The 25th anniversary screening of Quentin Tarantino’s debut film “Reservoir Dogs” at Tribeca Film Festival last night went off like a rock concert, with Tarantino greeted by the raucous crowd like a bonafide rockstar. The filmmaker made a grand entrance to much audience eruption of hooting and hollering, with Tarantino waltzing in from backstage through the front of the crowd, sauntering in and sitting down in the middle of the audience in the dead-center middle seats.
It wasn’t just for show either. Tarantino sat down and watched the movie with the crowd — his own 35mm print projected — lapping it all up and even audibly cackling at his own jokes. “Reservoir Dogs” went down, probably as expected, like gangbusters, the audience exploding into cheers as every actor was announced in the movie over its opening titles.
For the Q&A, writer Lynne Hirschberg moderated the conversation, but didn’t get much of a chance to corral the motor-mouthed Tarantino and the cast: Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Blonde (Tim Roth) and Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi). Here are eight highlights from an entertaining night about a movie that hasn’t aged a day and is as compelling as ever.
The first screening at Sundance was a disaster
In Tarantino’s words, the world-premiere screening of “Reservoir Dogs” at Sundance was a “fucking disaster.” By all accounts, he wasn’t exaggerating. First off, they had projected the movie with the wrong lens, “so it looked like caca all the way through,” the director explained. “That would be bad enough. But then it gets to the final chapter when everyone is yelling at each other and the lights come up. Then it only got worse. Then the climactic Mexican standoff at the end of the movie was pretty much ruined. Then finally everyone has their guns pointed at everybody else and almost as if on purpose as far [as] suspense is concerned. Right at the height of that scene, there’s a power outage. All the power goes out,” he described to dismay. “So, this is what it’s like to watch your movie in public,” he thought.
Fortunately, the CAA agent and exec screening was a huge hit with luminaries like Faye Dunaway and Sean Penn in attendance. “That screening went fantastic,” he said. “Faye Dunaway even asked me a question, which I thought was pretty cool.”
Steve Buscemi chimed in. “He didn’t want me to go the first screening. He thought it was bad luck.” Quentin paused and then roared into the mic, “It’s YOUR fault!”
Tarantino was proud of all the people that walked out of the movie.
The infamous torture scene — Mr. Blonde cutting off the cop’s ear off casually as he dances to “Stuck In The Middle With You”—was too much for audiences at the time, and many of them walked out of the theater at that point. Tarantino recalled a worried Buscemi coming up to him at Sundance and remarking, “Quentin, did you hear what everyone is saying? They’re saying the torture ruins the movie!” Even back then on his first movie, QT’s confidence was rock-solid. “What are you talking about?” he countered incredulously. “It’s the best thing in the fucking movie! You see how many people walked out? That’s the shit!”
Tarantino would count the walk outs at Sundance and throughout his year-long tour of the movie throughout film festivals across the planet (33 was the highest count in one screening). During one festival, he even saw the late, great horror icon Wes Craven (“Scream,” “A Nightmare On Elm Street“) walk out. Tarantino screened the movie at a splatter festival and thought, “Well, finally I have an audience that won’t walk out,” he recalled. “Five people walk out of that audience, including Wes Craven! The fucking guy who did ‘Last House On The Left’ left and walked out??! My movie was apparently too tough for him.”
Tom Waits auditioned for a role
“We met a lot of different, a lot of really wild people,” Tarantino explained. “Tom Waits came in and read. I had Tom Waits read the Madonna speech just so I could hear Tom Waits say it.” Tarantino said Waits gave him one of the first profound compliments he had ever heard up until then. Mimicking Waits’ gravelly voice, he said, “’The script is great, it’s like poetry.’ And no one had ever called my work poetic before, by a poet no less.”
Michael Madsen had wanted to play Mr. Pink. Everyone wanted a different part.
Tarantino recalled all the actors were vying for different parts, with Michael Madsen hoping to be Mr. Pink. “Actually, except for Tim [Roth], all these guys wanted to play different parts,” he said. Madsen said QT knew he wanted him for Mr. Blonde, but the actor convinced him to read for Mr. Pink regardless. “I came in and I read for Mr. Pink,” he said. “Quentin actually let me do it even though I was already Mr. Blonde. I went through the whole thing: I did all of Mr. Pink’s scenes, and Quentin just stood there watching me, and at the end, I was done and I thought I had done a really great job and I was like, ‘OK, now I get a lot of scenes with Harvey now, this is gonna be gone.’ And Quentin looks at me and goes, ‘Mmm, you’re not Mr. Pink. You’re Mr. Blonde or you’re not in the movie.”
More on page two, including some video of the event.