As one of America’s star directors, Quentin Tarantino has become a larger-than-life personality. He seems relentlessly cocksure today, but there was once a time when Tarantino had to prove to himself that he was capable of this whole filmmaking thing.
Given how trying it can be to forge a movie career, Tarantino had a relatively auspicious start. His first project, “Reservoir Dogs,” made him an instant up-and-comer amid the 1990s’ independent-film boom. Celebrating the crime thriller’s 25th anniversary, Tarantino reunited with Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth on Friday night for a screening and panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival. There, he spoke of his signature memory from the film, which doubles as the “happiest moment” of his life.
It came at the end of a two-week rehearsal period, during which the actors bonded in Los Angeles. Keitel hosted a cast dinner at the house he was renting in Malibu. Tarantino was staying with his mother in Glendale, about 40 miles away. That night, perched around Keitel’s table, he realized the dream he’d maintained since his Tennessee days as a teenage video-store clerk had real potential. Thanks to the “Reservoir Dogs” cast’s harmony, Tarantino’s career was born.
“We’re sitting there and we’re having a great time, and I really realized that, gosh, a lot of the pressure was off my shoulders cinematically,” Tarantino said. “These guys were so perfect in their parts, they were so vibing with each other, they so understood the material. By rehearsing two weeks, they knew the material. I was like, ‘Fuck, if I just keep this movie in focus, I’ve got a movie.’ Anything else I bring to it will just be frosting, but the cake is here — it’s these guys. I watched it at dinner that night. It was a really nice thing for Harvey to do. But I remember that night getting in my car and just taking that drive all the way from Malibu to Glendale, just on [Sunset Boulevard], never getting off Sunset, all the little, windy roads. And that was the happiest time of my life. That was the happiest moment of my life. This thing that I had thought about for so long — not just ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ just making movies in general -- this might just work out.”
Of course, things did work out, despite projector problems and a power outage during the first “Reservoir Dogs” screening at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. Tarantino saw it as a mark of achievement that people walked out during the scene were Mr. Blonde tortures the kidnapped police officer. The number of exits during a single screening peaked at 33, according to his count. Even Wes Craven walked out at Spain's horror-focused Sitges Film Festival. “The guy who did ‘Last House on the Left’ walked out of my movie,” Tarantino roared. “I guess it was too tough for him.”