The 15 Best Small Roles in Quentin Tarantino Movies
What innovative director Quentin Tarantino has done best since his inspiring emergence of 1992’s heist thriller, the fundamental “Reservoir Dogs”, is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder, some would argue it’s his captivating storytelling and smart narrative direction, whilst others would debate it’s his unique, stylised flair, self-aware panache and ground-breaking helming that most significantly defines him.
Whereas again, others may suggest it’s his flawless ability to craft intriguing and compelling characters that help enrich his illustrious cinematic worlds.
Throughout his celebrated career as a filmmaker, Tarantino has consistently provided audiences with a significant number of charismatic and fascinating lead characters in the form of colour coded bank robbers, wise-cracking hitmen, drug-fuelled temptresses, revenge-consumed samurai brides, conniving Nazis, bloodthirsty sadistic stuntmen, slaves, dentists, bounty hunters, lunatic-slaver-Francophiles, and conspiratorial cowboys to name a mere few.
Away from his highly varying list of imitable leads, the pioneering QT has also managed to expertly fashion a considerable number of small characters that can quite frequently become as notoriously remarkable as the films predominant central entities, whilst only appearing in a small segment of a pieces overall running time. Here are the fifteen finest small characters created in a Quentin Tarantino film.
15. Esmeralda Villaobos in Pulp Fiction (1994) – Angela Jones
Only appearing in one inconsequential scene throughout Tarantino’s crowning masterpiece “Pulp Fiction”, Esmeralda Villaobos is the mysterious taxi driver who assists in Bruce Willis’ runaway boxer Butch Coolidge’s getaway after he deceivingly double-crosses Marcellus Wallace, taking off with the money and winning a boxing bout he was meant to take a dive in, incorrectly not ‘putting his ass down in the fifth’ as he was specifically told to do.
Alluring and curious, Esmeralda is highly intrigued by Willis’ Butch, and furthermore considerably fascinated with death and the act of murder. Her dulcet tones and inquisitive nature perfectly compliment that of a fatigued and submissive Bruce Willis, portraying how apathetic he is about the haunting fact that he had just ended a man’s life in the boxing ring, a troubling concept as though it’s a second nature to him. This created a truly bizarre and profoundly mesmerising scene that for just a few moments appears as though it’s an entirely different film.
Angela Jones was given the role of Esmeralda Villaobos after Quentin Tarantino watched her in a thirty minute short called “Curdled” in which she plays a young Miami woman who loves her job cleaning up murder scenes. Later, Tarantino would proceed to fund a full length version of the short.
Memorable Quote: “What does it feel like to kill a man with your bare hands? It’s a topic I’m very interested in.”
14. Vernita Green in Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003) – Vivica A. Fox
The first of five deadly assassins on Uma Thurman’s betrayed anti-hero The Bride’s hit list, Vernita Green, also known as Copperhead is found to be retired in her only fundamental scene, living a suburban, white picket fence lifestyle with her husband and young daughter, Nikkia, when she is rediscovered by the revenge-driven Beatrix Kiddo.
The subsequent finding instantly leads to a severe episode of domestic violence in the first film, as the two women go hand to hand in a bloody and ruthlessly brutal scrap that perfectly sets the ferocious tone for the remainder of the two fierce volumes.
Part of the dubbed ‘Deadly Viper Assassination Squad’, Vernita Green became a target of The Bride due to her involvement in the Two Pines massacre that resulted in the execution of Beatrix’s fiancé, prior to her being left for dead at the hands of the callous gang.
A calculating and deceitful villain with her own best interest in mind, Vivica A. Fox faultlessly portrays the deadly Vernita Green as a strong and skilful killer whilst almost making her appear like a changed family woman midway through the scene.
Whilst the DVA Squad’s fundamental characters Ellie Driver, O-Ren-Ishii and the titular Bill are its most remarkable members, the backstabbing Green is indisputably an understated noteworthy rogue with no compassion or consideration for Thurman’s leading lady.
