The latest issue of Vanity Fair is about to hit stands, and inside the pages of the magazine is a presumably long and exhaustingly good oral history of Quentin Tarantino‘s seminal ’90s work, “Pulp Fiction.” Online, Vanity Fair has published what one assumes is a truncated version of said oral history, but man, it’s still damn good.
There are lots of juicy bits inside: Uma Thurman wasn’t sure she wanted to appear in the picture because of the gimp/rape scene, Harvey Weinstein was dead-set against giving the role of Vincent Vega to John Travolta and more. But perhaps the most striking elements are the early casting choices. Weinstein instead wanted Sean Penn or William Hurt for the Vega role, but according to Mike Simpson, Tarantino’s agent at William Morris Endeavor, “Daniel Day-Lewis and Bruce Willis, who was the biggest star in Hollywood, had both gotten their hands on the script and wanted to play Vincent Vega.”
We know Willis eventually landed in the role of the boxer Butch Coolidge. And there was another actor who essentially had the role if he wanted it, but actually left it on the table because of his indecisiveness.
Tarantino had promised [the role] to Matt Dillon. “So he gave Matt the script,” Simpson tells VF contributing editor Mark Seal, “and he read it and said, ‘I love it. Let me sleep on it.’ Quentin then called me and 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.’” So the role went to Willis. “Once I got Bruce Willis, Harvey got his big movie star, and we were all good,” 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 apeshit.”
Youch. We assume Matt Dillon is still punching himself in the face daily over this hesitation.The Weinstein/Miramax/Disney anectode is interesting too.
Harvey Weinstein: “When I read the Pulp Fiction script, I went to him [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.’”
Evidently the role of Jules Winnfield almost went to actor Paul Calderon (who appears in the movie as Paul, a bartender at Marsellus Wallace’s social club). But Samuel L. Jackson brought some furious anger to strike down those who would attempt to poison and destroy his chances of scoring the role. “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.” Producer Lawrence Bender said. Dare to dream of the alternate universe casting of “Pulp Fiction.”