In 1993, fresh off the unexpected success of Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino—Hollywood's hottest up-and-coming filmmaker—teamed up with already-legendary director Tony Scott (Top Gun) to make True Romance. Though the film, which follows the chaotic relationship between a kung fu movie-loving, Elvis Presley-obsessed comic book store employee and a prostitute, flopped in its initial release, it has gained a large cult following in the more than 20 years since. Here are some facts about the film that will not condescend you, man.
1. IT WAS QUENTIN TARANTINO’S FIRST SCREENPLAY.
In the original script, Clarence Worley (Christian Slater's character) wrote the screenplay for Natural Born Killers while traveling cross-country with Alabama. But the script ended up being over 500 pages long, so Tarantino decided to split it up into separate movies.
2.TONY SCOTT WANTED TO DIRECT BOTH TRUE ROMANCE AND RESERVOIR DOGS.
Because he was still new to the business, Tarantino knew he couldn't direct both movies. So he gave both scripts to Tony Scott and told him to pick one. Though Scott wanted both of the films, he ended up choosing True Romance, leaving Tarantino to make Reservoir Dogs.
3. TARANTINO AND SCOTT HAD DIFFERENT ACTRESSES IN MIND FOR ALABAMA.
Tarantino envisioned Joan Cusack. Scott was “obsessed” with Drew Barrymore, according to Patricia Arquette: "He had pictures of her wearing little outfits. But I think she was unavailable."
4. VAL KILMER WANTED TO PLAY CLARENCE.
Kilmer went so far as to send Tony Scott recordings of himself reading the part (the two had worked together on Top Gun). Once he was forced to settle on playing Elvis Presley, Kilmer would call Scott late at night singing Elvis songs.
5. SCOTT MADE CHRISTIAN SLATER WATCH TAXI DRIVER.
On the first day of shooting it became clear that Slater and Scott had different ideas on how to play Clarence, so Scott gave his star a copy of Taxi Driver and told him to watch it as homework. For what it's worth, Tarantino had Robert Carradine in mind for Clarence when he was writing his script.
6. GARY OLDMAN'S DREXL SPIVEY HAS A LOT IN COMMON WITH DRACULA.
Oldman had his Dracula wigmaker work his magic on Drexl's dreadlock wig, and he sported one of his eyes from the same movie. His 70-year-old mother was on set each day and he would solicit her opinions on his performance.
7. TOM SIZEMORE GOT JAMES GANDOLFINI IN THE MOVIE.
Sizemore was initially cast as Gandolfini’s character, Virgil. But he wasn't comfortable with a scene that required him to beat up Patricia Arquette, so he asked to play Cody Nicholson instead. When Scott asked Sizemore who should play Virgil instead, he suggested Gandolfini, a then-unknown actor whom he knew from the New York theater world.
8. TO GET INTO CHARACTER, GANDOLFINI DIDN’T WASH HIS UNDERWEAR.
During his stay in a squalid hotel without a phone, Gandolfini rarely used the shower. After he noticed Christopher Walken (Vincenzo Coccotti) decline earplugs for the scene where Dennis Hopper (Clifford Worley) gets shot, Gandolfini decided to do the same. He couldn’t hear for three days.
9. ELVIS PRESLEY’S ESTATE WOULDN’T ALLOW THE USE OF ANY OF THE KING'S MUSIC.
This ruined Tony Scott’s plans to use an Elvis song during the opening scene. It’s also why Val Kilmer’s Elvis character is referred to as “Mentor” in the credits. At least they were able to name Alabama and Clarence’s son Elvis (he was played by Arquette’s son, Enzo Rossi).
10. KEVIN CORRIGAN REMINDED AN ACTOR OF AN ACTUAL GANGSTER.
Gangster character actor Frank Adonis called Corrigan “Mad Dog” in True Romance because he reminded him of the hitman Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll from the 1920s and '30s. Corrigan’s actual character name “Marvin” was never spoken or shown in the movie.
11. TONY SCOTT SLAPPED PATRICIA ARQUETTE ON SET.
He did so with her permission, and by the end of shooting she was asking for the “persuader” to be able to act in key scenes.
12. DENNIS HOPPER WAS RIGHTFULLY FEARFUL OF THE PROP GUN.
While the gun was filled with blanks, it released flames from the side. To prove it was safe, Scott had a crew member shoot him with the gun. As Scott started to bleed as a result of the demonstration, he acknowledged that an alternative approach was necessary. Hopper wasn’t alone in his insistence on gun safety; Gary Oldman wore a metal cup, just in case.
13. TARANTINO HAS SAID THE BEST SCENE HE EVER WROTE WAS IN THIS MOVIE.
He thought the "Sicilian" scene was his finest work—until he wrote the start to Inglourious Basterds.
14. BOTH BRONSON PINCHOT AND MICHAEL RAPAPORT HATED ROLLER COASTERS.
Pinchot admitted that he “was terrified” filming the roller coaster scene. “I had to do it twice with Christian and then got off and had vertigo and the whole thing and Tony said, ‘Bronny, I’d like to do a neat close-up of you so can you go again. I’d like to take Christian out of the seat and mount a camera there and send you up by yourself.’ … I don’t know why I did it, but I did it—and he made me do it three more times. In the end I was crying and dry heaving.”
Rapaport's protests also fell on deaf ears; he only threw up after going on his first trip. On his second, he was high on Quaaludes.
15. BRAD PITT IMPROVISED MOST OF HIS LINES.
After appearing in Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise in 1991, Brad Pitt was quickly on his way to the top of the Hollywood A-list—and it was the actor himself who asked to play the role of Floyd, Michael Rapaport's stoner roommate. "Brad Pitt ... called and said, 'Why don’t you let me play the roommate?,'" the late director recalled in 2008. "I said, “Are you serious? F***ing yes!' because he was on the bloom of stardom." Added James Gandolfini: "Everybody was young and nuts. Brad Pitt was around, too. I don’t think he was 'Brad Pitt' then, but he was great. I just had to watch him and say, 'What a f***in’ flake.' He improvised a lot."
16. SCOTT CHANGED TARANTINO’S ENDING.
Quentin had Clarence die; Scott decided that the movie deserved a happier ending. The only other difference between Tarantino’s script and Scott’s interpretation was presenting the movie linearly; Tarantino wrote True Romance as a nonlinear adventure, similar to the style of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
17. BOB DOLE WAS NOT A FAN.
Two years after its release, Senator and U.S. President hopeful Bob Dole cited both True Romance and Natural Born Killers as movies that “revel in mindless violence and loveless sex” in a speech directed at film executives to put out more family-oriented films.
18. A YOUNG JACK BLACK WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.
Black played an usher at the movie theater where Christian took in a Sonny Chiba triple bill.