‘Reservoir Dogs’: 10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets You Didn’t Know

Reservoir Dogs is a heist movie where you never even see the heist. The script is so amazing and the movie so thrilling, that you almost forget that fact. This film was also the debut of Quentin Tarantino, who went on to win two Oscars, and is known for his signature style.

Quentin Tarantino, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Tim Roth of Reservoir Dogs reunited at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie. There, the cast revealed how everyone came upon the project, the negative reactions to the movie, and the secrets behind making the iconic scenes.

Here are 10 behind-the-scenes secrets you didn’t know from the reunion.

1. The first screening went horribly wrong

Mr. White standing over Mr. Pink who is lying on the ground, and the two are pointing guns at each other
Reservoir Dogs | Miramax

There is a good chance that the first audience who saw the movie didn’t like it because there were multiple mishaps during the screening. “They didn’t have a scope lens for the projector and it’s a scope movie. But I let them show it anyway because I didn’t know that you couldn’t, all right?” explained Tarantino. But that wasn’t the only thing that happened, as Tarantino explained:

That would be bad enough, but then it gets to the final climax where everyone’s yelling at each other … and, all of a sudden, the lights come up. And somebody realizes, ‘oh sh*t what’s going on?’ … then they bring the lights down. Then finally everybody has their guns pointed at everybody else. And, almost as if on purpose as far as the censors concerned, right at the height of that scene there’s a power outage, and all the power goes out.

2. The screening might have been cursed because of Steve Buscemi

The cast of Reservoir Dogs are walking outside in black suits.
Reservoir Dogs | The Weinstein Company

It’s pretty superstitious, but it’s also possible that the actor could have been the reason why the screening was so terrible. “You didn’t want me to go to the first screening,” Buscemi said to Tarantino. “You said it would be bad luck!” He went anyway, so Tarantino responded, “It’s your fault!”

3. People kept walking out during the torture scene

Mr. Pink looks at the cop tied to a chair.
Reservoir Dogs | Live Entertainment

The scene where Mr. Blonde starts torturing the cop is pretty iconic. But early on, many people criticized it, and couldn’t even finish the movie. “I remember though, because there was all like this talk the next day or the next two days about the torture scene. It became this big, big thing!” Tarantino said. “And Steve [Buscemi] comes to me and he goes ‘Quentin, do you hear what everyone’s saying? They’re saying the torture scene ruins the movie!'”

But of course, the director was confused by the criticism. “And I go, ‘What are they talking about? It’s the best scene in the f***ing movie! Did you see how many people walked out? That’s the sh*t!'”

4. Wes Craven was one of the people who walked out of the movie

Wes Craven stands in front of a 'The Hills Have Eyes 2' poster.
Wes Craven | Donald Bowers/Getty Images

Multiple audience members walked out of the movie once it got gory. Tarantino claims the biggest walkout he saw was 33 people leaving from one screening. One of the people who walked out who might surprise you, is Wes Craven, director of such horror films as Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

“The f***ing guy who did The Last House on the Left walked out?!” said Tarantino. “The guy who did The Last House on the Left, my movie is too tough for him.”

5. Harvey Keitel liked the role of Mr. Blonde

Mr. Blonde, Mr. White, and Mr. Pink are looking down into a trunk of a car.
Reservoir Dogs | Live Entertainment

Producer Harvey Keitel also played the role of Mr. White in the movie, but that wasn’t the only part he was eyeing. “I also liked the part that Michael [Madsen] played, but I didn’t think I could play it,” explained Keitel at the reunion. “And I was right because he and Chris Penn did one of my favorite scenes in the movie together.”

6. Tom Waits auditioned for the movie

Tom Waits stands in front of a microphone and holds his arm out.
Tom Waits | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The crew decided to do an open casting for the rest of the roles, and some famous actors auditioned. “Tom Waits came in and read. I had Tom Waits read the Madonna speech just so I can hear Tom Waits say it,” said Tarantino. “He actually gave me one of the first profound compliments on the script.” Apparently, Waits said, “it’s poetry.”

7. Michael Madsen auditioned for Mr. Pink even though he already got the role of Mr. Blonde

Mr. Blonde is leaning against a pole as he is drinking.
Reservoir Dogs | Live Entertainment

“I came in and I read Mr. Pink,” said Michael Madsen. “Yeah, Quentin actually let me do it even though I was already Mr. Blonde. But I went through the whole thing. I did all of Mr. Pink’s scenes … ” But that audition wasn’t enough to change anyone’s mind. In the end, Tarantino simply said, “You’re not Mr. Pink. You’re Mr. Blonde or you’re not in the movie.”

8. Madsen had a hard time filming the torture scene

Mr. Blonde holds a knife and looks at the tied-up cop.
Reservoir Dogs | Live Entertainment

The actor who played the cop improvised by saying, “‘I got a little kid at home’ and that f***ed [Madsen] up,” said Tarantino. This was actually pretty tough on the actor because he was a new parent himself. “It’s true, I didn’t want to do it if he had a little child. I thought it was overkill,” said Madsen.

9. Madsen never did the dance to the song until they shot it

“You never made me do it in person because I was so intimidated by it. I didn’t know what to do,” said Madsen to Tarantino. “In the script, it said ‘Mr. Blonde maniacally dances around,'” continued Madsen. “And I kept thinking ‘what the f*** does that mean?'”

Finally, on shooting day, the actor did a little dance, and it was used in the final cut.

10. Madsen wanted to light the cop on fire, but Tarantino said no

Mr. Blonde is pouring lighter fluid on the tied-up cop.
Reservoir Dogs | Live Entertainment

There was a point where Madsen wanted the torture scene to be even more violent. “I remember I asked you, I said, ‘What if I just light him up? Wouldn’t that be crazy?'” Madsen said to Tarantino. But the director remembered the interaction a little differently.

“I think ‘cool’ is the term you said,” Tarantino said laughing. Madsen then replied, “You thought about it for a second and said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, that’s too much.'”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 1, 2017.

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