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How Quentin Tarantino selected Steve Buscemi for 'Reservoir Dogs'

One of the most iconic figures in the American film industry, Steve Buscemi has collaborated with celebrated filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and Jim Jarmusch. However, it was his work with Quentin Tarantino that propelled him into stardom despite the fact that Tarantino was a virtually unknown, young up and coming director at the time who was working hard on his debut feature Reservoir Dogs.

Reservoir Dogs is an important moment in the history of American cinema because it is emblematic of what a youthful, irreverent director like Tarantino could bring to the table. Starring Buscemi alongside the likes of Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel and a truly postmodern narrative structure, Reservoir Dogs subverts the voyeuristic expectations of the genre through disruptive violence.

By conducting a deconstruction of the heist film, Tarantino proved that intelligent filmmaking could also be fun. In a conversation between Tarantino and Buscemi, the director asked the actor: “We did a workshop together of Reservoir Dogs at the Sundance Institute before real filming began. How was I to work with there, and was I different when we were actually making the film?”.

Buscemi answered: “At Sundance you were bursting with energy, so much so, that it freaked out the crew. You wanted to do a whole bunch of shots, tracking shots and other stuff, and they had something more simple in mind. When we were really shooting the movie you still had all that energy, but you were much more focused.”

According to multiple reports, Tarantino was originally set to play the role that Buscemi landed – Mr. Pink. However, he let all the actors audition for the part, and when Buscemi came in to read for it, Tarantino told him that the part belonged to him. For Tarantino to change his mind, Buscemi was asked to do a “killer audition”, which would convince Tarantino to let go of it. Since Buscemi ended up getting the role, it is safe to assume that’s exactly what he did.

In a recent interview, Buscemi said: “I don’t know if anyone else thinks about this, but because my character of Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs was such a cheapskate, and he didn’t like to tip, I thought it was poetic justice that my next film with Quentin [Pulp Fiction], I play a waiter. I even like to think that maybe Mr. Pink got away somehow in Reservoir Dogs and he’s hiding out as the Buddy Holly waiter. And he probably gets tipped terribly. That’s his fate.”