According to an interview on the DVD, Michael Madsen says that Kirk Baltz asked to ride in his trunk to experience what it was really like. Madsen agreed, but decided as he went along that this was time for his own character development. So he drove down a long alley with potholes, and then a Taco Bell drive-through before taking Baltz back to the parking lot and letting him out.
The film's budget was so low that many of the actors simply used their own clothing as wardrobe; most notably Chris Penn's track jacket. The signature black suits were provided for free by the designer, based on her love for the American crime film genre. Steve Buscemi wore his own black jeans instead of suit pants.
Madonna, who is the main topic of the opening conversation, really liked the film, but refuted Quentin Tarantino's interpretation of her song "Like a Virgin". She gave him a copy of her "Erotica" album, signed, "To Quentin. It's not about dick, it's about love. Madonna."
The budget wouldn't cover police assistance for traffic control, so in the scene where Steve Buscemi forces a woman out of her car and drives off in it, he could only do so when the traffic lights were green.
Quentin Tarantino was originally going to play Mr. Pink, although he made a point of letting all the other actors audition for the part. When Steve Buscemi came in to read for it, Tarantino told him that he really wanted the part for himself, and that the only way Buscemi could possibly wrestle it from him was to do a killer audition. Buscemi duly complied.
Mr. Blonde's (Michael Madsen's) real name is Vic Vega. This is the same surname as Vince (John Travolta) from Pulp Fiction (1994). Tarantino has revealed that Vic and Vince are brothers. He also intended to do a prequel to both films called "Double V Vega", which would star the Vega Brothers, but Madsen and Travolta eventually got too old to reprise their roles, and Tarantino has since abandoned it.
Mr. Orange's apartment was the upstairs to the warehouse where most of the movie takes place. The filmmakers redecorated it to look like an apartment in order to save money on finding a real apartment.
Quentin Tarantino wanted James Woods to play a role in the film, and made him five different cash offers. Woods' agent refused the offers without ever mentioning it to Woods, as the sums offered were well below Woods' usual salary. When Tarantino and Woods later met for the first time, Woods learned of the offer and was annoyed enough to get a new agent. Tarantino avoided telling Woods which role he was offered, "because the actor who played the role was magnificent anyway." It has been speculated that the role to which Tarantino was referring was Mr. Orange.
The title for the film came to Quentin Tarantino via a patron at the now-famous Video Archives. While working there, Tarantino would often recommend little-known titles to customers, and when he suggested Louis Malle's Au Revoir les Enfants (1987), the patron mockingly replied, "I don't want to see no reservoir dogs!" The title is never spoken in the film, however.
Quentin Tarantino had to fight Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein to keep the torture scene in the film, as Weinstein felt it would have a serious negative effect on audiences. Tarantino stood his ground, and Weinstein ultimately relented.
Armed with $30,000 and a 16mm camera, Quentin Tarantino was all set to make the film with a bunch of friends, including his producing partner Lawrence Bender, who was going to play Nice Guy Eddie. It was then that Tarantino received an answerphone message from Harvey Keitel, asking if he could not only be in the film, but help produce it. Keitel had gotten involved via the wife of Bender's acting class teacher, who had managed to get a copy of the script to him. Keitel's involvement helped raise the budget to $1.5 million.
In an interview with Empire Magazine, career criminal Edward Bunker (Mr. Blue) stated that the film was unrealistic. He would never have considered committing a robbery with five people he didn't know (and therefore could not trust). He also commented that it would be extremely foolhardy for the distinctively dressed gang to publicly have breakfast together beforehand. When news of the robbery broke, witnesses would be certain to remember them.
The film was released in America with almost no promotion, so it did not do that well at the box office. In England, however, it was such a huge hit that Quentin Tarantino would be mobbed as he walked down the street in London. British filmmakers have been influenced by it since.
To avoid alienating the film's backers, producer Lawrence Bender had the tamer scenes shot first, so that the dailies would strengthen the backers' confidence, before getting to the nasty, violent scenes.
