Released in 1992, Reservoir Dogs is an independent crime film and director Quentin Tarantino's feature-length debut. The film follows a group of career criminals who find themselves at odds after a diamond robbery goes horribly wrong. The film shows what occurs both before and after the heist, but not actually the heist itself. Today, the movie is considered to be a classic. Well-received upon its release, it was later named the "Greatest Independent Film of All Time" by Empire. The film also established several of Tarantino's iconic motifs that would follow in his future films.
Mr. Blue Had Been A Bank Robber In Real Life
Before becoming an actor, Eddie Bunker, who played Mr. Blue, spent the first half of his life at various correctional facilities across the country. In 1975, he made the decision to change his life, and at the age of 42, began writing a series of crime novels.
His writing proved to be successful, so he began doing some acting and screenwriting on the side. Eleven years before Reservoir Dogs, Bunker ironically wrote a semi-autobiographical novel titled Little Blue Boy.
Harvey Keitel Was Key To Making The Movie
Director Quentin Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender lucked out when they were trying to get the project off the ground. At the time, Bender was taking an acting class from Peter Floor, who asked who their dream choice would be as a lead in Reservoir Dogs.
Bender admitted that it would be Harvey Keitel, and it turns out that Floor's ex-wife knew Keitel from The Actors Studio in New York and delivered him a copy of the script. Keitel loved it and signed on as both an actor and a producer, which also inspired Chris Penn and Michael Madsen to join as well.
Lawrence Tierney Caused Some Issues
Lawrence Tierney was notorious for his hard-living ways, and his drinking frequently got him into some trouble while on set. In Reservoir Dogs, Tierney played the tough guy crime lord Joe Cabot. He often butted heads with Quentin Tarantino, mostly as a result of his drinking.
During the first week of filming, Tierney got into such a bad argument with Tarantino that he was fired for a period of time. Furthermore, other cast members described the intensity of going out drinking with Tierney, which usually involved something interesting happening.
The Meaning Behind The Name
Initially, Tarantino told potential investors that the title "Reservoir Dogs" was a gangster term from French films such as Breathless and Bande a Parte and that it meant "rat." However, this wasn't true. Tarantino simply knew that investors would want to know an explanation for the title and that they wouldn't know those films enough to question him.
Later, another story emerged that Tarantino had come up with the name when working at a video store. He'd recommended the film Au revoir les enfants, which the customer misheard as "reservoir dogs." Yet, none of these are true, and Tarantino has never given a real explanation for the title.
The Torture Scene Was A Little Much For Some People
At the film's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Wes Craven, the master of horror himself, had to leave the theater during the torture scene.
Craven recalled, "[w]hen I was out in the lobby, this kid came pounding out of the shadows and said, 'You're Wes Craven, right?' I said, yeah, and he said, 'And you're leaving because you can't take it?' I said yeah, and he said, 'I just scared Wes Craven!'" It turns out that kid was Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino Almost Turned The Script Into A Play
Although Reservoir Dogs is one of the best-remembered independent films of the 1990s, it almost never made it to the theater. According to Harvey Keitel, or Mr. White, at one point, Tarantino considered turning the film into a play.
He explained, "We had two weeks rehearsal, which is unheard of in Hollywood. We actually almost went to four, because Quentin thought at one time about doing a play." Although Tarantino never followed through, the film has been adapted for theater on more than one occasion, considering how inexpensive it was to make.
Tim Roth Found Himself Stuck In A Pool Of Fake Blood
If you've ever seen Reservoir Dogs, you'll know that actor Tim Roth spends the majority of the film lying in a puddle of blood. Unfortunately, for Roth, this resulted in him being glued to the floor in a pile of congealed fake blood.
The shooting of the film took place between July and August in Los Angeles, which isn't exactly the coldest time of year. So it's no surprise that Roth ended up stuck to the ground in a pool of fake blood.
A Direct Connection To Pulp Fiction
Many Tarantino fans are aware that his films take place in the same cinematic universe. While characters may exist in the same universe, Tarantino's hints about this are incredibly subtle, such as the same brand of cigarettes. In the case of Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Blonde, whose name is Vic Vega in the film, is the brother of Vincent Vega from Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
According to Madsen, who played Mr. White, the film's original premise was that "I'd be Vic Vega's twin brother, and [John Travolta would] be Vincent's twin brother, and we're both on a flight from Los Angeles after being released from prison. Neither of us knows that we're the twin brother of the other, and we're both on our way back to LA to avenge the death of our brother."
Actors Wore Their Own Clothes
Reservoir Dogs is known for many things, including its wardrobe and its soundtrack, with countless people throwing on a suit for Halloween claiming to be dressed as one of the cast. Interestingly, the majority of the cast were wearing clothes that came from their own closets.
The movie's budget was just $30,000 before Harvey Keitel signed on. This was minuscule by Hollywood's standards, but cuts still had to be made. This resulted in many of the actors wearing their own clothes, such as Chris Penn and his iconic jacket.
