Lawrence Tierney (March 15, 1919 – February 26, 2002) was an American actor. Known as a gangster actor, Lawrence's most memorable parts may have been the title role in Dillinger, and the role of Joe Cabot in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992) almost fifty years later.
Tierney had a habit of getting into drunken fights, which earned him numerous arrests and convictions. His run-ins with the law took a toll on his career. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he was rarely part of movies at all, though he managed to make some television appearances such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He lived primarily in New York City and for many years worked in construction. He returned to Hollywood in late 1983 and rekindled his acting career by guest-starring on television shows such as Remington Steele, Fame, Hunter, Seinfeld, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The Simpsons. Tierney made a number of appearances on Hill Street Blues and in fact uttered the last line of the last episode of the series. In 1984 he appeared in a national campaign of an Excedrin commercial playing a construction worker.
In 1985, Tierney appeared in a small speaking role as the chief of police of New York City in John Huston's film Prizzi's Honor, and had a more substantial supporting role in Norman Mailer's movie adaptation of his novel Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987), playing the father of protagonist Ryan O'Neal. It is Tierney who delivers the lines that explain the title. He has been diagnosed with cancer, and is dying. The doctors have told him he needs to take up physical activity, such as dancing. "I told 'em: 'Tough guys don't dance.'" He also had a role in the Stephen King adaptation of "Silver Bullet" where he played a baseball bat-wielding bar owner.
When he guest-starred on Seinfeld (1990) in "The Jacket" episode as Elaine's father, Alton Benes, he scared the cast so badly that they never had him back on. He stole a butcher knife from Jerry's TV kitchen and hid it under his jacket. When Seinfeld confronted him about it (much to the dismay of the entire cast), Tierney made a stabbing motion towards Jerry as in reference to the movie Psycho (1960).
In 1991, Quentin Tarantino cast him as Joe Cabot in the film Reservoir Dogs. The success of the film put bookends on Lawrence's career as a gangster actor. During the film, Cabot reports that one of his henchmen was "dead as Dillinger - a line inserted by Tarantino as an "in-joke" and reference to Tierney's first major film role. During the production of Reservoir Dogs, Tierney's off screen antics both amused and disturbed the cast and crew. Director Quentin Tarantino told that he almost got in a fight with Tierney during the filming.
In the audio commentary for The Simpsons episode "Marge Be Not Proud", the producers describe what happened when Tierney came in to record the voice over for his character Don Brodka. Showrunner Josh Weinstein called it "the craziest guest star experience we ever had." In addition to yelling at and intimidating employees of the show, Tierney made unreasonable requests such as abandoning his distinctive voice to do the part in a southern accent and refusing to perform lines if he did not get the jokes. After his death, the episode "The Old Man and the Key" was dedicated to him.