According to Steve Buscemi in a recent podcast interview, everyone had a difficult time with Lawrence Tierney because he was easily distracted and kept forgetting his lines. Quentin Tarantino and everyone else were so upset with him that Quentin fired Lawrence on the third day of filming.
Although there is no definitive answer to what Mr. White whispers to Mr. Orange, in the French release of the film he says, "You don't want a blow job, by the way?" In the Italian dubbed version, he says, "Do you want me to give you a hand job, too?", and in the Spanish dubbed version he says, "I'll comb your hair, so you look handsome."
In 2014, Quentin Tarantino revealed in an interview that the entire soundtrack budget was spent on securing "Stuck in the Middle with You" for the film. Tarantino was content with having no other music in the film as long as he could use that song. The other songs were secured thanks to the producers' managing to make a record deal for the soundtrack. Tarantino and the producers were well aware that that plan might not have worked out at all.
In the commentary track on the True Romance (1993) DVD, Quentin Tarantino says that Tony Scott read both the "True Romance" and "Reservoir Dogs" scripts, and told Tarantino he wanted to direct "Reservoir Dogs". Tarantino told him he could have "True Romance", but that he himself was going to direct "Reservoir Dogs".
At the very first screening of the film at the Sundance Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino stood up in the middle of the movie and told them to stop projecting, due to the fact that the entire film was shot in widescreen, and the projector only had a normal-sized lens (not meant for widescreen), so half of whatever was shot wasn't up on-screen.
The line where Mr. White tells Mr. Pink, "I need you cool. Are you cool?" was added into the script after a conflict between Lawrence Tierney and Michael Madsen. To break the scuffle and continue shooting, Quentin Tarantino said to Tierney, "Larry. I need you cool. Are you cool?"
In Mr. White's flashback, Joe asks him about a girl named Alabama. This is a reference to Patricia Arquette's character from True Romance (1993). Quentin Tarantino has stated that he originally intended this character to meet up with Mr. White and to become partners in crime. When True Romance (1993) was released, the ending was changed, and this backstory became inconsistent. Alabama never went on to meet up with Mr. White.
Prior to the scene showing the colored bottles of detergent, you see two shirts hanging on the wall and a rag in the distance on the floor. These are appropriately in sync with the surnames of the characters in their present states. Mr. White and Mr. Pink are upright and close to each other, corresponding to the two shirt colors, while the orange rag laying in the distance would be the position of Mr. Orange in the next room.
During a screening at Sitges Film Festival, fifteen people walked out, including Wes Craven and special make-up effects artist Rick Baker. Baker later told Quentin Tarantino to take the walkout as a "compliment", and explained that he found the violence unnerving, because of its heightened sense of realism. Tarantino commented about it at the time: "It happens at every single screening. For some people, the violence, or the rudeness of the language, is a mountain they can't climb. That's okay. It's not their cup of tea. But I am affecting them. I wanted that scene to be disturbing."
Kirk Baltz recalls that a more graphic version of the ear-cutting scene was filmed, involving a tube running up to his ear that squirted blood. Michael Madsen, however, has said he thought it was "rather tame", after seeing the scene play out that way.
Of his decision to not show the heist itself, Quentin Tarantino has said that the reason was initially budgetary, but that he had always liked the idea of not showing it, and stuck with that idea in order to make the details of the heist ambiguous. He has said that the technique allows for the realization that the film is "about other things"; a similar plot outline that appears in the stage play Glengarry Glen Ross, and its film adaptation, in which the mentioned robbery is never shown on camera. Tarantino has compared this to the work of a novelist, and has said that he wanted the film to be about something that is not seen, and that he wanted it to "play with a real-time clock as opposed to a movie clock ticking."
In the first scene of the Mr. Blonde chapter, when Vic Vega is meeting with Joe and Nice Guy Eddie, he states that his parole officer is Seymour Scagnetti. This character may be related to the character Jack Scagnetti, the detective in Natural Born Killers (1994), which was also scripted by Quentin Tarantino.
