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Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction turns 20 next year. This cold reality might explain why the usually verbose filmmaker has been turning wistful in recent interviews, reflecting on his complete body of work, his legacy, and the amount of films he thinks he has left in him.
Tarantino opened up recently about how hard he had to fight to get John Travolta cast as Vincent Vega in Fiction. But there are tons of fascinating casting decisions we really haven’t been aware of before now. In its thorough oral history of the making of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Vanity Fair elaborates that produce Harvey Weinstein fought the director’s choice for Travolta, suggesting Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn and William Hurt (!!) for the part of a foot-massage-loving hit man.
That wasn’t the only issue. According to VF, Bruce Willis originally wanted to play Vega as well, and when Travolta got the part, Willis focused on Butch … only Tarantino had promised the boxer to Matt Dillon. When Dillon hesitated about possibly taking the movie, Tarantino switched gears almost immediately. (It helped that Willis is and was a hugely bankable star around the world, and someone who made Pulp Fiction “legit,” in QT’s own words.)
The piece is a good read, revealing things we still didn’t know about Fiction nearly two decades after its release. For instance, there’s a great story about Samuel L. Jackson’s use of fast food in his audition, which occurred long after he’d believed he didn’t have the role. Of course, Tarantino’s Fiction ensemble is one of the most iconic in modern Hollywood history. But stories like this remind us how close movie deals come to blowing up and falling apart.