that Kazan thought would not be becoming for Edie, who was raised on the waterfront in Hoboken, NJ. He gave the part to Saint, and she went on to win cinematic immortality, and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, in the part.

Karl Malden: [name] At the hearing, Slim gives his name as "Mladen Sekulovich", actor Karl Malden's real name. Malden always deeply regretted having had to change his real, very ethnic name for the sake of his movie career, and attempted to make amends over the years by making sure his real name always showed up in his movies, one way or another.

Grace Kelly turned down the role of Edie Doyle, deciding to make Rear Window instead.

Arthur Miller was approached by Elia Kazan to write the screenplay, and did so, but later pulled it when the FBI and studio bosses required him to make the gangsters Communists.

On the Waterfront is widely known to be an act of expiation on the part of Elia Kazan for naming names to HUAC during the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s. What is less widely reported is that Kazan intended it as a direct attack at his former close friend Arthur Miller who had been openly critical of Kazan's actions. Specifically, it was a direct response to Miller's play The Crucible.

Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton considers the "I could of been a contender" scene to be one of the greatest moments ever put on film and refers in particular to the moment when Charlie (Rod Steiger) pulls the gun out on on Terry (Marlon Brando) who, instead of getting angry and defensive, slowly pushes the gun away greatly hurt by his brother's actions

Roger Donoghue (born 11/20/30 Yonkers, NY - died 8/20/06 Greenport, NY) was the prizefighter who Budd Schulberg credited with partly inspiring the famous line of Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), "I coulda been a contender". He was Brando's trainer for the film. He came up with the idea of putting little plastic tubes in Brando's nose to represent scar tissue.

Thomas Handley, (who played Terry Molloy's teenage friend Tommy, was hired by the production to feed the pigeons on set. His father, a longshoreman, had been blackballed for anti-union activities, and disappeared when Hanley was 4 months old. Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg had him audition for the role, and coaxed an angry response out of him by calling his father a rat. He was paid $500 for his role, but never really acted again. He went on to become a longshoreman, and in 2002 was elected recording secretary of his union after yet another corrupt leadership was ousted.

Tony Galento, Tami Mauriello and Abe Simon, who play Johnny Friendly's heavies, were all former professional boxers and opponents of Joe Louis for the heavyweight world title. Simon fought the Brown Bomber twice and was knocked out in Round 13 in the first fight and Round 6 in the second. Galento and Mauriello fought Louis once apiece and shared similar fates. Galento was kayoed in Round 4 and Mauriello in Round 1.