Monte Hellman was originally tapped to direct the film, as Quentin Tarantino was a complete unknown. However, when Tarantino sold the screenplay for True Romance (1993) for $50,000, he lobbied hard to direct the film himself. Hellman took on an executive producer role instead.
At age seventeen, Edward Bunker, a former career criminal, was the youngest felon to be sent to San Quentin. He was an author, and also played cons in other films, Runaway Train (1985), The Longest Yard (2005), and Straight Time (1978) (which was based on his novel). In addition, he worked as a technical advisor on other films, Heat (1995), for instance. Jon Voight's character in Heat (1995) was based on Bunker.
In the French version, the line "If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire" was translated into "he'll tell you he blew the bridge over the River Kwai".
In the opening scene, when Mr. Pink is giving his tipping speech, he says when he orders coffee he wants his cup filled six times. Earlier in the film, when Chris Penn starts talking about "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", Mr. Pink can be seen about to take a sip from his cup before realizing it's empty. He then looks for the waitress.
In an interview featured in the documentary I am fishead (2011) psychologist Robert D. Hare reports that Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) and Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) illustrate the differences between the mental health diagnoses of sociopathy and psychopathy. Mr. White is a sociopath, a professional criminal who nonetheless has some loyalty and standards of conduct. He takes no pleasure in violence, but regards the use of force as an occasional necessity in his vocation. In contrast, Mr. Blonde enjoys torturing the captured police officer. Mr. White explicitly describes Mr. Blonde as a "psychopath", and condemns his reckless shooting of people.
The first draft script called for Pink Floyd's "Money" where "Little Green Bag" is now. It was later changed because Quentin Tarantino heard "Little Green Bag" over the radio and became extremely nostalgic. The original song choice "Money" by Pink Floyd, and the existing song "Little Green Bag" by George Baker Selection, feature colors for the original artist and existing song respectively.
On their way to the first meeting about the heist, Misters Pink, White, Orange, and Nice Guy Eddie, are discussing a television show. It is Get Christie Love! (1974), and the actress whose name they can't remember is Teresa Graves.
In the opening scene, while the men are having breakfast, before they all stand up, Quentin Tarantino's hand can be seen, to stop filming. However, the men all stood up and left, so he just carried on, and the scene remained.
Quentin Tarantino cast Tim Roth after being impressed by his work in Vincent & Theo (1990). Besides, after auditioning several other prospective actors who mostly wanted to play any character but Mr. Orange, Roth was only too anxious to take on that role.
During the bathroom scene, where Mr. White and Mr. Pink are discussing who is alive or dead, and specifically Mr. Blonde, there is a hint that Mr. Blonde is alive. Much like the white and pink shirts and the orange rag, the bathroom contains one other item hinting at a character. Behind Mr. White, when he is doing his hair, there is a yellow sink, suggesting Mr. Blonde is alive.
In Pulp Fiction (1994), "The Wolf" (Harvey Keitel) has a phone call while in one of Jimmy's rooms, ending with the line, "You're a good man, Joe. Thanks a bunch." This might be a nod to Reservoir Dogs.
In an edition of Radio Times back in 2001, Andrew Collins wrote an article about the film. "There are actually no reservoirs or dogs in it, Tarantino claims he got the title from mishearing Au Revoir les Enfants (1987)". Collins was correct overall, except he overlooked the scene when Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) goes into the men's room during his fabricated commode story in a flashback. The Los Angeles Sheriffs had a German Shepherd with them.
Oddly enough, in all the film's advertising, including posters and the theatrical trailer, Tim Roth was billed second, while Michael Madsen received the honorary "and" billing at the end of the roll call. However, in the film, Madsen and Roth switch billings, as Madsen is now second, behind Harvey Keitel, and Roth with the "and" credit at the end.
While searching for producers to finance the film and save them from having to make it themselves on a minuscule budget, Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender fielded several offers that sounded good, to but had a catch to them. One producer offered $1.5 million, but only if the ending was changed so that everyone who was dead came back to life, the whole thing having been a hoax or a con of some kind. Another offered $500,000, but only if his girlfriend could play Mr. Blonde. (Bender said it was such a bizarre idea that he and Tarantino actually considered it.)