The First Screening Had A Few Speed Bumps
While the film is considered to be a masterpiece today, according to Tarantino, the debut was an absolute disaster. Not only was the film that he shot on a scope camera screened on a non-scope projector, but something worse even happened.
During the climax of the film, when the men are prepared to off each other in the final standoff, the power died in the theater. The film was still adored by the audience, regardless of the fact that it didn't win any awards at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
Tarantino Wrote The Script In Under A Month
Considering that Reservoir Dogs was largely shot in a warehouse, it's no surprise that the movie relied heavily on its script, which Tarantino nailed. Incredibly, Tarantino managed to write the whole thing in just three-and-a-half weeks, with the whole thing spanning over 100 pages.
Those who read the first draft threw themselves at the project, knowing that it had potential, with one of them being Tarantino's close friend Tony Scott. In the end, Tarantino wanted Reservoir Dogs to be his directorial debut, so he let Scott direct his film True Romance instead.
Hopping In The Trunk
According to an interview on the DVD release, Michael Madsen says that Kirk Baltz, who plays the tortured police officer Marvin Nash, asked to actually be put in the trunk of a car to see what it was really like.
Madsen agreed and decided it was a good chance for him to work on his character's development too. So, he ended up driving the car down a long alley full of potholes and stopping at a Taco Bell before letting Baltz out of the trunk.
Tom Waits Auditioned For A Role
Even though it was Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut, a number of major stars auditioned for a role in the film. Some of these actors included Samuel L. Jackson, who would go on to be featured in a number of the director's later works.
Other notable actors included George Clooney and Christopher Walken, and none other than musician Tom Waits. Unfortunately, Waits didn't get the role, even though Tarantino saw him saying the lines that he auditioned for.
Tarantino Almost Played Mr. Pink
The cast of Reservoir Dogs was shifted around numerous times before Tarantino was sure that each actor was in the role best suited for them, and that he had cast himself correctly.
Although Tarantino went on to play Mr. Brown, he was initially supposed to play Mr. Pink, the only member of the heist crew to make it out alive. One of the reasons that Tarantino changed his role was because he wanted to give the speech about Madonna's song "Like A Virgin."
Edward Bunker Didn't Think The Film Was Very Realistic
Eddie Bunker, who played Mr. Blue and had been a career criminal in real life, had a few things to say about the movie. In an interview with Empire Magazine, Bunker commented that the film was unrealistic.
He stated that he would never have considered committing a robbery with five people he didn't know. He also stressed how foolish it would be for the similarly-dressed group of criminals to all publicly have breakfast together because they surely would be remembered when news of the robbery broke.
James Woods Was Almost In The Film
Initially, Quentin Tarantino wanted to have James Woods in the movie, even making five separate cash offers. Woods' agent declined all of the offers because they were far below his client's salary, never even mentioning to the actor that Tarantino was interested in him.
When Tarantino and Woods later met for the first time, Tarantino mentioned that he wished he had agreed to do the movie. Realizing his manager never contacted him about the offer, Woods fired him. It's rumored that Woods was offered the role of Mr. Orange.
Connection To True Romance
In Mr. White's flashback scene, Joe asks him about a girl named Alabama. This is a reference to Patricia Arquette's character from True Romance, with Tarantino explaining that he originally intended her character to meet up with Mr. White and for the two to become partners in crime.
Unfortunately, when True Romance was released in 1993, the ending was changed and the backstory became inconsistent, resulting in Alabama never meeting up with Mr. White, which would have been great.
A Large Part Of The Film Was Shot In A Mortuary
The empty building where the criminals rendezvous after the robbery went south is actually an out-of-service mortuary. When Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi go into the back to wash the blood off of themselves and discuss what went wrong, you can see plastic tubes, embalming fluid, and more.
This way, the viewer would be able to piece it all together. It was also an incredibly fitting location if you know how the movie ends.
The "Stuck In The Middle With You" Dance Was Improvised
Arguably one of the most iconic scenes in the movie takes place when Michael Masden's character, Mr. Blonde, is left alone with the kidnapped police officer. Mr. Blonde then proceeds to torture the officer to the tune of "Stuck In The Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel.
The upbeat song greatly contrasts with the gruesome torture, making it an unforgettable scene. Mr. Blonde dances throughout the scene, and apparently, had only heard the song once before the sequence was shot. Incredibly, it only took him three takes.
Leaving Some Things To The Viewer's Imagination
Quentin Tarantino made the decision to not show the robbery, claiming that it was budgetary at first. However, he notes that he had always liked the idea of not showing it, and stuck with it in order to send the message that the movie is "about other things."
He wanted the movie to be about something not seen and that he wanted it to "play with a real-time clock as opposed to a movie clock ticking." Luckily for Tarantino, it all worked out.