25 Shocking Secrets About Pulp Fiction Revealed

Grab a royale with cheese and prepare to have yourr mind blown by who almost starred in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 masterpiece

By Tierney Bricker Oct 13, 2019 10:00 AMTags
Watch: The Morrisons Do "Pulp Fiction" Dance at Halloween Party

"You know what they call a, uh, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?"

Chances are you know exactly what the Parisians call the McDonald's burger, thanks to Pulp Fiction.

Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece came out 25 years ago, hitting theaters on Oct. 14, 1994, with the independent movie made for just $8 million going on to gross over $200 million, a record at the time. Not only did the bold and bloody film solidify the Reservoir Dog auteur's place as one of Hollywood's most daring and celebrated directors, but it completely revitalized the career of John Travolta and made stars out of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman.

But all three almost didn't even end up taking on their iconic roles as Vincent Vega, Jules Winnfield and Mia Wallace: one was considered undesirable at the time, the other had to go head-to-head in an audition while the third nearly passed after finding the script "terrifying."

Of course, all three would end up earning  Oscar nominations for their work in the film, which has been hailed as one of the best movies of all-time since its release over two decades ago. 

25 Shocking Secrets About Pulp Fiction Revealed

So grab a royal with cheese and crank up Chuck Berry's "You Can Never Tell" to fully set the mood before digging into these fun facts about Pulp Fiction...

1. Michael Madsen, who had previously worked with his close friend Tarantino on Reservoir Dogs, was approached to play Vince but chose to star in Wyatt Earp instead. "It was like three hours of nausea," Madsen later recalled. Tarantino was hurt by his friend's choice and the pair didn't speak for years before Tarantino cast Madsen in Kill Bill Vol. 2.

2. Producers pushed for a major bankable star like Daniel Day-Lewis or Bruce Willis for the role, as Travolta was "at that time as cold as they get," Mike Simpson, Tarantino's agent, told Vanity Fair. "He was less than zero." But Tarantino wouldn't budge after meeting with Travolta and after a lot of negotiating, he got his way.

3. After Travolta's deal closed, Willis landed the role of Butch, which was initially promised to Matt Dillon, per Vanity Fair. "Bruce Willis made us legit. Reservoir Dogs did fantastic internationally, so everyone was waiting for my new movie," Tarantino told VF. "And then when it was my new movie with Bruce Willis, they went apes--t."

4. Winston Rolfe was written specifically for Harvey Keitel, with Tarantino once saying, "Harvey had been my favorite actor since I was 16 years old." And Tim Roth, another Reservoir Dogs star, was Tarantino's only pick for Pumpkin, with the role written with him in mind.

5. While Tarantino had told Jackson the role of hitman Jules Winnfield was already his, the curse-loving actor was thrown for a loop when he learned he would actually have to audition after Paul Calderon had seriously impressed the director and producers with his audition. "I sort of  was angry, pissed, tired," Jackson said of going in to read against Calderon, adding he even stopped to pick up a fast food burger to bring with him during his audition. "He walked in and just started sipping that shake and biting that burger and looking at all of us," producer Richard Gladstein recalled. "I was scared s--tless. 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."

6. This might be another reason Jackson was so damn pissed in his audition: When somebody came to bring him in, they said, "'I love your work, Mr. Fishburne,'" according to Jackson. "It was like a slow burn. He doesn't know who I am? I was kind of like, f--k it. At that point I really didn't care."

7. Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette were all reportedly considered for the role of Mia Wallace, the sexy and drug-addicted wife of the burly crime boss. But Tarantino had decided on Uma Thurman immediately after their first meeting. "Uma's the only person he met with [by himself]," Lawrence Bender told Vanity Fair.

8. Less sure, however, was the young star herself. "I wasn't sure I wanted to be in the movie. I was 23, from Massachusetts," Thurman told VF, admitting she found the script "pretty frightening." 

9. According to Jackson, the role of Marsellus Wallace was initially set to be played by The Mack star Max Julien, but the actor passed on the script after learning about the anal rape scene. "Max Julien wasn't going to do that," Jackson told Vanity Fair. "He's the Mack*.* He's Goldie. He's like, ‘No, I don't think my fans want to see that.'"

