Before he moved behind the camera to make movies like Igby Goes Down and the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Burr Steers was actually an actor in Hollywood… and there’s a very good chance you vividly remember one of his scenes. In Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, he played “Flock Of Seagulls,” a.k.a. the guy on the couch who gets shot and killed while Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules interrogates Frank Whaley Brett about the mysterious briefcase. This is one of the most iconic scenes of the film, and as a result modern cinema, however, there is one thing you may not know about it: Steers repeatedly messed up takes due to his animated reactions to the sequences’ gunshots.
I recently attended a press day for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in Los Angeles, and after a long one-on-one conversation with Burr Steers about his new period zombie film, I asked if he had any particularly vivid memories about the making of Pulp Fiction. His response came with a wide smile, and will give fans of the brilliant crime movie another great piece of trivia to chew on:
The thing I remember most, was how I fucked up. I was dead for much of the scene. But the blanks were so loud, I couldn’t help but flinch. So, they’re doing the thing to Frank Whaley, or whoever else he shot in [the scene], and they’d go off and I’d go, 'Ahhh!' I was supposed to be dead, but no.
Thinking back on the Pulp Fiction sequence, one can legitimately understand why Steers had such a difficult time looking dead in time of gunfire. After all, the scene was shot in a pretty small apartment, meaning that the sound of blanks being fired didn’t have anything to do but bounce around the walls and into the actors’ eardrums. Gun shots are loud even in open environments, so one can get why Steers had such trouble with it.
Fortunately, you can’t really see Flock Of Seagulls moving in the final cut of the film, so all did work out for the best.
In addition to playing a small role in Pulp Fiction, Burr Steers was also a Radio Play Background Voice in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs - but he hasn't acted since playing Van in Whit Stillman's 1998 film The Last Days Of Disco. Instead, he’s been working behind the scenes, doing both movie work and TV episodes of shows like The New Normal, Weeds and Big Love.
You’ll be able to see Burr Steer’s most recent work, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, quite soon, as the film will be in theaters on February 5th.