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"Making the Movie on the Page": Rare 1992 Interview With Quentin Tarantino for 'Reservoir Dogs' (Exclusive Book Excerpt)

By Paul Zimmerman | Indiewire December 24, 2012 at 10:00AM

Quentin Tarantino is celebrating 20 years of filmmaking with the release of a DVD box set of all eight of his films — plus the Christmas release of his latest big-screen opus, “Django Unchained.” Film fans and the journalists who have covered Tarantino’s career for just as long are reevaluating his work, as well.
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One of the things about the film, of course, is that it turns on a big surprise — who the undercover cop is. Have you had a problem with anybody ruining that in a review?

No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I’d actually appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention that it’s a cop who is the traitor.

Yeah, I was thinking that. I haven’t written anything yet, and I was like, how do I even describe [Tim] Roth? Basically as just the guy bleeding on the floor, I guess.

Tarantino being interviewed in 1992.
Malcolm Ingram Tarantino being interviewed in 1992.

Yeah, you shouldn’t. You really shouldn’t. And actually, I’ve been really fortunate. The American press will be coming out, and we’ll get the big onslaught when the reviews come out, and hopefully everything will be cool. But so far, they all realize how important that is. And so even in the reviews they talk in code.

But in a way, even to say there’s a surprise ruins the surprise. Because then you’re waiting for a surprise.

You’re a hundred percent right. I think you can say that the traitor will be revealed. No, it would be better if you didn’t say that at all, because you don’t even know if these guys are freaking out and just paranoid. You know, it’s so fun seeing the movie this way without knowing anything. You don’t know which direction it’s going to go. Mr. Pink comes in and says, “There’s a rat, there’s a rat, there’s a rat,” and then Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) comes in and says, “There is no rat!” And you kind of believe him too. It’s like you don’t know if there is actually someone amongst them.

That was the best I’ve ever seen Penn.

Oh, he’s fantastic. You know, he’s the only actor in the world I could think could really play [heist leader] Larry Tierney’s son.

Did he gain weight for that part?

No, he lost weight for that part, actually. [chuckles mischievously]

When you write, do you listen to music?

Yeah, I do! That’s a good question. What I’ll do is, it’s like breaks. That will be like my breaks. I’ll have a bunch of music that’s in the spirit of the movie, all right? You know, rock songs or whatever. And I’ll write, write, write, and then I need to get up and walk around or whatever, and just, like, listen to music, walk around, hear the song in my head. You play it for a while and just kind of burn off the energy that way, then sit down, get back to work again.

"See, I wanted to make films, and the only thing I could get going was on the page. So I put it all in the script."
Did you have the song “Stuck in the Middle With You” [from the notorious torture scene] in mind when you wrote the script?

It’s actually in the script. Which I can tell you I’ll never do again, because the record companies read the script and they know that you want that song. I actually got it — actually extremely cheap — but it was like every other song wasn’t written in the script, so we actually got it for a lot cheaper. They know you want it — it’s written in the script. See, I wanted to make films, and the only thing I could get going was on the page. So I put it all in the script. The big shots. The chase is broken down shot for shot. It’s cut in the script. “POV through windshield. Mr. Pink off screen.” I was making the movie on the page, because it was the only way I could make movies. And then, when I would show it to someone I could say, “Look, this is what I’m going to do. I’m not going to do this. Just this.”

Which part were you originally going to play if you had done it in 16 mm?

I was going to play Mr. Pink. I wrote the part of Mr. Pink for myself.

[NOTE: Later, when I interviewed Buscemi, he told me the speech he makes as Mr. Pink in the opening scene about how he doesn't believe in tipping a waitress is pretty much exactly how Tarantino feels about tipping.]

This article is related to: Quentin Tarantino, Interviews, Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Virgin Noir





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