When conversing with anyone about the films of Quentin Tarantino, the first thing that people often talk about are their favorite lines or memorable scenes. But many of the most interesting things about the director’s movies are all the subtle Easter eggs and references he hides in them. All of Tarantino’s films are positively brimming with hidden meanings, nods to his taste, and connections to his previous works.
From his interesting casting choices to the clever homages he hides in plain sight, here’s a collection of 15 fascinating and funny facts that you probably never realized about Tarantino movies.
15. Tarantino Almost Didn’t Direct Reservoir Dogs
It’s almost impossible to imagine Reservoir Dogs being directed by anyone other than Quentin Tarantino, nonetheless, that’s almost the way things turned out.
Back when Tarantino was just breaking into Hollywood, he wrote the screenplay for both True Romance and Reservoir Dogs and then asked if Tony Scott would be interested in directing either of them. Although Scott expressed great enthusiasm in directing both scripts, he was told that he could choose only one. Ultimately, he chose True Romance, which left Tarantino at the helm for Reservoir Dogs. Still, we wonder how things would have turned out if the directors had switched movies.
14. Tarantino was Originally Going to Play the Role of Pai Mei in Kill Bill, Vol. 2
In a bizarre revelation that we’re glad didn’t pan out, Tarantino recently revealed that he was originally going to play the part of Pai Mei — the Asian martial arts master who trains The Bride to become an assassin in Kill Bill, Vol. 2. He even went through rigorous fight training to prepare for the part, but, after realizing that his attention needed to be focused on directing, he decided to hand the part off to Gordon Liu who turned out to be a superb fit for the role. Although we think he made the right decision, it would have been pretty hilarious to see Tarantino sporting a long white beard and those crazy eyebrows.
13. Tarantino Came Up With the Idea for Death Proof While Shopping for a Volvo
They say that the ability to find inspiration in anything is the mark of a great storyteller. If that’s the case, then Quentin Tarantino’s greatness is assured. According to the director, while he was shopping around for a new car in the ’90s, he divulged to a friend that he never wanted to die in a car crash and therefore was interested in getting a Volvo because they’re known for their excellent safety rating. Tarantino’s friend responded by telling him that he could still buy any car he wanted and then just give it to a stunt team and pay them an extra $10,000 or so to have them death-proof it.
The term “death proof” apparently stuck with Tarantino for a long time, eventually becoming the inspiration for his 2007 Grindhouse picture starring Kurt Russell as a psychotic stunt man.
12. The Adrenaline Shot Scene in Pulp Fiction was Filmed in Reverse
In one of the most famous scenes from Pulp Fiction, after overdosing on the heroine, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is brought back from the brink of death by a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart administered by Vincent Vega (John Travolta). It’s one of the tensest moments of any Tarantino movie, and it was filmed using a very old cinematic technique requiring the actors to move in reverse.
To give the appearance that Vincent is actually slamming the needle into Mia’s chest with enough force to puncture her heart (which, by the way, is not a good idea from a medical perspective), Tarantino actually began the shot with the needle already embedded in Uma Thurman’s chest (of course, he accomplished the look using makeup and practical effects). This way, when he yelled “action”, all Travolta had to do was rip the needle up from its place so the editors could then play it back in reverse during post-production. As evidenced by the final cut, the trick worked quite well and probably saved Uma Thurman a lot of stress on set knowing she wouldn’t have to be stabbed with some sort of needle prop.
**Warning: It’s a clip from a Tarantino movie. NSFW language and images.**
11. Vincent Vega and Victor Vega are Brothers
That’s right, Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega is brothers with Reservoir Dogs‘ Victor Vega (aka Mr. Blonde). While both ended up becoming black-suited henchmen for crime bosses, Vincent enjoyed going to Amsterdam and doing recreational drugs whereas Victor seemed to get his kicks from dismembering helpless hostages. Despite both of them ending up as criminals, according to their accompanying backstory, the pair grew up in a wealthy household with a strict father and an adoring mother who liked to spoil both brothers at every opportunity. At one point, Tarantino had even planned to make a spin-off movie all about the Vega brothers — a project that his fans would probably still love to see realized.
