Behind the scenes of Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino exploded onto the movie scene in 1992 when he made his debut feature film Reservoir Dogs. Following a bidding war, Tarantino’s script was bought by independent studio Miramax, and the young wunderkind was given a budget of around $1 million to direct the movie. The film was a modest success at the box office and developed something of a cult following on home video.

Reservoir Dogs is less acclaimed and well-known than Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s follow-up effort. But it is still a hugely important film in the development of American independent film, and in helping launch Tarantino’s career as a Hollywood poster boy. As the movie is now a quarter of a century old, we thought we’d look back at five things you probably never knew about the movie.

The first screening was a nightmare

The first screening of the movie happened at the Sundance Film Festival, and it was a nightmare. Tarantino agreed to the screening, even though the festival did not have the right projector (the film was shot through a CinemaScope lens). This meant that the movie looked poor all the way through. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the lights came on before the film had finished, during the movie’s climactic scene! In spite of the mishaps, the movie still went on to become a critical and commercial success. But that didn’t stop Tarantino rueing the decision to allow the screen, calling the whole process “a disaster.”

Steve Buscemi was almost not cast

The film was working on an incredibly tight budget, but Tarantino was lucky that he had Harvey Keitel in the lead role of Mr. White and as a producer. Keitel, a New York native, encouraged Tarantino to allow young New York actors to audition. Tarantino explained that the budget didn’t allow them to travel to New York, so Harvey Keitel paid for the flights. This move allowed unknown New Yorker Steve Buscemi to come in, and he won the role of Mr. Pink that weekend.


Tarantino used to count the walk outs

When the movie was screening on the festival circuit, Tarantino would actually count the number of people who walked out. This came about due to the now infamous torture scene in the movie, one that proved highly divisive at the time. Many people felt that the scene was too much for them and walked out. At one screening Tarantino made a count of 33 people who got up and left. At one particular festival, horror directing legend, Wes Craven, actually walked out.

Michael Madsen was eyeing a different role

Michael Madsen stole the movie with his portrayal of Mr. Blonde, but he very nearly played a different part. Originally, Madsen had wanted to play Steve Buscemi’s role of Mr. Pink so that he would get more screen time with Harvey Keitel, one of his heroes. Tarantino switched his scenes and decided he wasn’t right for Mr. Pink, but determined he’d make an excellent Mr. Blonde. Allegedly, the maverick director told Madsen “You’re Mr. Blonde, or you’re not in the movie.”


Mr. Blonde’s dance was filmed in one take

The iconic dance scene that Michael Madsen did during Mr. Blonde’s famous scene was actually shot in one take. The dance is performed to the song ‘Stuck in the Middle With You,’ and Madsen had no idea what to do. The script called for the actor to ‘dance maniacally’ and, when hearing the song for the first time on set, Madsen took inspiration from James Cagney and came up with the dance. Tarantino liked it enough that he kept that first take and used it in the completed film.