Thousands of waitresses and waiters were extremely upset by the tipping conversation. While Joe Cabot defended tipping by the same argument that could made for hard working people anywhere, Tarantino's dialogue reveals that he was almost as ignorant as Mr. Pink. The real reason for automatic tipping is that minimum wage for tipped employees was only half of minimum wage for other workers. At the time this film was shot, normal minimum wage in California was $4.25 and hour but minimum wage for waitresses was $2.13. Making things even more annoying, while the standard minimum in Calfornia has risen to $7.25 an hour,tipped minimum was is still $2.13. This is less than a third of standard minimum wage.
Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, and Mr. Blonde were all armed with one Smith & Wesson 659 9mm pistol. They are distinguished from M1911s and other Smith & Wesson variants by their second generation features, stainless steel construction, and double stack frames. Mr. White also uses a Smith & Wesson 639 with Pachmayr grips, this is most likely White's personal gun. In the special edition DVD, a deleted scene can be found which briefly shows Mr White's/Larry Dimmick's police record. This informs us that his weapon of choice is a Smith and Wesson 9mm, even further strengthening the personal 639 theory.
The soft drink cup that Mr. Blonde is drinking from is from Big Kahuna Burger. While it displays no logo, the distinctive narrow red diagonal stripes, which vary in width, are the giveaway. This same cup pattern is seen in a number of subsequent Tarantino films including, of course, Pulp Fiction (1994) and in the TV show From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (2014), where we see an actual restaurant - the Stallion Grill in Austin, Texas, which was dressed to look like a Big Kahuna Burger.
In the flashback Mr. Orange uses two handguns while getting ready to meet Nice Guy Eddie, Mr. White and Mr. Pink for a meeting with Joe Cabot. The automatic he holsters at his ankle is a Beretta 950 Jetfire in .25 ACP, his second backup gun is a Charter Arms Off Duty with Pachmayr grips. .
The first week of its release, Piper's Alley theater in Chicago placed a sign (that was technically illegal - parents are free to decide if their kids can attend movies that are rated 'R') on the ticket-booth window reading: "No-one under 18 will be admitted to 'Reservoir Dogs.'" - and then, underneath that, another note, as if in afterthought: "It is extremely violent." (This, as opposed to the "spaghetti"-like special effects Pauline Kael perceived in her review of "Dawn of the Dead," which she found reassuring in their silliness - which, nonetheless, won acclaim for effects maestro Tom Savini, and an unrated, all-but-unprecedented "No one under 17 admitted" stamp on the film in '79. The mind boggles!)
In Harvey Keitel - The first documentary - To be an actor, (available on YouTube), two jobs Keitel did were selling shoes and working as a court stenographer. The hilariously synthesized voice of "Paul", who narrates the text, says of Keitel selling shoes, "But he didn't like the work. The mundanity and the monotony of it rapidly drove him wild". In this movie, Keitel, (as Mr. White), wears black shoes to match his suit. It's ironic that Keitel was a court sternograher, as this is part of law enforcement, given that he has a tendency to play criminals in his films quite often.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Michael Madsen had difficulty filming the torture scenes, due to his strong aversion to violence of any kind, and was particularly reluctant when he was required to hit Kirk Baltz. When Baltz ad-libbed a line that his character has a child at home, Madsen, who had just become a new father himself, was so disturbed by the idea of leaving a child fatherless, that he almost couldn't finish the scene. This take made it into in the movie, and in some versions of the film, you can clearly hear someone, possibly Quentin Tarantino himself, utter "Oh, no no!" off-screen.