10. The Connection Between Reservoir Dogs and True Romance
Starting as a call girl in True Romance, Alabama (Patricia Arquette) hooks up with her new love, Clarence (Christian Slater), and together the two go a crazy crime spree that involves dead pimps, stolen drugs, and police shootouts. At the end of the film they eventually escape to Mexico where they have a child and appear to be living happily ever after, but, according to Alabama’s connection to Reservoir Dogs, perhaps that wasn’t the case.
In Reservoir Dogs, Joe Cabot mentions that Alabama was Mr. White’s former partner. This is a reference to the same Alabama from True Romance. Only, in the original True Romance screenplay, which was penned by Tarantino before Reservoir Dogs, Clarence was supposed to have died at the end, freeing up Alabama work with Mr. White. However, since the final draft of the True Romance script kept Clarence alive (perhaps due to the influence of Tony Scott), we’ll all just have to assume that something happened in Mexico that drove Alabama out of hiding and back into a life of crime.
9. The Horse Jamie Fox Rides in Django Unchained Belongs to Him in Real Life
Before Django Unchained went into production, several actors were in the running to play the lead role. However, Jamie Foxx proved he had the right stuff for the part after introducing Tarantino to his horse, Cheetah. Foxx received the chestnut horse as a birthday gift in 2008 and he just knew that together they were destined to make movie magic. In an interview with HitFix.com Fox said: “I wanted to play the part and I was saying, listen I’m going to put my bid in like nobody else, I know you need somebody to ride a horse and I have a horse.”
But even as an experienced equestrian, Foxx had a few difficulties riding on set. Having no previous acting experience, Cheetah was constantly being spooked by all of the people around. Though she eventually settled into her role as Django’s faithful steed Tony, there were still a few scenes in the movie where a stunt horse had to be used.
8. Bruce Willis Didn’t Get an Acting Credit in Four Rooms For Legal Reasons
Four Rooms is an anthology featuring four intertwining stories made by four writers and four directors. Each of the four directors, which included Alexandre Rockwell, Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, were responsible for one segment of the film.
Having become friends on the set of Pulp Fiction, Bruce Willis did a solid for Tarantino and appeared in the director’s Four Rooms segment, titled “The Man from Hollywood.” However, Willis did this without accepting any form of monetary payment which, according to the Screen Actors Guild, is a big no-no. To avoid a potential lawsuit against him, Willis was never given a credit for appearing in the film.
7. The Connection Between Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction
One of the funniest moments in Pulp Fiction is the scene where Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) visits young Butch and tells him the story of how he carried Butch’s deceased father’s watch up his ass for two years in a Vietnamese prison camp. But there’s another Koons character who is referenced in Django Unchained, though he never actually appears on the screen. The reference comes in the form of a wanted poster that lists Crazy Craig Koons as a member of the Smitty Bacall gang. Judging by the periods in which the two films take place, that would make Captain Koons something like the great great grandson of Crazy Craig Koons.
6. Anne Frank’s Signature is on The Bear Jew’s Bat in Inglourious Basterds
Played by Tarantino’s long-time friend and fellow director Eli Roth, Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz is one of the most memorable characters from Inglourious Basterds. In the movie, The Bear Jew is known for carrying around a baseball bat that he uses to knock the brains out of Nazi skulls.
According to supplementary details provided in the original script, after Donny purchased the bat in Boston he asked a bunch of his friends and neighbors to write on it the name of a loved residing in Europe who is in great danger. The scene was even filmed and included in the Cannes Film Festival screening before being removed for the general release.
In a revised script, it’s noted that Donny simply collects the signatures of various Jewish people that he meets along the way. Although you can’t see many of the markings on the bat in the movie, the script mentions that there’s one particularly distinguished signature on there — Anne Frank’s.
