Quentin Tarantino Says Tom Waits Auditioned For Reservoir Dogs

This year, Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino’s landmark directorial debut, turns 25. And to celebrate, Tarantino recently reunited with stars Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen for an anniversary screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. After the screening, all of them talked about the experience of making the movie, and Tarantino let the audience know a few fun facts about the movie. One of them, as Variety reports, was pretty intriguing: The great musical enigma Tom Waits, who already had a pretty robust acting side-hustle at that point, auditioned for Reservoir Dogs. Here’s what Tarantino said:

We had the casting director from LA Law. A lot of really wild people came in and read the parts. Tom Waits came in and read. I had Tom Waits read the Madonna speech, just so I could hear Tom Waits say those lines. And actually, other than Harvey [Weinstein], he gave me one of the first profound compliments on the script. No one had ever told me my work was poetic before.

The Madonna speech, as Tarantino calls it, was spoken by Tarantino’s own character Mr. Brown during the movie’s famous diner scene. Here it is:

There’s no way Tarantino would’ve let anyone else give that speech in the movie. So this raises a couple of intriguing questions. Which character would Waits have played, if he’d been in it? And why wasn’t he cast? Waits was probably too old to play, say, Chris Penn’s Nice Guy Eddie character, but would the movie have been even better with Waits in a role like that?

By 1992, the year Reservoir Dogs came out, Waits had already worked with Francis Ford Coppola in The Outsiders and Rumble Fish and, more notably, he’d been the star of Jim Jarmusch’s indie classic Down By Law. (He’d also, apparently, written an episode of the TV show Fame. The things IMDB teaches you!) That same year, he played Renfield in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Waits has been in plenty of movies since, usually in glorified-cameo roles. But how would his acting career have turned out if he’d been in Reservoir Dogs?