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It’s hard to believe there was a time that Samuel L. Jackson was not a movie screen mainstay, or that there was a time when Quentin Tarantino didn’t just give the guy whatever role he wanted. It’s true though. Jackson once read for a part in Reservoir Dogs though he did not get the part. Why not? It was that motherfucker Tarantino’s fault.
Speaking with Vulture, Jackson (who uses the expletive lovingly in reference to his dear friend Quentin Tarantino) opens up about the audition that did not go well at all. After making a splash with Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, Jackson went in to read for a part in a new film for an unknown screenwriter. He thought he would be reading with Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel. Instead, he did his reading with a couple of guys who didn’t know the lines and could not stop laughing. Jackson, on the other hand, had walked in with lines memorized ready to work. The two styles did not mesh, which resulted in a bad audition for Samuel L., since the other two jokers were producer Lawrence Bender and Tarantino himself.
Jackson apparently still made an impression on the young screenwriter, however. When the two bumped into each other at Dogs premier at Cannes, Tarantino informed Jackson that he was writing something new with him in mind. Two weeks later the actor received the script for Pulp Fiction, which would, of course, go on to make Samuel L. Jackson a household name.
Jackson chalks up the bad audition to the fact that he has an expectation that other actors should be as prepared as he is. It actually starts to sound like Jackson may not have been able to, or may not have tried to, hide his frustration with Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino. It’s possible the line reading itself went ok, but they decided not to go with Jackson because he didn’t handle the situation well. Today, nobody would be surprised by this.
While it’s hard to view Reservoir Dogs any other way today, it’s difficult to say that Jackson would not have added something special to the film. Once Jackson had the opportunity, he stole the show in Pulp Fiction, so he likely would have done the same here. It’s not mentioned which role he was reading for. While it likely wasn’t Roth’s Mr. Orange or Keitel’s Mr. White, it’s possible the two actors were reading different roles at the time. We already have some evidence of that in rehearsal footage.
The rest, as they say, is history. Jackson and Tarantino are about to release their sixth collaboration, The Hateful Eight, on Christmas Day in glorious 70mm. Whatever issues Tarantino had with Jackson back in the early '90’s are now long gone.