Quentin Tarantino Got in a Fight With an Actor on the Set of ‘Reservoir Dogs’

When Reservoir Dogs came out in theaters, it amazed viewers and critics with its gritty storytelling and startling violence. But it turns out that things weren’t just wild in the movie, but behind the scenes, things got a little out of hand as well.

Quentin Tarantino shared a story about an actor who actually pushed him to the point of a fistfight — and then things went downhill from there. 

Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough film

According to Cinema Blend, Tarantino was once just a video store clerk with a passion for movies. Then, in 1992, he wrote and directed an indie film, Reservoir Dogs, and it became an unexpected cult classic. Although it had been made on a tiny budget and featured very little in the way of star power, it caused a huge splash.

Tarantino quickly followed it up with Pulp Fiction, and he was officially on his way to a remarkable career in movie making

Of course, not everyone loved the film. It was notoriously violent, and it had a torture scene that was so upsetting that it caused a number of people to walk out in the middle of it. Tarantino was even amazed to learn that Wes Craven, the director of famously chilling horror films, left during the challenging scene. 

The movie may have had a heaping portion of criminals and violence, but it turns out that there were a few of the same elements on the set as well. 

Problems with Lawrence Tierney

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The part of the gangster Joe Cabot was played by Tierney. He captured the role of criminal convincingly, but part of that may be because he had his own rap sheet. 

Digital Spy reports that Tierney had a history of being arrested in bar fights, going back as far as the 1940s. These weren’t just fistfights either, but drunken brawls, where he destroyed property, tried to strangle people, and once hit a person in the face with a sugar bowl. Tierney was often out of control, and it seems that this behavior carried over to his time on Reservoir Dogs

According to The Guardian, Tarantino spoke in an interview about what it was like to work with Tierney. 

“Tierney was a complete lunatic by that time – he just needed to be sedated,” Tarantino explained. “We had decided to shoot his scenes first, so my first week of directing was talking with this f***ing lunatic. He was personally challenging to every aspect of film-making.”

He only lasted a week 

Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino | Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

For Tarantino, Tierney’s behavior quickly became too much. Within a week, the situation boiled over. 

“By the end of the week everybody on set hated Tierney — it wasn’t just me. And in the last 20 minutes of the first week we had a blow out and got into a fist fight. I fired him, and the whole crew burst into applause.”

Unfortunately, Tierney’s trouble didn’t end with his firing. He went home and fired a shotgun at his own nephew, earning himself more jail time.

Even that didn’t seem to be enough to change his behavior, because the next year he was fired from another set. This time he lost a role on the hit sitcom Seinfeld, also for terrorizing his fellow castmates.

Sadly, Tierney died in 2002, at the age of 82, from pneumonia. He left behind a body of work that included many characters who were unpredictable, sometimes violent criminals. And while he may not have been that wild in real life, he also left behind a number of people who worked with him and had great stories to share about what it was like.