An essential character that has also consistently been top of the QT rumour mill, as Green’s death has often been linked to a potential source of an anticipated “Kill Bill Vol.3”, revolving around her daughter Nikkia with a desire for revenge against The Bride.
Memorable Quote: “Black Mamba. I shoulda been mother fuckin’ Black Mamba.”
13. Jody Domergue in The Hateful Eight (2015) – Channing Tatum
Be aware, there are minor plot spoilers for “The Hateful Eight” present in this section. Originally offered to the incredibly talented acting chameleon Viggo Mortensen, as the preliminary screenplay described Jody Domergue as an older, grittier husk of a man, he eventually had to decline the part due to scheduling conflicts, ultimately handing to the role to the much more youthful, clean faced Channing Tatum, who for the very first time in his career was undertaking the role of a protagonist.
It has since been suggested that the casting of Tatum is an endearing homage to Sergio Leone’s 1968 Western epic “Once Upon a Time in the West”, in which Henry Fonda was cast as the primary antagonist. At the time Fonda, much like Tatum, was best known for portraying heroic figures, and undertook the role to add shock value to scenes in which he was seen acting in an inhumane manner.
Equally as charming and calculating as he is a cold hearted killer, the outlaw Jody Domergue is the brains behind the twisted proceedings that unravel at the blood-soaked haberdashery in which the film is predominantly shot.
Revealing the masterplan and who is involved during a gore-filled flashback at the midway point of the piece, as it depicts Jody and his gang amiably leading the owners of the aforementioned venue into a false sense of security before unpityingly executing everyone on site.
Channing Tatum makes persuasive and poised work of the minor villainous role, armed with a revolver and his sharp wit, he is given adequate opportunity to smoulder and sneer his way through the piece in equal measures.
He only appears again towards the end of the film as he is temporarily reunited with his captive sister, Daisy, her rescue and their bewildering relationship being the reasoning behind the elaborate and violent strategy.
Memorable Quote: “Say adios to your huevos!”
12. Nice Guy Eddie Cabot in Reservoir Dogs (1992) – Chris Penn
Arrogant and conceited, due to the fact that his daddy, Joe Cabot, is running the operation at the centre of Quentin Tarantino’s debut feature “Reservoir Dogs”, Nice Guy Eddie, played by Chris Penn wearing his own 90’s tracksuits due to the film’s incredibly tight budget, is a typically spoilt rich kid who expects results without doing any work himself.
Playing a minor role in organising the heist, Eddie only loses his supercilious, collected and self-assured cocksure status when it comes to light that the heist has been botched, as he screams down his era-defined monumental sized mobile phone at the surviving criminals.
Clearly with an engaging penchant for his criminal father, who is the obvious source of his financial income, position of power, as well as his overconfident mannerisms, Eddie, is at a significant loss when the final Mexican-standoff showdown incurs and the circle of guns are pointed, unsure how to act when his daddy can’t help him. Eddie’s loyalty and demeanour as an easy going guy are clearly shown when his friends and family are threatened.
Captivatingly portrayed by the late Chris Penn, arguably best known for being the sibling of Sean Penn, Nice Guy Eddie’s most significant contribution to “Reservoir Dogs” proceedings is the heartless execution of the doomed police officer Marvin Nash, the unfortunate captive and eventual torture victim of Michael Madsen’s sadistic Mr Blonde.
Memorable Quote: “If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it so.”
11. Sgt Donny ‘The Bear Jew’ Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Eli Roth
Given undoubtedly one of the finest screen entrances in all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, the dubious director, actor and close friend of QT, Eli Roth was gifted the minor role of Sergeant Donny Donowitz, a member of the titular Basterds, better known by his hilariously remarkable nickname of ‘The Bear Jew’, a notorious American soldier wielding a baseball bat who is something of a terrifying myth amongst fearful Nazi’s in occupied France.
A dreaded legend amongst the Reich ranks, he is introduced by the sound of his legendary bat hitting against the side of a shadowy tunnel, the lashing of crafted wood on the underpass masonry coordinated perfectly with wincing eyes, sobbing and terrified expressions of the captive German troops before he emerges to the sound of uproarious cheers, grinning, and ready to hit a home run with his disreputable bat.
