Jason Reitman to re-create 'Reservoir Dogs' in live reading
Jason Reitman has aimed his sights at reinterpreting a new classic: Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
After re-creating The Breakfast Club, The Apartment, The Princess Bride, and Shampoo in a series of Los Angeles staged readings, Reitman has selected the 1992 crime saga for his latest one-time-only live performance with a new cast.
And there’s a big switch in store for Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. White, Mr. Orange and the rest of the diamond-heist crew.
“We’re changing the race of the entire cast,” Reitman says.
EW has the details, along with the event’s new poster by artist Matt Owen …
For a while the reading was a toss-up between The Big Chill and Reservoir Dogs, but the crime saga ultimately won out.
“If we were going to make it an all-black cast, we wanted to make sure we started with an all-white cast,” Reitman said. “What makes the Reservoir Dogs script work so well is, despite the fact that it was cast with all white actors, it really is a script that could feature any race.”
The Film Independent event happens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Feb. 16, and although tickets were sold out well before the title was announced, there will be a wait-list line for those willing to take a chance. (Unfortunately, they aren’t recorded for broadcast due to rights issues.)
Reitman’s monthly live-reads began in October as a way for the Up in the Air and Young Adult director to highlight the language in some beloved scripts by having new groups of actors read them on stage before an audience. “You can truly reinterpret a screenplay,” says Reitman, who narrates the stage directions during each show.
In past performances, Reitman cast Bradley Cooper for the Warren Beatty role in Shampoo, Steve Carell for Jack Lemmon’s part in The Apartment, and made Cary Elwes the villain Humperdinck in The Princess Bride while Paul Rudd took on Elwes’ original role of the hero Westley.
This time, in consultation with Film Independent’s Elvis Mitchell, who helps curate the event, they decided to make a more radical switch.
“We talked about the idea of changing the age, changing the gender, and of course changing the race of the characters,” Reitman says. “This is kind of the first attempt at really looking at a screenplay through a different lens, and we’ll see what happens when we do that. Maybe nothing changes, or maybe the story becomes completely different.”
The film, as it turns out, is surprisingly colorblind, given the names of its characters. But then, those code names were specifically chosen because the colors had no meaning.
The cast is still coming together, but click through the next pages for a look at who has signed on to the all-black Reservoir Dogs so far.
NEXT PAGE: The new Mr. Blonde is ….
(If you like Matt Owen’s poster, you can browse and buy more of his work here.)
Terrence Howard will play the sadistic killer who is the only thief not suspected of being an undercover police officer. As Mr. Pink puts it: “Right now, this guy is the only one I completely trust. He’s too f—ing homicidal to be working with the cops.”
Michael Madsen played the original ear-slicing role.
NEXT PAGE: The new Mr. Pink is ….
Steve Buscemi leaves behind some big, bloody shoes to fill, but The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie is going to take a walk in them for a night.
Now imagine the frustration in his voice as his whines: “Why am I Mr. Pink?”
No word on what kind of tipper Mackie is in real life.
NEXT PAGE: The new Mr. Orange is ….
Cuba Gooding Jr. will play the undercover cop who goes far deeper than he ever wanted to with this gang of robbers. Tim Roth originated the role.
Reitman says he liked Gooding’s good-guy vibe. “You can presume that he’s actually not a thug, not a crook,” he says. “I know Cuba a little bit and I like the idea of seeing him as this character, who talks a lot about the acting process and learning how to act to be undercover.”
Of course, when Mr. Orange gets shot and reflexively draws his gun and shoots a civilian, the line between good guy and bad guy gets awfully blurry.
NEXT PAGE: The new Nice Guy Eddie is ….
NICE GUY EDDIE
The late Chris Penn’s character never put on one of the generic black suits that the other robbers wear as a kind of uniform — his wardrobe was more “sleazeball casual.” As one of the organizers of the heist, he was never supposed to get close to the action anyway, until things went horribly wrong.
Anthony Anderson will be taking over this character, who not only provides a great deal of comic relief, but is one of the most vicious of the characters in Reservoir Dogs. As a guy who can be both funny and fearsome (remember his turn as the drug kingpin Antwon Mitchell on The Shield?), Anderson should fit into that track suit nicely.
NEXT PAGE: The roles still open ….Who would you choose?
With a week to go, these parts in the reading haven’t yet been cast, but feel free to make suggestions in the comments section:
The role originated by Harvey Keitel will get a slightly deeper presentation in the reading, with the addition of some scenes Tarantino left out of the finished film.
“There are three scenes in script that are not in the movie. I think we’re going to use one-and-a-half of them,” Reitman says. “There’s one scene where the police clearly identify who Harvey Keitel’s character is. There’s a lot more legwork done by the cops before the heist happens. Tim Roth has already found out who Harvey Keitel is, where he’s from, and they’re ready to pounce on him.”
It adds another layer to the relationship between the men, since Mr. White is the one who takes care of Roth’s Mr. Orange when he is suffering from a possibly mortal gunshot wound.
Quentin Tarantino gave this bit part to himself in the original, but he didn’t last too long. Mr. Brown buys it fairly early in the film (though he still has more to do than the ill-fated and expendable Mr. Blue, who has barely any lines.)
So while it’s not clear who will take over the role of Brown, he’ll need comedic skills for his one major scene: the opening meeting in a diner, where Mr. Brown opines at length about his interpretation of Madonna’s Like a Virgin.
OFFICER MARVIN NASH
In the original movie, it was one of the most shocking and vulnerable characters: a police officer (originally played by Kirk Baltz) who is strapped to a chair, doused in gasoline, and tortured by Mr. Blonde while pleading for his life. Things in the staged reading will be easier for the actor re-creating the role … unless Terrence Howard decides to go Method and pull out a container of accelerant.
The late Lawrence Tierney originated the role of Joe Cabot, who is the ringleader of the heist (and Nice Guy Eddie’s daddy). They don’t get more rough around the edges than the real-life Tierney, who went straight from a bail arraignment to the set one day after he was arrested for shooting a gun into a neighbor’s apartment, according to Tarantino.
Who could take on such a hulking role? Maybe the actual Hulk, but…there’s no CG in a live stage show. (Anyway, he’s not exactly the right hue for this experimental ensemble.)
Joe is also the one who gave the characters their colorful code names — and he didn’t allow changes. “Tried it once, doesn’t work,” Joe says. “You got four guys all fighting over who’s gonna be Mr. Black.”
Comedian Steven Wright didn’t appear on screen, but he provided the voice of this subdued deejay on a radio station that had devoted its weekend to retro-pop classics. He’s in the background, but that background includes spinning Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You while Mr. Blonde ferociously torturing the tied-up cop.