One of the best films of the entire 1990s, True Romance tells the story of an ex call girl called Alabama (played by Patricia Arquette) and her husband Clarence (played by Christian Slater) who find themselves on the run from the Mafia after they steal a shipment of drugs from Alabama’s former pimp.
As well as being a truly great film, True Romance has one of the greatest ensemble casts of all time, featuring as it does Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, the late James Gandolfini and the actor who plays the ghost of Elvis Presley, who we’ll come onto later.
Below are 10 things that you probably didn’t know about this brilliant 1993 crime romance, which Janet Maslin of The New York Times described as a “vibrant, grisly, gleefully amoral road movie,” and which Empire magazine ranked as the 83rd greatest film of all time in 2017.
10. It was written by a young and inexperienced Quentin Tarantino
True Romance was Quentin Tarantino’s very first screenplay, written before he wrote and directed his breakout hit Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino had originally planned to direct the film himself, but he eventually changed his mind and sold the script, giving the late director Tony Scott the choice to direct either True Romance or Reservoir Dogs, from which he chose the former.
9. It could have starred Drew Barrymore or Joan Cusack
It was Patricia Arquette who eventually played Alabama Whitman, giving one of the best performances of her career, but both Quentin Tarantino and director Tony Scott initially had other ideas.
Because Tarantino had written the role with Joan Cusack in mind, whilst according to Arquette, Tony Scott was obsessed with casting Drew Barrymore. “He had pictures of her wearing little outfits,” Arquette revealed, “but I think she was unavailable.”
8. The lead characters both died in Tarantino’s screenplay
In Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay both Alabama and Clarence are killed at the end of the story, but director Tony Scott decided to let them both live, saying “I just fell in love with these two characters and didn’t want to see them die.”
Tarantino was initially against his ending being changed, but after viewing the finished film, which saw both of the lead characters survive, he changed his mind.
7. Tom Sizemore asked to play a different character due to a particularly violent scene
Tom Sizemore was set to play Virgil, but because he wasn’t keen to act out the scene in which his character would beat up Patricia Arquette’s Alabama, he asked to be given a different role.
Sizemore was eventually given the part of Cody instead, with the late James Gandolfini playing the character he had turned down.
6. It’s Val Kilmer playing the apparition of Elvis Presley
We suspect you’ll remember the apparition of Elvis Presley that appears to Elvis fan Clarence in the film, but did you know who took on the role of the legend from Graceland?
It was Val Kilmer, who was initially keen to take on the role of Clarence that Christian Slater would eventually be cast in. Unfortunately filmmakers were not permitted to use Elvis’ name or music, so Kilmer, whose face is largely hidden from view in all of his scenes, was only referred to as ‘mentor’ in the credits.
5. Patricia Arquette gave Tony Scott permission to slap her
So she could get into character for some of her more emotionally grueling scenes, Patricia Arquette gave director Tony Scott permission to slap her.
And perhaps the late director felt guilty, because at the end of the shoot he gifted Arquette the gorgeous pink Cadillac that can be seen a number of times in the film.
4. The famous ‘Sicilian scene’ was based on a story that Tarantino heard in real life
The famous ‘Sicilian scene’ between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, which has been described as “one of the most beautiful tête-à-têtes in contemporary cinema,” was based on a story that Quentin Tarantino heard in real life.
Tarantino revealed that he “heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought: ‘Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that’.”
3. One of Gary Oldman’s eyes was recycled from his role as Dracula
Gary Oldman, whose character Drexl Spivey has been described of the greatest bad guys in movie history, sought help from a legendary vampire to perfect his look.
Because Oldman used the same wig-maker that created his hair in the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula to craft Drexl’s dreadlocks, whilst he also sported one of Dracula’s contact lenses from the same film.
2. Brad Pitt improvised the majority of his lines
True Romance sees Brad Pitt playing stoner Floyd, one of the more oddball roles that the Hollywood legend has taken during his long career. “[Pitt] was great,” James Gandolfini recalled. “He improvised a lot.”
Judd Apatow has also revealed that Floyd was the inspiration for the 2008 film Pineapple Express, saying “I thought it would be funny to make a movie in which you follow that character out of his apartment and watch him get chased by bad guys.”
1. It was a failure at the box office but is now considered a classic
Despite receiving positive reviews, True Romance proved to be a failure at the box office, only just making back its $12.5 million budget.
It went on to build a strong cult following after being released on VHS however, and is now considered by many, including us, to be one of the best films of the 1990s.