Quentin Tarantino’s breakout movie came in the form of a heist flick that brought together a fantastic ensemble cast, several iconic movie moments, a metric shitload of fake blood and never even showed the damn heist. 25 years later, Reservoir Dogs is a classic of the crime genre.
To celebrate its silver anniversary, Tarantino and the colorful cast recently got together for a screening of the movie in New York City at the Tribeca Film Festival. We’re celebrating it in our own way, by collecting some of the most interesting facts about this crime caper masterpiece.
1. It was filmed in 35 days
The movie was slated to have a tiny $30,000 budget until Harvey Keitel signed on to both lend his talent as Mr. White and some much-needed financing as a producer, helping to balloon the budget to $1.5 million. Still, Tarantino kept the shoot short, aided by the fact that the warehouse where most of the movie takes place and Mr. Orange’s apartment were actually in the same building.
2. "I need you cool, are you cool?"
Harvey Keitel’s line, “I need you cool. Are you cool?” which he delivers to a rattled Mr. Pink, was a late addition to the script after an on-set altercation between Lawrence Tierney (who was infamously problematic during filming) and Michael Madsen forced Tarantino to intervene. To defuse the situation so filming could continue, Tarantino said to Tierney, “Larry, I need you cool. Are you cool?” It stuck out, got incorporated into the script and made it into the final cut of the movie.
3. Madonna said Tarantino was wrong about Like a Virgin
In the opening diner scene of the movie, Tarantino himself, as Mr. Brown, gives a lengthy explanation of what he believes Madonna’s song, Like a Virgin, is about. Unsurprisingly, it’s more about pain than you’d expect. When Madonna herself saw it, she sent Tarantino a copy of her Erotica album with a note that said, “To Quentin. It’s not about dick, it’s about love. Madonna.”
4. Tarantino wanted to be Mr. Pink
Tarantino brought in actors to read for each role but wanted the Mr. Pink role for himself. When Steve Buscemi came in to read for Mr. Pink, Tarantino actually told him so. Whether it was simple honesty or a way to motivate Buscemi remains unknown but Buscemi’s take on Mr. Pink in that audition earned him the part. Tarantino remaindered himself to the much smaller Mr. Brown role instead but did give himself the Like a Virgin speech which was originally intended for Mr. Pink.
5. George Clooney, Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Walken auditioned
We’re of the mind that the movie turned out perfectly with the cast it had but there were some alternatives that might have changed the movie in a big way. George Clooney auditioned for the role of Mr. Blonde, Samuel L. Jackson went in for Mr. Orange and Michael Madsen originally read for Mr. Pink before winding up in a different role.
Beyond the auditions, Tarantino had reached out to Christopher Walken who wound up refusing the Mr. Blonde part and Dennis Hopper, who was unavailable. Somewhat famously, Tarantino had tried several times to reach out to James Woods for a part in the movie but Woods’ agent never gave him the message because the pay was lower than what Woods would normally make. Later, when Woods found out, he was annoyed enough with the agent to find a new one. Other almost-casts include Jon Cryer (!), David Duchovny, Tom Sizemore, Matt Dillon and Viggo Mortensen.
6. It was too gory for horror director Wes Craven
So many of Tarantino’s movies have garnered critical praise and awards but Reservoir Dogs isn’t one of them. In fact, Tarantino recently described how early screenings were littered with walkouts due to the violence depicted in the film. Ironically, the most high-profile walkout was said to be from Wes Craven, which we wouldn’t expect from a master of horror.
7. All that fake blood was a sticky situation
From the backseat of the car to the pool on the warehouse floor, Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange spends most of this movie gut-shot and swimming in fake blood. It was reported that the warehouse got so hot under the camera lights and LA heat that Roth actually got glued to the ground during filming and had to be peeled off the floor.
8. The saga of Vic and Vincent Vega
By the end of the movie we know that Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde’s real name is Vic Vega. It’s no coincidence that in Pulp Fiction, which Tarantino directed next, John Travolta plays another suit-wearing henchmen name Vincent Vega. Originally, Madsen was supposed to reprise his Vic Vega role for Pulp Fiction but when Tarantino cast Travolta, he retroactively made them brothers, going as far as describing a fabled spinoff movie for the Vega brothers. Over the course of his career, Tarantino has dropped clues that all of his movies are taking place in the same universe but the Vega connection that started in Reservoir Dogs was what set fans on the trail in the first place.
9. Who shot first?
This is the first movie where we see one of Tarantino’s signature deadly standoffs. And it’s a doozy. But if you’re familiar with it, you’ll likely have an issue with what you see as three people with three guns get off four shots instantaneously. You can check it out in the clip above. If you haven’t seen it, be warned that this is a pivotal scene from the end of the movie. Then again, when it comes to Tarantino’s style of storytelling, we’re not sure that matters.
10. There’s a Bollywood version
Kaante, which came out in 2002, is a Bollywood “remake” that entirely incorporates the plot of Reservoir Dogs while adding in moments from The Usual Suspects and Heat. Tarantino was quoted in 2007 as saying Kaante is his favorite among the Bollywood rip-offs of his work. You can watch the entire thing on YouTube but here it is starting at the same stand-off scene we were just talking about.
Bonus: No shit?!
The movie uses the word "fuck" a truly impressive 272 times.