Quentin Tarantino in 2013.
PARK CITY, Utah Few debuts in the history of cinema have made as much impact as Quentin Tarantinos Reservoir Dogs did when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992.
A smart, slick caper film, QTs rat-a-tat dialogue and style birthed numerous imitators and ushered in the latest generation of filmmaker who, like their musical contemporaries, were deft at mashing up references and tropes to construct something new and fresh.
To celebrate the quarter century since its release, Sundance did a one-off screening of the film introduced by Tarantino, followed by a lively conversation where he was joined by producer Lawrence Bender and Mr. Orange himself, Michael Madsen.
Heres some of what we learned from the ever-loquacious QT, who picked up a few things himself by revisiting his first film.
For starters, Reservoir Dogs is shorter than he remembers
“I can’t believe I made a movie that short. I’m watching the movie and all of a sudden it’s the torture scene and I go, ‘Shit, that’s like fuckin 45 minutes, what’s going on here?’ There was an ugly fan behind Mr. Blue which I never noticed before and I’m like, what is that ugly fan doing there?
Making his first movie a heist film was probably a good idea
“If you want to do a Western or something for your first film, and you want to do one of the greatest Westerns ever made, well, that’s a tall order. Saying you’re going to make one of the greatest gangster movies ever made for your first film, well that’s kind of a tall order. But, you know, a heist film, if I do a good one, conceivably it could be in the top 6 or something. If they do a book on heist films, they might include us in it, and have our picture in it and talk about us a little bit, so that was kind of where it came. And then I came up with the idea of Mr. Blonde and Mr. Orange and all of that shit and I thought that was a really neat idea and sounded kind of neo-noir a little bit, that kind of existential tough guy kind of thing and then the rest, as they say, is history.”
The editor of Lawrence of Arabia gave him good advice
“I’d never really shot anything before and I really like the idea of long takes, so I wanted to experiment with doing [them]. I was pretty happy with what I pulled off and then I show it to the resource people and they didn’t like it at all. They thought I was shooting long takes because I didn’t understand that you were supposed to have cuts, like I just didn’t know what the fuck I was doing at all. I remember Anne Coates was actually one of the people and she was, like, ‘Quentin, I like your shots, there just weren’t enough of them.'”
Mr. White’s wrong choice was right
“Isn’t it interesting that throughout the whole piece Mr. White keeps telling Mr. Orange ‘Wait for Joe … ‘ and when Joe gets there, hes come there to kill Mr. Mr. White is kind of almost a de facto son character for Joe, and Mr. Orange has become a de facto son character for Mr. White. At the end, Mr. White has to choose between his father and his son and he chooses his son and he’s wrong, but he’s wrong for all the right reasons.”
It was a father-son story all along
“I didn’t need to know it was a father-son story as I started the piece. The idea is that the tree is big, the tree is strong, the tree has roots, they go underneath the ground. I need to know that there’s roots down there, but I don’t need to know what those roots are before I do the piece. I need to just deal with the reality of the drama. When the movie’s all over, now I can go, and dig into the roots and see what it is I actually did, and that’s fun and that’s cool and that’s creative, but that’s not really for the stage. But the roots were there.”
The belief that at any time his dream would become a nightmare
“When we got the green light to do this movie this was literally my dream coming true and I kept waiting to wake up getting fired. Just as I’m starting to calm down, another friend of ours gets his dream movie going, and he gets fired in a week and a half. It was terrible.”
‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ was worth the $15,000
“In the script, it said, turns on the radio and ‘K. Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s’ is playing and then it starts playing “Stuck in the Middle with You.” That’s the only music cue that was written, and that’s the only music we thought we were ever going to actually have or be able to afford. They charged us $15,000 for it, our entire music budget, but it was worth it. We had these big Mr. Blonde auditions where we’d have actors come in and do the torture scene. I told the actors that they could use any song they wanted for the audition. But the very first time that an actor brought in a cassette tape player and then hit play and “Stuck in the Middle with You” started playing and then he started doing the scene, that was as close to seeing the movie before we had made it as we ever got.”
He had a good ear for how the MPAA would rate it
“I just shot the scene to cut off the ear so I could show it to the MPAA so I could take it out later. I knew it might be a little tough to get an R, so I through all of the gory stuff I could in there just so I could take it out.”
Early 90s American Cinema was actually pretty awesome
“Every 8 years, there’s a new hot spot in cinema, where something very exciting is going on, maybe it’s Korea at a certain point, maybe it’s Hong Kong, at a certain point, but during that point in the early 90s, it was American independent cinema, was the hot cinema of the world. That was what the festivals were looking for.”
There are several pachydermal decorations in Joes office
“Next time you watch the movie, if you look you look off to the right, there’s [something] made out of an elephant’s foot. It’s like some guy shot an elephant and cut him up and put him all over the fuckin’ office. That was just in the office that we ended up renting. It’s like, we’re looking for office space and we looked in and tusks and thought, ok, I guess that’s Joe’s office.”
He still likes his own performance
“I think I did the Madonna speech pretty good.”
He’ still mad at Lawrence Tierney (“Joe”)
“The worst moment on set was the last 10 minutes of the last day of the first week we were shooting. Me and Larry got into a fist fight. Harvey Keitel and Lawrence Bender broke it up. I fired Larry in front of everybody, the crew applauded because they’d hated him. Harvey told us to settle down and then I ran out. I’d done nothing but shoot Lawrence Tierney all week long, so if I wanted to get fired, I’m going to get fired, because we have to keep Larry as we have a week’s worth of footage. But I wasn’t going to put up with his shit. I’m literally walking around the trailers, shit, you’re going to go back to the video store.”
His favorite pop-culture reference is still pretty obscure
“When they talk about Ladera Heights and say it’s the Black Beverly Hills, and they say no, it’s actually the Black Palace Verdes, now you have to be from the South Bay to think that’s funny, but if you’re from the South Bay, it’s very funny.”
His love of the gangster genre even the deep cuts definitely shaped the film
“I was really into not just American gangster films, and not just Scorsese films, which is what most people thought of as gangster films back then. I was a fan of the Jean-Pierre Meliville movies, of Hong Kong stuff, of the [Japanese] Yakuza films and the Fernando Di Leo Italian Mafia movies. I’m taking bits from all of them, not so much tangible bits, but just kind of like the feeling.”
It makes sense that the film was appreciated around the world
“The gangsters were almost French, like they could almost be in a Jean-Pierre Melville film. Even that idea, that if it had been a French film, it wouldn’t seem that different; it would be pretty much the same movie. And if it had been done in Hong Kong, it would pretty much have been the same thing, and if it had been done in Japan with Takakura Ken playing Mr. White it wouldn’t have been that different. All of those different countries responded to it in that way. The people in Hong Kong thought about it like they would a Hong Kong film. The people in Japan thought it was a tribute to Yakuza films.”
He admits it
“Ringo Lam ended up describing it perfectly when they’ve asked him about it he said basically Tarantino took the last 10 minutes of City on Fire and built an entire movie around the last 10 minutes. And that’s pretty much what I did.”
Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/01/29/quentin-tarantino-reservoir-dogs-sundance-movies/