JoBlo.com at the 25th anniversary Sundance screening/Q&A of RESERVOIR DOGS!

It’s hard to believe, but RESERVOIR DOGS is twenty-five years old. On the anniversary of its world premiere at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, none other than Quentin Tarantino, with producer Lawrence Bender and star Michael Madsen in-tow, showed up at an anniversary screening of a brand-new 35MM Miramax print, run on a dual system so you could get the full effect with cigarette burns (likely per QT’s insistence). QT, Bender and Madsen all stuck around for a Q&A, and while all the questions were tied to RESERVOIR DOGS (no scoop on new movies), Tarantino seemed to throughly enjoy himself, and here are some of his stories from the set!

harvey keitel quentin tarantino reservoir dogs

Thoughts on seeing the film all these years later:

I can’t believe I made a movie that short! It’s like all of a sudden I’m watching the movie, the next thing I know its the torture sequence…I’m like shit - it’s only been twenty-five minutes, what the fuck is going on?!!

The genesis of the film:

Its interesting, when you’re a filmmaker who hasn’t made a film, part of the thing you want to do is just to make a movie. I think most people’s first movie that they ever do is less a movie unto itself and that’s the reason they do everything - it’s to make a movie. But the reason I kinda fell onto this story is, I liked crime films, I like stuff like that, but I remember I used to work at a video-store and we would have this one little bookshelf right by the counter that was special to itself and we would change it every week or so. We would highlight something that week, like if a director died we would put their movies there, or if an actor died or people didn’t even have to die, we could just like a director, actor or genre. Part of my job was to come up with different genres, and one day I thought of heist films. And so like I went through the store and picked up all the heist films, THE KILLING wasn’t out of video at that time, but RIFIFI was there, TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS was there, things like that. I put all these heist films there and I remember just looking at the different boxes next to each other and thinking, wow, a heist story, that’s kinda cool. This was ‘88 or ‘89 and I was thinking, I hadn’t seen one of those in awhile, and I always knew that one, I liked working in genre but I liked working in sub-genre, right inside of a genre and I thought heist films was a really cool idea. Say if you wanted to do a western, especially for your first film. If you said you’re gonna make one of the greatest westerns ever made, that’s kind of a tall order. If you said you’re gonna make one of the greatest gangster movies for your first film, that’s kind of a tall order. But you know, a heist film, if I do a good one conceivably could be in the top six…so that was kinda where it came…

reservoir dogs cast

On being part of the Sundance directors's lab:

The lab was just amazing, I mean, with the possible exception of Lawrence (Bender) it was the first time anyone had taken me seriously…At the Sundance lab they took us really seriously and I couldn’t believe how altruistic it was..their whole point was to just help us. Not even to have a finished film, just to help us get better at what we do, help us refine our aesthetic, to achieve what we wanted to achieve… One of the things that ended up happening, it was a trial by fire, you would go to the lab and a whole bunch of famous resource people would show up and they’d be there for a week and they’d look at your work and they’d F-O and then a new group would come in. I’d never shot anything before but I liked the idea of long takes and wanted to experiment, doing a series of long takes and that’s what I did and I was pretty happy with what I pulled off. I showed it to the resource people and they didn’t like it at all. They thought I was shooting long takes because I didn’t understand there were supposed to be cuts, like I didn’t understand what the fuck I was doing at all. I remember Anne Coates, who was the editor of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA saying “Quentin, I like your shots there just wasn’t enough of them!” And I’m like Godard, and they’re all like “yeah, yeah, yeah, we all like Godard but no. One guy in particular, a cinematographer said, “I liked your script. This scene horrifies me and terrifies me, and the thing that’s the scariest thing is that you’re going to go make this movie and if you do this they will fire you!” I was already scared about being fired. And so, they were pretty tough on me, so I got out of that meeting, and…I took a walk in the woods, by myself… they were really rough, and I thought about it and I thought, “well, they said some interesting things but I like my scene and they told me to experiment and this was an experiment, it was not a finished scene. And so, I liked it even if they didn’t.