In a scene that was eventually cut from the final production, Donny Donowitz’s intriguing backstory is showcased, portraying him as a former Jewish hairdresser in Boston, who upon becoming angered by the many thousands of deaths of his people around Europe, enlists in the army. Eventually being called up to serve overseas, he purchased his now infamous baseball bat and had it signed by a number of Jews, including that of Anne Frank.
Eli Roth, who is not known for his expert acting abilities, is only given a handful of lines throughout the film, providing him just enough of a memorable presence without becoming a jarring entity. Undertaking the role after Adam Sandler originally rejected the part, Roth packed on an impressive 35 pounds in muscle to play the soldier.
Overall Eli Roth manages to craft an unforgettable minor character in “Inglourious Basterds”, who is effortlessly cool, and unquestionably deserving of his place in the piece, a highly Tarantino-esque creation.
Memorable Quote: “You get that for killing Jews?”
10. Earl McGraw in Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003)/ Death Proof (2007) – Michael Parks
Appearing in not only “Kill Bill Vol.1”, but 2007’s “Death Proof” as well as the QT penned, Robert Rodriguez directed cult classic “From Dusk ‘til Dawn”.
Despite the outlined family connections and constant referencing of other films throughout, officer of the law Earl McGraw portrayed by Michael Parks, along with his son Edgar, played by real life son James Parks are the only true Tarantino characters to traverse the director’s movie universe directly.
Texas Ranger Earl McGraw was originally executed by The Gecko Brothers in “From Dusk ‘til Dawn” way back in the 90’s, Quentin Tarantino himself as the murderous Richie Gecko delivering a fatal gunshot to the back of the Ranger’s head during the film’s opening liquor store robbery.
That being said, it hasn’t stopped the tenacious Earl McGraw reappearing in a number of other film’s since his initial death as the law cannot be killed.
Appearing in “Kill Bill Vol.1”, Earl and Edgar are the first officers on the scene to investigate the Two Pines Massacre, the proceedings of which set up the brace of revenge films, whilst Earl is again present at another grisly crime scene to probe the psychotic Stuntman Mike in the aftermath of the brutal slaying of five women in “Death Proof”. Speaking in a thick Texan accent, delivering profanity laden dialogue; the tobacco-chewing Earl McGraw is the personification of true grit.
Memorable Quote: “I’m gonna’ tell you like the lord told John; If he ever does it again, I can be goddamn sure he don’t ever do it again in Texas.”
9. Billy Crash in Django Unchained (2012) – Walton Goggins
Prior to being given significantly more room to strut on last years “The Hateful Eight”, the extraordinarily underappreciated Walton Goggins started his simpatico collaborative working with Tarantino in the critically acclaimed revenge-western “Django Unchained”, undertaking the minor role of the frequently hostile cowboy Billy Crash, one of the leading henchman of Leonardo DiCaprio’s villainous plantation owner Calvin Candie.
Attending casting auditions for a total of six characters, it is clearly evident to see the keen Goggins’ enthusiastic desire to work with the director.
Eventually undertaking a hybrid of two characters he auditioned for as the QT regular Kurt Russel dropped out at production stage due to scheduling conflicts, subsequently forming an amalgamation of the original Billy Crash, and the previously scripted Ace Woody who would have been Russel’s character.
An enforcer, Mandingo fighting coach, henchman and generally unfriendly figure at the iniquitous plantation dubbed ‘Candieland’; the highly unpleasant Billy Crash is a nasty, intimidating, confrontational and malicious side character that audiences typically love to hate. His seething hatred towards the freeman Django and consequent chemistry with his sparring partner Jamie Foxx is unfailingly absorbing.
Flawlessly executed by the believable Walton Goggins, Billy Crash is hardly the most complex of characters on display but the actor unquestionably delivers a menacing performance as the captivating antagonist who would clearly relish half an opportunity to cut the unchained leading man down.
Memorable Quote: “Oh I’ma go walking in the moonlight with you!”
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