5 Shocking Truths About the Making of Pulp Fiction
By David Weiner
Daniel Day-Lewis as Vincent Vega? Almost two decades after the release of Quentin Tarantino's game-changing Pulp Fiction, it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role made famous by John Travolta. But in a new Vanity Fair expose on the making of the 1994 Oscar winner, Travolta's career was so "cold" that producer Harvey Weinstein fought it tooth and nail.
Here are five shocking truths about the making of the movie, taken from the March issue of Vanity Fair, on newsstands in New York and L.A. on January 31 and nationally and on the iPad, Nook, and Kindle on February 5.
1) Producer Harvey Weinstein was dead-set against giving the role of Vincent Vega to John Travolta and suggested Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn or William Hurt. When Weinstein saw the finished film, he reportedly said facetiously, "I'm so glad I had the idea to cast John Travolta."
2) Samuel L. Jackson was under the impression that the part of Jules Winnfield was his, but found out he might lose the role to Paul Calderon and flew to L.A. for a last-ditch audition with Tarantino. "I sort of was angry, pissed, tired," Jackson recalls, and insulted too, when a person related to the production told him, "I love your work, Mr. Fishburne." Richard Gladstein, then head of production at Miramax, recalls, "In comes Sam with a burger in his hand and a drink in the other hand and stinking like fast food. Me and Quentin and Lawrence [Bender] were sitting on the couch, and he walked in and just started sipping that shake and biting that burger and looking at all of us. I was scared shitless. I thought that this guy was going to shoot a gun right through my head. His eyes were popping out of his head. And he just stole the part."
3) Despite a scene where she overdoses and later has an adrenaline-filled needle jammed into her heart, Uma Thurman says she was most nervous about dancing with Travolta, "because I was so awkward and embarrassed and shy." Travolta says of the scene: "Quentin recommended the Twist. And I said, 'Well, Little Johnny Travolta won the Twist contest when I was eight years old, so I know every version. But you may add other novelty dances that were very special in the day.' He said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'There was the Batman, the Hitchhiker, the Swim, as well as the Twist.' And I showed them to him, and he loved them. I said, 'I'll teach Uma the steps, and when you want to see a different step, call it out.'"
4) Every major studio passed on making Pulp Fiction, but producer Harvey Weinstein couldn't close the deal fast enough. At the time he was running Miramax under Disney, and he says, "When I read the Pulp Fiction script, I went to [then chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg] and said, 'Even though I have the right to make this, I want to clear it with you.' He read it and said, 'Easy on the heroin scene, if you can, but that is one of the best scripts I have ever read. Even though you don't need it, I am giving you my blessing.'"
5) Bruce Willis wanted to be involved with the film even though the role of Vincent Vega was taken – but the role of Butch the boxer had already been promised to Matt Dillon by Tarantino. But Dillon said that although he loved the script, he wanted to "sleep on it." According to Tarantino's agent, Mike Simpson, the director said, 'He's out. If he can't tell me face-to-face that he wants to be in the movie -- after he read the script -- he's out.'" The role then went to Willis. Says Tarantino, "Bruce Willis made us legit. Reservoir Dogs did fantastic internationally, so everyone was waiting for my new movie. And then when it was my new movie with Bruce Willis, they went apesh-t."