5. The Connection Between Inglourious Basterds and The Hateful Eight
The most recent Tarantino inter-movie relationship comes in the form of The Hateful Eight’s English Pete Hicox. Though he’s under the guise of alleged hangman Oswaldo Mobray at first, English Pete is later revealed to be an outlaw member of Jody Domerge’s band of villains. The revelation of his name would indicate that he’s in a distant ancestor of Archie Hicox, the similarly disingenuous Englishman who assisted in Hitler’s assassination in Inglourious Basterds.
Eli Roth has confirmed the connection himself. However, the exact lineage isn’t quite made clear. The best we can guess is that English Pete is probably Archie’s great great grandfather.
4. Kill Bill Features a Perfectly Timed Fight Scene
Pretty well all of the fight scenes in Kill Bill are masterful displays of timing and choreography, however, unless you had a stopwatch with you while you were watching, you probably didn’t know just how expertly timed one of the scenes is.
When Uma Thurman’s character The Bride faces off in a duel against Lucy Liu’s character O-Ren Ishii, just before their swords clash O-Ren says in Japanese “I hope you saved your energy. If you haven’t, you might not last five minutes.” Through no coincidence, from the moment the battle music starts (an excellent instrumental track by Santa Esmeralda titled Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood) to the killing slash that leaves O-Ren brutally scalped, the fight lasts exactly four minutes and 59 seconds.
3. Leonardo DiCaprio Personally Requested His Role as Calvin Candie in Django Unchained
Tarantino is well known for personally going out and handpicking all the actors and actresses that appear in his movies. But, after reading the script for Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio reached out to Tarantino and asked if he could be considered for the villainous role of Mississippi plantation owner Calvin Candie.
In an interview with Playboy, Tarantino said: “Leo was younger than I had initially written, but I read it again and could see no reason why the character couldn’t be younger. And since I’m hitting hard this notion of the American South re-creating European aristocracy in this amateur make-it-up-as-you-go-along fashion, the notion of him as the boy emperor was cool.”
Most people would probably agree that DiCaprio did a pretty great job in his first “bad guy” role. Though according to those on set, he struggled a lot at first with the abundant use of the n-word, he spilled his blood for the part. In the climactic scene where Candie discovers the true intentions of his guests, DiCaprio was supposed to slam his fist down on the dinner table in a fit of rage. But in the take that made it into the movie, he accidentally brings his fist down directly on a drinking glass, shattering it to bits and bloodying his hand in the process. Like a true professional, DiCaprio kept going, even using the bloody hand as a new dramatic prop and wiping it all over the face of co-star Kerry Washington who appears to be genuinely horrified in the scene.
2. The Connection Between Kill Bill and Django Unchained
In Django Unchained, it’s said that Dr. King Schultz moved to America from his wealthy family in Germany and began practicing dentistry until 1853 before deciding to become a bounty hunter and eventually dying in 1859. According to an enduring theory, at some point in the 1840s or 1850s, King married a young woman who ended up leaving him around the time he became a bounty hunter and subsequently outliving him by about 35 years.
Credibility for this theory can be found in Kill Bill, Vol. 2 when The Bride is buried alive in the grave of King’s supposed wife — Paula Schultz. It’s thought that, since separating from King, Paula lived a lonely life, ultimately dying alone and being buried in a “Lonely Grave.”
1. Nobody Can Explain What the Title “Reservoir Dogs” Means
There have been plenty of rumors thrown around as to what the title refers to. In the past, Tarantino has told various film studio representatives that the term “reservoir dog” was used by gangsters in French films like Breathless and Bande A Parte. According to Tarantino, a “reservoir dog” was defined as being akin to a snitch or a rat, however, it was later reported that he just made up that interpretation to appease investors.
Another story implies that the name came from Taratino’s days working at a video store. It’s said that when he suggested that a customer rent the movie Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants, they misheard the title as “reservoir dogs”. But this was disproven by Dale Sherman, a Tarantino expert who wrote in one of his books that Au Revoir Les Enfants wouldn’t have even been available to rent at the time Tarantino was a video store clerk.
To date, Tarantino has never given a clear, credible explanation for the title, so we’ll just have to on speculating.