How Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ Inspired Chris Rock to Write the First Scene of ‘Spiral’

One of the best scenes of “Spiral” comes at the start, when Chris Rock’s undercover detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks takes a revisionist approach to “Forrest Gump.” A group of ignorant thieves sit back and listen while Zeke goes off about how poor Forrest (Tom Hanks) is exploited by long-time love interest Jenny (Robin Wright) until she decides to sleep with him toward the end of her life. Ergo: Jenny is the villain of “Forrest Gump.”

Or, as Zeke puts it: “Forrest Gump made a billion dollars selling shrimp, and Jenny still won’t fuck him!”

It’s a twisted punchline to open the latest entry in a series mostly known for hacking people to death in depraved Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, and makes it clear that Rock — who originated the idea for this sequel — clearly had input on the screenplay, even if he doesn’t have a writing credit. As IndieWire’s David Ehrlich writes in his review, “This may be a ‘Saw’ movie starring Chris Rock, but it’s also a Chris Rock movie set in the ’Saw’ universe.”

In an interview with IndieWire this week, director Darren Lynn Bouseman said that the “Forrest Gump” monologue wasn’t just Rock’s idea; it actually replaced the original opening of the movie. “Originally the script has Chris’ introduction very different,” Bouseman said. “He was introduced busting a weed dispensary. He came to me maybe five days before shooting and said, ‘I gotta do better, it’s the introduction of my character.’”

Rock talked extensively about Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” particularly its iconic opening scene, which finds the central gangsters debating the meaning of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” The result humanizes its characters before revealing their deep moral failings and the crime at the movie’s center. “Chris is a big fan of ‘Reservoir Dogs,’” Bouseman said. “This was like his homage. He came to me the next day after we talked about the opening, handed me his pages, and said, ‘It should be something like this.’”

That gave co-writers Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg a template for the scene. “What’s great about Chris is that he’s very opinionated and will make off-handed comments about movie characters that make you go, ‘Fuck, he’s right,’” Bouseman said. “Jenny is a villain!”

Rock was a vocal presence throughout much of the screenwriting process. “It was a surreal experience because I grew up not only loving his comedy specials but even the cheesy movies he did, like ‘Beverly Hills Ninja’ and ‘New Jack City,’” Bouseman said. As with the “Forrest Gump” scene, Rock would often reimagine the script through his own distinctive lens. “He’d take scenes that Josh and Pete would write and then Rockify them,” Bouseman said. “He’d be like, ‘No, this is how I’d say it.’”

That led to the final step in the process, when a detective would consult on the interplay between the police officers in the movie. “We had a homicide detective come in and say things like, ‘You guys are talking too much proper English, no one in our department talks like this!’” Bouseman said. “So after scenes were Rockified, they’d get detectified.”

“Spiral, from the Book of Saw” is now in theaters from Lionsgate.

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