Many people have asked Quentin Tarantino why Mr. Orange confessed to being a cop to Mr. White at the end of the movie. They argued that he only had to keep quiet for sixty more seconds and he would be in the clear. He mentions this in the DVD commentary for the film. His response to these individuals is that they did not truly understand the movie if they are asking this question. Tarantino says that in all of the Asian countries, in which that this movie was released, this question was never once asked. He says that in Japan they have a word for this called "jingi". Without an English equivalent, it basically means that this was something that Mr. Orange had to do as a man. Something that he owed Mr. White. Furthermore, he could only do it in those sixty seconds, when Mr. White would have the opportunity to do whatever he deemed necessary.
The opening scene in the coffee shop contains subtle foreshadowing about the identity of the "rat". When Joe demands to know which crook didn't contribute to the tip, Mr. Orange is the one who snitches on Mr. Pink.
According to Quentin Tarantino, Mr. Pink survives. You can verify this by increasing the volume of the background sounds: When Mr. Pink runs out of the building with the diamonds, police officers can be heard shouting at him to put his hands on the ground. Gunshots can be heard, then Mr. Pink shouts that he has been shot. You can then hear the officers talking to each other as he is arrested. However having participated in a robbery with such huge loss of life he would undoubtedly have faced the death penalty.
When a panicked Mr. Pink first arrives at the rendezvous point, he tells Mr. White that they were all set up and that there must be a rat within the group. Look carefully and you can see the injured Mr. Orange nervously produce his gun as though ready to shoot.
In the scene where Nice Guy Eddie talks on his cell phone about the botched robbery, an orange balloon can be seen, being pulled along int the air current behind the car and seemingly following the car. Some believe that this was intentional, as to foreshadow Mr. Orange as the rat. However, Quentin Tarantino claims that it was accidental.
According to cast member Edward Bunker, there was a scene that would have shown exactly what happened to his character, Mr. Blue, but the scene was cut due to the limited budget. He also said Lawrence Tierney could never remember his lines, so Tierney's scenes took a while to shoot.
The promotional posters for this film say "Five strangers team up for the perfect crime." The criminals in the movie, Mr. Pink, Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Blue, are in fact six strangers. It is possible it says five instead of six, as Mr. Orange, being an undercover cop, would already know who the others are.
At the end of the scene where Mr. Orange is talking to the other undercover cop in Johnnie's restaurant, they are talking about the comic character "The Thing" immediately after he says that, it cuts to him in his apartment answering a phone. As he reaches to pick up the phone, he knocks over an action figure of Iron Man, and the action figure of the Thing is visible at the edge of the table.
The death count in this film (on-screen and off) is unclear. According to the dialogue four clerks plus the 'black girl' in the jewelry store are shot and we see Mr Pink shoot one of the police officers pursuing him and Mr Orange shoot the woman whose car he hijacks but it is unclear whether they died or not. Five of the six crooks (Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Brown), Joe Cabot and his son Nice Guy Eddie, the two cops Mr. White shot, the cop in the trunk (Marvin Nash) all die making a definite bodycount of 10. The number of police officers Mr. Blonde had to shoot to escape the jewelry store is not mentioned. It can be assumed that Mr. Pink is not killed after he flees the warehouse; although you hear gunshots, he can be heard very faintly yelling "Don't shoot, I've been shot, god damn it!" shortly thereafter.
Supposedly Mr. Blonde and the character Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction (1994) are brothers In a deleted scene of Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega tells Mia Wallace that the singer, Suzanne Vega is his cousin, and that makes Suzanne Vega Mr. Blonde's cousin as well.
There has been some confusion among viewers as to how Mr. Brown is killed. Because Brown is the getaway driver, and we see him crash the car before we see him injured, some viewers come to think that he has been injured in the crash. Others theorize that he is killed by Mr. Orange, to whom he is talking just before his death. In actuality, as Mr. White tells Mr. Pink, Brown was shot by the police (possibly the officers that Mr. White later fires on). He crashes the car as a result of his soon-to-be-fatal injury. Mr. Orange does not harm Mr. Brown - his shell-shocked behavior after Brown's death is due to the violence that he is witnessing and not yet any that he has committed. He has, after all, just seen his friend Mr. White gun down two of his fellow officers.