Quentin Tarantino Just Followed George Clooney's Lead During From Dusk Till Dawn

Quentin Tarantino: Great director, terrible actor, right? That said, you have to admire the brass neck on the guy, giving himself the opening monologue of "Reservoir Dogs" while sitting around a table with Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, and the gang. To be fair, he really sold the "Like a Virgin" speech, hitting that perfect note of Tarantinoesque smartassery that makes his interviews so compulsively listenable.

The less said about the N-word-happy Jimmy in "Pulp Fiction" and the human trafficker with a terrible Aussie accent in "Django Unchained" the better, but Tarantino's best acting performance to date came in Robert Rodriguez's pulpy crime-vampire hybrid "From Dusk Till Dawn." He played the loose cannon Richie, the totally unhinged half of the Gecko Brothers, opposite George Clooney in his first major film role.

Tarantino's geeky deviant was a nice contrast to the smoldering intensity of Clooney's Seth, which the "ER" heartthrob played with burning determination and plenty of edgy charisma. It's interesting to watch Clooney's performance again at a distance of 25 years, now we're used to him as Hollywood royalty. It was a real statement of intent, as if he saw this was his big chance and there was absolutely no way he was going to screw it up; and if he did, he was going to leave it all up there on the screen. In the presence of a breakthrough star grabbing his opportunity with both hands, all Tarantino needed to do was hold on tight and follow his on-screen brother's lead.

Tarantino and Clooney were like brothers on set

During interviews promoting "From Dusk Till Dawn" at the time, both actors were quick to hype their great relationship while making the film. Clooney said:

"Quentin and I got along really well. We both have the same kind of nervous energy, you know, I'm always like this [fidgeting] and he's always like, 'You know, yeah, like this guy, man, like, whoa!'"

That chemistry really comes across in "Full Tilt Boogie," the behind-the-scenes documentary about the film, which opens with Tarantino and Clooney swaggering to set in their seedy Gecko Brothers attire to "Stayin' Alive." Along the way, they banter, shove autograph-hunting fanboys aside by their face, but stop to sign photos for eager young women. It's all staged, but the scene really gives an insight into the kind of relationship the two stars had on set, later demonstrated further by them goofing around together between takes. Tarantino talked more about their dynamic:

"We just worked in a relationship all the time. Just worked on the brother bond. Which was easy to do, because we're both kind of going through the same thing, and also, I mean, that's so much a thing in the movie, you know? I follow Seth's lead, that is my job alright, as his brother. And I just completely trusted George to lead me there, and wherever he would go, I would follow. George just kind of took care of me throughout the whole movie, the way Seth takes care of Richie, and it was very sweet, and it was very wonderful, and it paid off in tremendous dividends I think, for my opinion, as far as what we did together."

Does From Dusk Till Dawn still hold up?

As far as vampire stripper movies go, "From Dusk Till Dawn" is easily the "Citizen Kane" of a very narrow field. It feels like a film that could have only been made at a very specific time when Tarantino was the hottest thing in Hollywood after "Pulp Fiction" and Rodriguez wasn't far behind, having just remade his micro-budget calling card "El Mariachi" as "Desperado."

Working from a script that Tarantino was hired to write while he was still a video clerk, it's packed with stuff to delight gore hounds and B-movie junkies like himself. You've got badasses in black suits, guys sticking guns in each other's faces, a desert strip joint called the T***y Twister, Cheech Marin's "P***y Lover" spiel, Salma Hayek dancing with a snake and toe-suckling Tarantino with tequila, plus cameos from exploitation legends like Fred Williamson and Michael Parks. That's all before the strippers turn into bloodsuckers and start chowing down on their clientele; it's like Halloween in Tarantino's head, and he couldn't look happier.

While the vampire bloodbath is tons of fun and showcases some inventively gruesome special effects, it comes as a minor letdown after the crime thriller first half. That's where the meat of the movie is, with the interplay between the dangerous Gecko Brothers and the family they waylay to smuggle them over the border into Mexico. Nevertheless, the disparate elements of "From Dusk Till Dawn" still work because of the relationship between Richie and Seth. They may be violent criminals, but their bond gives the film an unexpectedly effective emotional core. Tarantino's surprisingly good performance is a big part of this, working so well off Clooney as he smashed his way onto the big screen, never to look back.