On the fear of being fired:

When we got the green-light to do this movie, it was literally my dream coming true, I kept waiting to wake up and I figured getting fired would be the wake-up. And, so I’m talking to Lawrence about it and he’s saying, they want you to do a good movie, they want you to knock it out of the park. Just as I’m starting to calm down, another friend of ours gets his dream movie going and he gets fired in a week and a half. I was absolutely horrified just as Lawrence has given me the sense that they don’t actually want to fire me.

Worst day on the set:

Every day during the first week with Lawrence Tierney…The worst moment on set was the last ten minutes of the last day of the first week we were shooting. Me and Larry (Tierney) got into a fist fight…well…more of a shoving match…Harvey Keitel and Lawrence (Bender) broke it up. I fired Larry in front of everybody, the crew all applauded because they hated him. Harvey told us to calm down. I took a walk around the trucks, I’d done nothing but shoot Lawrence Tierney all week long, so if I wanted to get fired I was going to get fired - they’re going to keep Larry because they have a week’s worth of footage, but I’m not going to put up with his shit. So I’m literally walking around the trailer thinking, “well, you wanted to know how it was going to end, it’s going to end this way, it was nice while it lasted, I guess you’re not gonna put up with shit, you’re gonna go back to the video store aren’t you the smart guy.”

harvey keitel steve buscemi reservoir dogs

On influences, including Ringo Lam’s CITY ON FIRE…

One of the things that ended up being kinda cool for the film, and it is this sub-textual thing but its there, spending the whole year on the film festival circuit, I was really, really into gangster films, and not just American gangster films like Scorsese gangster films, or what people thought of as gangster films back then. I was a fan of french gangster films, Jean-Pierre Melville, Hong Kong gangster films, Japanese, Kenji Fukasaku the Yakuza films, Fernando Di Leo, the thing that was very interesting, I’m taking bits from all of them and there was this aspect of the gangsters being almost french, like they could be in a Jean-Pierre Melville film, but also just the idea that if it had been a French film, it wouldn’t have been all that different. It would have been pretty much the same movie. If it had been done in Hong Kong it would have been the same thing, in in Japan with Takakura Ken playing Mr. White, it wouldn’t have been that different. And oddly enough, all those different countries responded to it in that way. The people in Hong Kong thought about it as a Hong Kong film, in Japan they thought of it as a Yakuza film, they thought it was a tribute to Yakuza films, I ended up meeting all the great Yakuza directors when I went to Tokyo to introduce the film, and the french loved the Jean Pierre Melville references. I was inspired by Ringo Lam’s CITY OF FIRE, but it’s not quite the rip-off some people say it is. It’s not a paraphrased remake at all. Oddly enough, and if you’ve seen the movie it’s actually very different from my movie except the ending, and Ringo Lam ended up describing it perfectly when they asked him about it, and they asked Ringo Lam about the connections between CITY OF FIRE and RESERVOIR DOGS and he said, he took the last ten minutes of CITY ON FIRE and built an entire movie around the last ten minutes and that’s pretty much what I did.

Outside of one snarky audience member who asked QT what he thought of his acting in the film (QT responded that he thought he did the Madonna monologue well), Tarantino was in high spirits and even said, as he was leaving he thought the audience, which was well over one thousand people was an nice crowd. Madsen also seemed to be having fun (as did Bender) with him noting that he really wanted to play Mr Pink in order to get more screen time with Harvey Keitel (after having his scene with him in THELMA & LOUISE cut out), and that people always ask him to do the Mr. Blonde dance but won't in order to keep it sacred. Seeing the movie for my first time on 35MM was a revelation, and it looks thoroughly different in that format than on Blu-ray. It’ holds up as a major classic, and watching it in the presence of the master was a real treat!

Source: JoBlo.com



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