Roger Avary - Career - Quentin Tarantino, True Romance, and Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino, True Romance, and Pulp Fiction

When in 1981, Video Out-Takes co-owner Lance Lawson (a name that comes up repeatedly in Avary and Tarantino's films) left to open the now famous Video Archives Avary went along, writing the store's database program with fellow 6502 programmer Andy Blinn on an Atari 800 computer. Under the vision of Lawson, Video Archives became a gathering place for a group of cinephiles, who became known as "Archivists". Among this group, Avary met an odd and brilliant film enthusiast, Quentin Tarantino. The two became friends, introducing each other to their favorite films.

Early in his career, Avary made a number of contributions to some of Quentin Tarantino's movies. He worked as a cinematographer on Tarantino's unfinished first film, My Best Friend's Birthday. He had at one point written a script called "The Open Road" which Tarantino rewrote. Avary took on the producer's role, and he and Tarantino tried unsuccessfully for several years to get funding so that Tarantino could direct the script himself. Eventually, the script was sold to French producer Samuel Hadida and became the movie True Romance. Since Tarantino was busy prepping Reservoir Dogs, Avary was hired with Tarantino's consent by Tony Scott and Hadida to work as a script doctor on the material, a job which included bringing the length down, reforming the narrative to a linear fashion, and writing a more commercial ending where the Clarence character is not killed.

When the Paul Brothers, a pair of wealthy bodybuilders who wanted to get into the movies, offered Tarantino funding for his script Natural Born Killers on the condition he include a scene featuring them, he could not write it out of disgust, and asked Avary to write it as a favor. The scene, known as the "Hun Brothers" scene, was described by Oliver Stone as the best scene in the script. It was, however, cut from the final film because, as Stone is quoted as saying on the Natural Born Killers special edition laserdisc, "I fucked it up." Avary co-wrote the background radio dialogue in Reservoir Dogs (1992), and designed the "Dog Eat Dog" logo which appeared in the end credits.

Most notably, Avary contributed material which, combined with Tarantino's, formed the basis of Pulp Fiction (1994) for which he and Tarantino won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Earlier in their careers, Tarantino and Avary had planned on making an anthology movie comprising three short films; one written and directed by Avary, one written and directed by Tarantino, and one written and directed by a third filmmaker, reportedly Adam Rifkin. When the third filmmaker never materialized, Tarantino and Avary took their respective stories and expanded them into full length screenplays separately. Tarantino's story became Reservoir Dogs, and Avary's story became "Pandemonium Reigns". "Pandemonium Reigns" ended up forming the basis of the "Gold Watch" chapter of Pulp Fiction (an earlier version of his website displayed an excerpt from "Pandemonium Reigns", illustrating the changes that were made by Tarantino when writing "The Gold Watch"), and other odd scenes Avary had written during his rewrite of True Romance were reworked and incorporated into the Pulp Fiction script, such as the accidental shooting of Marvin, and the scene in which the bullets fired at Jules and Vincent miss their targets. Tarantino and Avary got together in Amsterdam shortly after the release of Reservoir Dogs, and pasted each other's scenes together into a first draft, after which Avary left to film Killing Zoe, leaving Tarantino to continue subsequent writing of Pulp Fiction. Avary's bizarre 1994 Oscar speech (for Best Original Screenplay) consisted of "I want to thank my beautiful wife, Gretchen, who I love more than anyone else in the world...I'm gonna go now 'cause I really got to take a pee." The "pee comment" was a reference to all five films nominated in 1994 for Best Picture having a key scene where a character excuses themselves to use the bathroom.

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