On Friday night at the Beacon Theatre in New York City (after the Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen discussion; it was a busy night at the Beacon) Quentin Tarantino brought his own personal 35mm print of Reservoir Dogs in celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary, followed by a rollicking panel with most of the surviving members of the cast.
When’s the last time you just sat down and watched Reservoir Dogs? Maybe it’s a lot! I certainly thought of myself as someone who has seen Reservoir Dogs quite a few times – but watching on Friday night, it hit me that’s it’s been awhile. Which is the perfect kind of movie to watch in this kind of setting. And my eyes have become so trained to watch digital projections that the 35mm print, with all of its grain and flaws, was visually striking. So much that it took a few minutes to get used to it.
Anyway, it’s not a surprise to learn that, yes, 25 years later, Reservoir Dogs is still a great movie. (Though, if you haven’t seen it in awhile, it’s almost shocking how young everyone looks.)
After the film, Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Steve Buscemi participated in a panel and there were a lot of stories. (For this job, I have to attend a lot of panels. Most are not very interesting. This one was definitely interesting.)
A big topic was how many people would walk out of Reservoir Dogs during the torture scene when the film was on the film festival circuit. (It’s interesting to note that the camera turns away during the most gruesome part. For such an infamous scene, it shows surprisingly not that much violence.) Tarantino said that the most walkouts he counted at a film festival was 33. Adding to this, he remembers Wes Craven was one of the people who walked out – which then prompted Tarantino to go on a rant about how the guy who made The Last House on the Left walked out of Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino had a funny story about Michael Madsen and his now-infamous dance to Stealers Wheels’ “Stuck in the Middle with You.” First of all, Madsen noted the script only said Mr. Blonde “dances manically” and had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Madsen was so afraid of this scene, he didn’t even practice with the music until the scene was actually being filmed.
Madsen also had just had a son – and the actor playing the cop adlibbed the part about having a newborn son – which Tarantino said really threw off Madsen, to the point that there was an argument about toning down the scene because the cop has a little kid and it now seems “too mean.” (This sentiment apparently didn’t last too long because later Madsen argued that maybe they should set the cop on fire.)
Harvey Keitel admitted that he wanted to play Mr. Blonde instead of Mr. White, but eventually decided he didn’t think he could play that part (which of course went to Madsen). Tarantino added that Keitel was the only actor that was actively pursued for the film and all the other parts were filled by typical casting calls. (It’s here that Tarantino shared a story about Tom Waits auditioning and reading the Madonna monologue. Tarantino does a very good Waits impression.)
Keitel was the one who insisted that there be an audition in New York and helped finance the trip. The New York audition is where they found Steve Buscemi – and it’s almost impossible to think of anyone else playing Mr. Pink. Keitel made sure to mention onstage, “Buscemi owes me his career.”
Tarantino also spoke about the rehearsal time involved – they rehearsed for a full two weeks before shooting over the next five weeks, which is unusual. But by the time they started filming, Tarantino knew the actors had it down and as long as he could keep the picture in focus, he knew they’d have something special.
Tarantino added (by the way, this isn’t a surprise, but Tarantino had a lot to say) that he felt so confident, that right before shooting started, on a long drive home up Sunset Boulevard in his Geo Metro, on the way back to his parents’ house where he lived in the basement, it was literally the happiest moment of his life.
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