True Romance is a 1993 American romantic crime film directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette with an ensemble cast; the film contains notable performances by some seasoned actors along with early appearances by later stars. It is billed as a "love story", albeit an unconventional one, as the plot revolves around drugs and violence. Clarence Worley (Slater) and Alabama Whitman (Arquette) attempt to start a new life for themselves using cocaine stolen from Alabama's former pimp and find themselves on the run from the Mafia, ending in a dramatic double-crossing when the police get involved.
True Romance was a breakthrough of sorts for Tarantino. It was his first screenplay, and he had hoped to direct the movie himself, but ended up selling the script.
Clarence has a vision of Elvis Presley (Val Kilmer), who convinces him that he needs to get rid of Alabama's pimp. He decides to pay a visit to Alabama's former pimp, Drexl (Gary Oldman), to get her belongings. Clarence refuses Drexl's offer to sit down, instead handing him an empty envelope "to buy himself peace of mind." A fight breaks out, and Clarence is swiftly subdued by Drexl and his doorman Marty. Drexl takes Clarence's driver's license and orders Marty to drive to his address and collect Alabama. While he is distracted, Clarence pulls a concealed gun and shoots them both dead. Clarence orders Drexl's other girls to pack up Alabama's things, and then escapes (unknowingly leaving his ID behind).
Clarence gets back and he discovers that he has taken the wrong suitcase: the one he has is full of cocaine. Clarence and Alabama then visit Clarence's estranged father (Dennis Hopper), a former cop now working as a security guard. Clarence asks him to find out if the police are looking for him; his father reports that the crime has been resolved as a gang warfare incident. Clarence departs on good terms, telling his father that he is leaving for California to visit his friend Dick (Michael Rapaport) in Hollywood. However, Clarence's lost ID allows Drexl's Mob employer, Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), to track down Clarence's father and obtain Clarence's whereabouts.
In Hollywood, Clarence shows Dick the cocaine and arranges through Dick's friend Elliot (Bronson Pinchot) to meet with an esteemed movie producer named Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek), who is interested in purchasing it. They meet Elliot at a theme park; the discussions with Elliot make Clarence uncomfortable, so he has Elliot call Donowitz, whom Clarence arranges to meet. Elliot asks for a sample and while speeding with a police car after him, accidentally spills the packet of cocaine all over himself. He is taken to the station, and detectives Nicholson (Tom Sizemore) and Dimes (Chris Penn) convince Elliot to tell them about Clarence's upcoming deal; he agrees to wear a wire at the meeting in order to stay out of jail.
Tipped off by a very stoned Floyd (Brad Pitt) who is Dick's roommate, Virgil (James Gandolfini), one of Coccotti's men, tracks down Clarence and Alabama at the Hollywood Safari Inn. When Alabama arrives alone while Clarence is getting hamburgers, Virgil attempts to beat the suitcase's location out of her. After tearing the room apart Virgil eventually finds the coke under the bed; as Virgil prepares to finish her off, Alabama manages to seriously disable and injure him with improvised weaponry, grabs his gun and kills him; when Clarence arrives he and a bloody Alabama flee with the suitcase of cocaine.
At the meeting, Donowitz (protected by a pair of heavily armed guards) buys Clarence's story and agrees to make the deal. When Clarence goes to the bathroom, the police burst in to make the arrest. Lee's bodyguard announces that he hates cops and wants to kill them; as the intensity builds, Coccotti's men then enter the room demanding their coke back. When one of the officers uses Elliot's name, Donowitz realizes Elliot is working with the police. In a moment of anger, Donowitz splashes a pot of hot coffee in Elliot's face and everyone starts firing. In the ensuing chaos, Donowitz, Elliot and the majority of the cops and mobsters are killed. Clarence walks out of the bathroom and is shot on the side of his head. Dick throws the suitcase of cocaine in the air, and the resulting shotgun blasts allow him to escape. In the aftermath, Alabama is able to get Clarence to his feet and out of the room which is about to be covered in cops. They grab the money and stagger out of the hotel as the police come swarming in, ignoring them. They drive away and the movie ends with Clarence (with an eyepatch) and Alabama on a beach in Cancún with their new son, Elvis.
Originally the screenplay began with the same "I'd fuck Elvis" scene, set before the opening credits, as the release. But the first scene in Tarantino's script is the scene where Drexl steals the cocaine. After that, the next scene was Clarence and Alabama showing up at Clarence's father's home, from which point the scene order is the same up to where Clarence and Alabama meet Dick, which ends Act I. Dick asks how they met, which leads to the theater scene, marriage, and killing of Drexl and mistaken stealing of the cocaine. Act III begins with the scene where Dick sees the cocaine, after which the scripts converge.
Tarantino, in the commentary on the unrated director's cut DVD, mentions how this structure to the three acts results in the characters in the movie knowing everything in Act I while the audience doesn't know anything; the audience catches up in Act II, and the audience knows more than the characters in Act III. This is a method commonly used in Tarantino's works.
True Romance is notable for its ensemble cast. Featured actors who were popular at the time of production include Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, and Gary Oldman. Other actors featured had yet to achieve the peak of their fame at the time, including Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, and James Gandolfini. Jack Black had a role as a movie theater attendant in a deleted scene.
Notably, some of the appearances by the supporting cast are very brief. Christopher Walken appears in only one scene, but gives a very memorable speech (as he would do in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction); Gary Oldman appears in only two scenes, albeit featuring a memorable dialogue with Christian Slater in the latter; Val Kilmer's face is never even seen in focus; Samuel L. Jackson's part was mostly edited out, though the full performance is included as a deleted scene on the 2-disc unrated director's cut DVD. Brad Pitt's character, in his few scenes, is completely high on marijuana.
Reviews for the film were largely positive. Out of the 36 reviews collected on Rotten Tomatoes, 33 are certified "Fresh" or positive.
Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star called it "one of the most dynamic action films of the 1990s. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it three stars, saying "it's Tarantino's gutter poetry that detonates True Romance. This movie is dynamite.
Roger Ebert gave the film a somewhat mixed review, but also said that "the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating", and that "the supporting cast is superb, a roll call of actors at home in these violent waters: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper and Brad Pitt, for example. A negative review by The Washington Post's Richard Harrington claimed the film was "stylistically visceral" yet "aesthetically corrupt".
This scene has been nominated by Tarantino himself (on the True Romance Unrated Director's Cut DVD commentary) as one of his proudest moments. "I had 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.”
In an interview with MOJO magazine in September 2006 Walken commented on his genuine friendship with Hopper implying that this helped create the warmth that exists between the otherwise antipathetic characters: "we really like each other, but I kill him anyway." He also expressed admiration for the Tarantino dialogue which was too good to improvise around, instead being delivered meticulously as scripted.
On an episode of "Inside the Actors Studio", Hopper was questioned by one of the film students if "the Sicilian scene" was scripted or improvised. After laughing for a moment, Hopper replied that the scene was mostly done as scripted, and the only part that was improvised was the "eggplant" and "cantaloupe" remarks.
This scene has been colloquially named the Sicilian scene and become a cult favorite - and is included in Tarantino's original script. The dialogue from the scene can be found in True Romance#The Sicilian scene.
The character Brad Pitt played in the film was the inspiration for the movie Pineapple Express. The story for the 2008 film came about when the filmmakers imagined what would happen if a stoner like Floyd was forced by circumstances to flee his home with his life in danger.