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Exploring the feud between Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Tierney on 'Reservoir Dogs'

Quentin Tarantino made an incredible impact on American cinema with his stylish 1992 debut feature Reservoir Dogs which conducted a re-conceptualisation of the crime genre. Regarded as a true cult classic and still counted among the finest works directed by Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs remains a highly influential masterpiece.

Starring the likes of Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi among other icons, Reservoir Dogs presented a unique approach to the frameworks of heist cinema by focusing on the build-up to the heist and its consequences instead of the heist itself. By doing so, Tarantino managed to get closer to the nature of crime and violence.

While his debut turned out to be a crucially important stepping stone to greater success (which he achieved with his iconic follow-up Pulp Fiction), Tarantino did run into some problems during the production process. One of the major disruptions was caused by none other than Lawrence Tierney who starred in Reservoir Dogs as Joe Cabot.

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According to Tarantino, Tierney was very antagonistic during the filming and he was not very fond of Tarantino’s conversational screenwriting. “He didn’t like my dialogue. He had a hard time remembering it,” the director recalled while talking about Tierney’s behaviour. Tierney was frustrated with his lines and called the dialogue “convoluted” as well as “repetitive”.

In an interview with The Guardian, Tarantino claimed that directing Tierney was the most challenging part of making the film which is why the filmmaking crew decided to shoot his scenes first and get them out of the way. “Tierney was a complete lunatic by that time – he just needed to be sedated,” Tarantino declared.

Within one week, everyone grew tired of Tierney’s antics which made Tarantino’s job very difficult as well. He was also opposed to the way Tarantino handed down directions and he actually expected people to follow him around. The director said: “If you tried to talk to him… he would start walking away right in the middle of your talking.”

Things reached the boiling point in the last 20 minutes of the last day of shooting of the first week when Tarantino grabbed Tierney’s arm to make him understand. The actor did not react well to Tarantino’s action, as the director recalled Tierney’s response: “He shoves me [and says] ‘Get your fucking hands off me!'”

Tarantino did not back down either and screamed at Tierney: “Fuck you! You fat fuck. You are fucking fired. Take your fat fucking ass off my fucking set.” This made the entire crew break out into applause since they hated the actor as well. Despite the fact that Tierney tried to make things right with Tarantino and invited him for a drink, things took a turn for the worse.

Drunk and angry, Tierney allegedly fired a shotgun at his own nephew at his Hollywood apartment which resulted in his arrest. In order to continue the production, he was released from jail for a day but all these antics and the violent behaviour made Tarantino make up his mind about not working with the actor ever again.

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