10. But the controversial scene didn't scare off Ving Rhames, who said, "Because of the way I look, I don't ever get the opportunity to play many vulnerable people." he has said. Tarantino told VF, "He was very alone in his unconcern. It was a sheer mark of his masculinity."

11. Given his dance background, even winning a twist contest when he was 8, Travolta took the lead in Vincent and Mia's iconic dance sequence (and won the MTV Movie Award for "Best Dance Sequence.") While Tarantino had just envisioned the twist, Travolta recalled telling his director, "'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.'" And that's how the film's historic scene came to be.

12. But the infamous scene was actually the one Thurman was the most nervous about prior to filming it "because I was so awkward and embarrassed and shy," she told Vanity Fair.

13. While it's almost unheard of in Hollywood, every actor earned the same amount for their work on the film, all agreeing to work for $20,000 per week (though they also shared a percentage of the film's box office take). 

14. The 1964 Chevy Malibu Vincent drives in the film actually belonged to Tarantino...and it was stolen after production wrapped. Almost 20 years later, the car was found in Oakland, Calif., in 2013. 

15. The nail polish Mia wears in the film is Chanel's famed Rouge Noir, with the film's popularity causing the vampy red-black to instantly sell out as soon as it hit shelves in 1995.

16. Vincent and Jules' iconic black suits were Tarantino's vision, but each actor but their own sartorial mark on their respective characters. For Travolta that meant adding extensions to his hair. to achieve a "Euro haircut, which is sometimes Eurotrash and sometimes elegant," he explained. "Tarantino was hesitant, and I said, 'Please at least look at me in this,' and I got the hair extensions and I worked on the do. I put my best foot forward on the test. That just killed it."

17. Jackson grew muttonchops for the role of Jules, but he was originally set to have an afro. "A production assistant Quentin sent to south L.A. to buy an Afro wig had no idea what that was," the star told Vanity Fair, adding that she came back with the Jheri-curl wig. While Tarantino initially rejected it, Jackson convinced him it was the right look. 

18. When it came to filming Mia's overdose, Thurman revealed what was used as a substitute for the spittle in her mouth: Campbell's mushroom soup. However, the star didn't need any help when it came to the crazed reaction. "I worked myself up, acting," she told VF. "I don't think we put anything in my eyes. You're paid for something." 

19. The film's wrap party was held on the set production built for Jack Rabbit Slim's diner, with one dancing duo taking over the dance floor: Travolta and Christopher Walken, with co-star Eric Stoltz recalling, "Somebody said, 'They should do a musical together.'" In 2007, they starred together in Hairspray as a married couple. 

20. When they first met, Tarantino was living in what was Travolta's first apartment in Los Angeles. 

21. Vick Vega (aka Mr. Blonde) in Reservoir Dogs (played by Michael Madsen) is actually the brother of Travolta's Pulp Fiction character, with Tarantino once conceiving of a spinoff (Vega Brothers) that would serve as a prequel to both films. 

22. Made for just $8 million, the biggest expense of the film didn't go toward the star-studded cast, but to creating the Jack Slim's Diner set, which cost $150,000. (Travolta earned $140,000 for his seven weeks of work.) 

23. When Tarantino and his writing partner Roger Avary won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (the only one the film would win out of its seven nominations), the telecast accidentally cut to black...except Avary later took credit for the gaffe. "I paid off a cameraman 500 bucks to have the camera turned off on Quentin when they announced the award," Avary revealed to Vanity Fair, wanting to pull a prank on his prank-loving old friend. "So if you watch it online, you'll see it cuts to black briefly, and then they cut to me. Gotcha."

24. For the notorious "Gimp" scene, Tarantino intended to use The Knack's hit song "My Sharona." However, another 19994 film had already acquired it: Reality Bites. Instead, he chose The Revel's "Comache," and Tarantino ultimately was grateful he didn't get his first choice, telling Rolling Stone, "It would have been too cutely comic. I like using stuff for comic effect, but I don't want it to be har, har, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, you know?"

25. More than 20 years after the film's release, an alleged casting wish list written by Tarantino was leaked online, which revealed Gary Oldman was considered for all the major parts, while Johnny Depp and Christian Slater were back-up choices for Pumpkin if Rothman was unavailable. While Stoltz landed the role of Lance, it was written with John Cusack in mind, and if the top choice for Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) hadn't been available, Patricia Arquette was his top pick. She would ultimately land the role of Jody.