The stories about Lawrence Tierney are crazy. With his deep, raspy voice, he had his big break in Hollywood in 1945 playing gangster John Dillinger. Forty-one years later, his character Joe Cabot in “Reservoir Dogs” remarked that one of his minions was “dead as Dillinger.” Adapting bookends to a career filled with bar fights, arrests and, thanks to Tierney’s love of the bottle, several missed opportunities. Tierney went on to play tough guys in films like San Quentin, The Devil Thumbs a Ride, Born to Kill, and an Academy Award-winning best picture The Greatest Show on Earth. But his career has been tarnished by his tendency to get into trouble, including a 1973 incident in which he was stabbed to death in a Manhattan bar.
That said, it makes sense that Tarantino, who would later revive the careers of actors John Travolta, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster, would cast Tierney as Joe Cabot. Unsurprisingly, the experience was filled with excitement. Speaking of Tierney’s time on set, Tarantino told The Guardian: “Tierney was a complete lunatic… he just needed to be sedated. He personally challenged every aspect of the filmmaking… And in the last 20 minutes of the first week we blew out and got into a fistfight.” Tarantino fired Tierney, who went home, fired a shotgun at his nephew, and ended up in jail. Tierney , who continued to play small roles throughout the ’90s, died in 2002 at the age of 82.