By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com October 23, 2012 at 1:47PM
Thanks to that $1.5 million budget, and the kudos that came with Harvey Keitel's name, Tarantino was able to attract a fairly impressive cast given the meager budget - indie stalwart Steve Buscemi, British actor Tim Roth (who'd already starred in projects for Peter Greenaway, Robert Altman and Stephen Frears, among others) Chris "brother of Sean" Penn and Michael Madsen, who'd just wrapped "Thelma & Louise" and "The Doors." But the tales of those who read the film but didn't end up doing it are just as legendary. Most famous is that of James Woods, who was made a number of offers for a part in the script by Tarantino, none of which the actor's agent ever told his client about. Legend has it that Woods fired his agent when he found out; he said that wasn't the case in one recent interview, but suggests that he certainly wasn't happy about it. Vincent Gallo claimed in a 1998 interview with the Buffalo News that he'd been offered the role of Mr. Pink back in the day, while Buscemi says that his friend Seymour Cassel auditioned for the film alongside him as well. There's also a number of other actors who tried out who'd later end up working with the director. Tarantino had been impressed by a young actor in a movie named "Red Surf" called George Clooney, and asked him in to read for a role, though says that he ultimately wasn't cast because of the chemistry with other actors (Clooney jokes that he botched the audition). Robert Forster, meanwhile, who went on to revive his career with "Jackie Brown," told us last year that he'd auditioned to play Joe Cabot in the film, but that Tarantino always intended to cast Lawrence Tierney. Cult actor Timothy Carey ("Paths Of Glory," "East Of Eden") also read for the same role, but claims that Keitel vetoed his casting, saying in an interview, "He'd done a terrific script with my name on the top -- inspiration by Timothy Carey. Harvey Keitel didn't want me on the show. He was afraid -- I could tell when I walked in. He had the right to say yea or nay to any actor. Larry Tierney got the part. Larry's a good friend of mine, and he called me up later and kind of apologized." There are also unconfirmed reports that Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Walken auditioned for and/or turned down the project.
On release, the film became an instant cult hit of a rare kind, inspiring furious debate over its violence, language and pop culture references (Madonna herself weighed in, sending Tarantino a signed record of "Like A Virgin" that said: "To Quentin. It's not about dick, it's about love. Madonna"). And perhaps the biggest arguments revolved around the question of who delivers a hot lead sandwich to Chris Penn's Nice Guy Eddie in the final shootout. It's clear that Joe Cabot shoots Mr. Orange, that Eddie shoots Mr. White, and that Mr. White shoots Joe, but it's unclear how Eddie gets a bullet, and cinephiles furiously debated over their own theories. Finally, in 1996, Chris Penn set the record straight himself. "Nobody shot nice guy Eddie. It was a mistake. What was supposed to happen - and I don't know if Quentin's gonna like me giving this away, but it's too late now, he never told me not to - was Harvey Keitel was supposed to shoot Lawrence Tierney, then shoot me, then get squibbed. But what happened was the squib on Harvey went right off after he shot Lawrence, so he went down, but my squib went off anyway, so I went down. So, basically nobody shot Nice Guy Eddie. Quentin said 'You know what? It'll be the biggest controversy of the film. We're leaving it.' He was definitely right..."
One of the most common criticisms of the film from its naysayers is that its limited use of locales and lengthy dialogue scenes make it feel more like a filmed stage play than an actual movie. And indeed, various aspiring drama students and resting actors over the years have decided to close the circle and adapt Tarantino's script for the theater. It's tough to work out what was the earliest adaptation, but judging by the timeline, one of the first must have been directed by future Tarantino collaborator Michael Fassbender. The Irish-German actor told WENN in 2009 that he staged a version in his own town of Killarney around 1995, only a few years after the film's release. "I was 18 and I played Mr. Pink and I directed it as well. It was pure naivete and enthusiasm but a good lesson to learn by doing. I basically didn't know what I was getting myself into and there were plenty of hitches. We lost our Mr. Orange about two weeks before we were opening, so I had to recast that. Then an 18-year-old giving directions to actors in their 20s; there were plenty of hiccups along the way. We also had problems finding a charity that would take our money - nobody wanted to be associated with 'Reservoir Dogs.' So, in the end, we had to go with a private charity and basically keep it anonymous. It's funny that nobody wanted our money. I guess there was so much hype about the film at the time and it was so controversial." It's also been something of a staple at the Edinburgh Festival for over a decade, while there have been recent productions in Chicago, Denver and Panama. Most high-profile of all was Jason Reitman's stage reading earlier this year with an all-black cast, including Laurence Fishburne as Mr. White, Terrence Howard as Mr. Blonde, Cuba Gooding Jr. as Mr. Orange, Anthony Mackie as Mr. Pink and Anthony Anderson as Nice Guy Eddie. The film also inspired a poor-quality semi-official video-game in 2006 for the Playstation 2 and XBox, which sees Michael Madsen reprise his voice role, but no other cast members. The game was banned in Australia for its violence.