Quentin Tarantino revealed during his appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience” this week that his working relationship with Harvey Weinstein got off to a rocky start once Miramax became the distributor of his feature directorial debut “Reservoir Dogs.” Weinstein allegedly wanted to remove the film’s torture scene, which Tarantino admitted always led to walkouts during “Reservoir Dogs” film festival screenings. The scene, in which Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) tortures a police officer (Kark Baltz) by slashing his face and cutting his ear off (all set to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You”), is the film’s most famous sequence.
“His reasoning was, ‘Look, Quentin, this is a movie that anybody can watch. But with that torture scene, you’re gonna alienate women; they’re not gonna wanna see this. So you’re literally putting your own movie in a little box. But without that scene, anybody can go and see this movie and everybody will enjoy it,'” Tarantino said. “And [in rejecting Weinstein’s wishes], that’s kind of actually where I became me, because Harvey was used to winning these type of arguments.”
Weinstein was infamous in Hollywood for forcing edits on his directors, earning the nickname “Harvey Scissorhands” over the years. Tarantino refused to let Weinstein cut the torture scene, and he won his case by reminding Weinstein the film had already played at festivals and stirred up buzz for the scene. If the torture scene suddenly went missing, it would create a lot of questions.
Tarantino joins the long list of directors who fought against Weinstein’s cutting tendencies. Bong Joon Ho revealed in 2019 that the editing of “Snowpiercer” became contentious after Weinstein wanted to cut 25 minutes from the movie. Weinstein was allegedly hellbent on cutting a scene in which a train guard guts a fish in order to intimidate a group of rebels. The shot was a particular favorite of Bong’s and cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo.
“Harvey hated it. Why fish? We need action!” Bong said. “I had a headache in that moment: What do I do? So suddenly, I said, ‘Harvey, this shot means something to me. It’s something personal. My father was a fisherman. I’m dedicating this shot to my father.’ It was a fucking lie. My father was not a fisherman.”
Bong’s lie worked, and Weinstein allowed the fish scene to stay. Even more legendary is Hayao Miyazaki’s battle against Weinstein over “Princess Mononoke.” Weinstein’s reputation preceded him so strongly that Miyazaki’s producer sent Weinstein a samurai sword with a note that read “No cuts” attached to the blade, but the warning wasn’t enough.
Former Studio Ghibli executive Steve Alpert writes in his 2020 memoir that Weinstein went berserk on him when Miyazaki refused to cut the “Princess Mononoke” runtime from 135 minutes to 90 minutes. Alpert writes that Weinstein flew into a rage and threatened him by saying, “If you don’t get [Miyazaki] to cut the fucking film you will never work in this fucking industry again! Do you fucking understand me? Never!”
Miyazaki retained final cut privileges over his movies, so Weinstein was powerless in the ordeal.