While it was Pulp Fiction that launched Quentin Tarantino to the big leagues, changing the film industry forever, it was 1992’s Reservoir Dogs that started it all for the film auteur. And while his debut release is often considered among the director’s top works, the story behind the making of it is no less than any of his acclaimed films over the years.
The crime thriller initially started as a passion project that Tarantino planned to shoot with his friends, and according to Lawrence Bender, the director’s budget for the film was only $50K.
Quentin Tarantino Initially Set Out to Make Reservoir Dogs on a Budget of $50K
Quentin Tarantino wasn’t doing pretty well financially before Reservoir Dogs hit the screens and had no prior connection to any major Hollywood producer. But following his passion for filmmaking, he originally set out to make the film on a budget of $50000 in a 16 mm black-and-white format. However, after Lawrence Bender ended up reading the script that Tarantino completed in just 3.5 weeks, he was astonished by its brilliance and was fixated on raising funding for the project. Bender recalled,
“He explained this whole thing to me and he said, ‘We can make it for like fifty thousand dollars.’ He wrote the script in three and a half weeks, literally. And I went to his house, drove up to his house, he didn’t have a car and, and he was, he was handpicking picking them out on his typewriter, and I was reading them. I was like Oh my god this is amazing… I said, ‘Give me some time, I could raise some real money for this'”
Eventually, Bender, who was only behind Intruder at the time, managed to get Harvey Keitel on board, who also signed as a co-producer, making it easy for them to get funding. This resulted in them raising $1.2M for the project, which despite not being monumental, ended up being enough for Tarantino to craft an acclaimed success, which made a decent $2.9M at the box office.
Quentin Tarantino Addressed One Major Criticism Against His Acclaimed Feature
While his first feature film was an astounding success, putting Quentin Tarantino on the map, the crime thriller wasn’t immune to criticisms, and one of them involved the lack of women in the film. Although women are depicted in the film, they had little to no impact on the actual story, and the Django Unchained director blamed it on the film’s premise and setting while addressing the issue. Per WhatCulture, he was quoted saying,
“There were no female characters in Reservoir Dogs because the movie took place over the course of an hour in this warehouse after this robbery. These guys aren’t going to bring their girlfriends to the robbery. Joe didn’t happen to hire any women.”
Not long after Reservoir Dogs kickstarted Quentin Tarantino’s ascend to the top, his second feature would hit the screens, which would change cinema forever. Grossing over $213M during its box-office run, Pulp Fiction was lauded for its non-linear narrative structure, which was pretty unique at the time. And the years after its release saw a boatload of movies trying to replicate Pulp Fiction‘s magic, but wouldn’t reach the bar set by the auteur.
Reservoir Dogs is available to stream on Paramount Plus.