Quentin Tarantino took the 25th anniversary Reservoir Dogs roadshow to the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, bringing along cast members Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth. The film played at Sundance in January, returning to the place where it had its world premiere in 1992.
Journalist Lynn Hirschberg began the post-screening chat at the Beacon Theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side asking Tarantino to recall the first screening at the festival.
“It was kind of a disaster,” Tarantino said to laughs. “They didn’t have a scope lens for the projector, but I let them show it anyway because I didn’t know you couldn’t, so it looked like caca. Then when it got to the final climax, the lights came up, but then someone realized and shut the lights. Then at the height of it all, when everyone is pointing their guns at each other, the power went out. It was a f*cking disaster.”
Tarantino, who caused a minor ruckus by waded into the crowd just as Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal came onstage to introduce the screening, recalled later that one of the happiest moments in his directorial career actually occurred just before formal production on Reservoir Dogs began. Keitel invited the rest of the cast and Tarantino to a dinner at a house in Malibu, and it was at the end of the evening that the director thought he just might have a chance to succeed in making movies.
“I was living in Glendale at my mom’s,” he said to laughs from the packed audience. “I was at Harvey’s house, and I realized that most of the pressure was off my shoulders. All these guys really understood the material. I thought, ‘F*ck … I just need to keep the movie in focus.’ The guys were all cake. I just need to bring the frosting.” After a pause, he added: “I got in my car to drive from Malibu to Glendale down Sunset Boulevard, and that was the happiest moment in my life. I knew this was going to work out — making movies in general, not just Reservoir Dogs.”
Between recollections about how Keitel, Madsen, Buscemi and Roth joined the cast, the other big moment in tonight’s fete to Reservoir Dogs was “the torture dance” that Madsen’s Mr. Blonde infamously played out to the tune of the 1972 Stealer’s Wheel hit, “Stuck in the Middle With You.” Madsen had joined the cast on the suggestion of Keitel, who recently had finished working with him on Thelma & Louise.
“I was so intimidated by it. I didn’t know if I could do it,” said Madsen. “In the script, it just said, ‘Mr. Blonde dances maniacally around the cop.’ What does that mean? Then I suddenly recalled a dance that I saw James Cagney in a movie — I can’t remember which one. It just popped into my head and that’s what I decided to do.”
The torture scene (and dance) continued to make waves worldwide at festivals. Tarantino recalled counting the number of walkouts, with the highest number being 33 at one festival. At the genre-centric Sitges Film Festival in Spain, Tarantino remembered one particularly notable walkout.
“Wes Craven walked out of my movie,” he said to still more laughs. “The guy who did Last House on the Left walked out of my movie! I guess it was too tough for him.”