Who is the Gimp? It’s a question that’s long been asked by “Pulp Fiction” fans. One of the signature scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Palme d’Or winner finds Butch (Bruce Willis) and Marsellus (Ving Rhames) being tied up and held prisoner in the basement of a pawnshop owner named Maynard (Duane Whitaker). The storeowner is accompanied by his security guard Zed (Peter Greene) and the Gimp, a mute character dressed head to toe in a leather bondage suit. Tarantino’s script doesn’t provide any information about the Gimp, which is why diehard “Pulp Fiction” fans have long wondered who he is, where he came from, and what happened to him after Butch escaped and knocked him out with a punch.
An interview with Tarantino published online by Empire magazine this month solves the mystery of the Gimp, as the director responds to a fan question about the character: “It doesn’t quite play this way in the movie, but in my mind when I wrote it, the Gimp’s dead. Butch knocked him out and then when he passed out he hung himself. In terms of backstory, he was like a hitchhiker or somebody that they picked up seven years ago, and they trained him so he’s the perfect victim.”
The Gimp is played by Steve Hibbert, who spent three days on the “Pulp Fiction” set in leather bondage gear filming the memorable sequence. The actor spoke to Vulture in 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of “Pulp Fiction” and revealed he was clueless as to the Gimp’s backstory. The character emerges from a small room, a tidbit Hibbert held onto to theorize that the Gimp was probably not the first prisoner for Maynard and Zed. Being cramped up in a small space for hours on end also factored into the movements Hibbert gave the Gimp.
“[Tarantino] gave me very little [direction], actually,” Hibbert said. “I’d look over at him and he’d shrug, he’d give me a thumbs up, and that was it. On the set, he doesn’t use a playback, so he’s behind the camera and looking at what the camera is seeing. And he darts around the room a bit. And if he does have any direction for the actor, he’ll come up to them and whisper it to them.”
Tarantino celebrated the 25th anniversary of “Pulp Fiction” in 2019 by returning to Cannes with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Read Tarantino’s full interview with Empire magazine here.