Pulp Fiction

By on May 6, 2010

Quentin Tarantino directed, co-wrote, and co-stars in this cinematic masterpiece. Pulp Fiction is best known for its rich, eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture; Tarantino won for Best Original Screenplay. It was also awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. A major critical and commercial success, it revitalized the career of its leading man, John Travolta, who received an Academy Award nomination, as did costars Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman.

Directed in a highly stylized manner, Pulp Fiction joins the intersecting story lines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals, and a mysterious briefcase. Considerable screen time is devoted to conversations and monologues that reveal the characters’ senses of humor and perspectives on life.

The picture’s self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive use of homage and pastiche have led critics to describe it as a prime example of postmodern film. Considered by some critics a black comedy, the film is also frequently labeled a “neo-noir”.

Pulp Fiction is viewed as the inspiration for many later movies that adopted various elements of its style. The nature of its development, marketing, and distribution and its consequent profitability had a sweeping effect on the field of independent cinema (although it is not an independent film itself). A cultural watershed, Pulp Fiction’s influence has been felt in several other genres and mediums the world over.

gangster-movies-pulp-fiction2Quentin Tarantino hesitated over the choice between the character he was going to play: Jimmie or Lance. He ended up choosing Jimmie’s role because he wanted to be behind the camera in Mia’s overdose scene.

Quentin Tarantino wrote the role of Jules specifically for Samuel L. Jackson, however it was almost given to Paul Calderon after a great audition. When Jackson heard this, he flew to Los Angeles and auditioned again to secure the role. Calderon ended up with a small role as Paul.

The passage from the Bible that Jules has memorized was mostly made up by Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson. The only part that’s similar to what the Bible says is the part where he says, “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.” However, the parts about the righteous man and the shepherd are not real.

The parts of “Honey Bunny” and “Pumpkin” were written specifically for Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth.

Jules’s character was originally written to have a gigantic afro, but a crewmember obtained a variety of afro wigs and one jheri curl wig. Quentin Tarantino had never thought about a jheri curl wig, but Samuel L. Jackson tried it on, Tarantino liked it, and it was kept.

Quentin Tarantino wrote two of the three stories before he wrote Reservoir Dogs (1992) and True Romance (1993). After the success of those films, he decided to write a third story, intending to have each segment directed by a different person.

The shot of Vincent plunging the syringe into Mia’s chest was filmed by having John Travolta pull the needle out, then running the film backwards.

The marquee where Butch boxes advertises the following fights: “Coolidge vs Wilson” and “Vossler vs Martinez”. The first is a reference to United States Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson, the second is a reference to Russell Vossler and Jerry Martinez, who are two friends of Tarantino’s from when he worked in a video store. See also Crimson Tide (1995).

When Vincent calls Lance on his cell phone, Lance is eating a bowl of Fruit Brute, a cereal from the older monster cereal family. Fruit Brute (which, along with Yummy Mummy, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, and Count Chocula, make up the monster cereals) was later discontinued, along with “Yummy Mummy.” Quentin Tarantino has held onto a box and drops it into scenes from time to time. It appeared in Reservoir Dogs (1992), too.

Knoxville, Tennessee, where Butch was meeting his connection and where his great-grandfather bought the gold watch, is also Quentin Tarantino’s birthplace.

Director Trademark: [Quentin Tarantino] [Red Apple cigarettes] Butch smokes “Red Apple” cigarettes. The same brand is smoked by Tim Roth’s character in Four Rooms (1995).

Chronologically, the first scene in the movie has Vincent and Jules chatting in their car while on their way to do a job. The last chronological scene has Butch and Fabienne riding away from the hotel on Butch’s newly acquired motorcycle (and the “last line” of the movie is therefore “Zed’s dead, baby; Zed’s dead.” (If you count the flashback, the first scene would then be when Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) visits the young Butch and gives him the watch.) Scene titles: Vince and Jules, The Bonnie Situation, The Diner I, The Diner II, Jack Rabbit Slims and The Gold Watch.

Quentin Tarantino wrote “The Wolf” character specifically for Harvey Keitel

Director Trademark: [Quentin Tarantino] [singing over music] Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) sings and dances over the song she puts on when she comes home from Jack Rabbit Slim’s with Vincent Vega (John Travolta). Butch (Bruce Willis) also sings over music, but doesn’t dance since he’s driving.

Daniel Day-Lewis (who incidentally shares a birthday with Uma Thurman) wanted the role of Vincent Vega, but Quentin Tarantino turned him down in favor of John Travolta.

Director Trademark: [Quentin Tarantino] [bare feet] Uma Thurman is barefoot for most of the movie.

In a cut scene Vincent tells Mia he’s been fantasizing about being beaten up by Emma Peel of the Avengers. Later, in 1998, Uma Thurman did star as Emma Peel in the movie The Avengers (1998).

In the screenplay, Butch is a featherweight boxer but in the film, Butch’s opponent Wilson has his weight announced as “210 pounds” – implying that Butch is a heavyweight.

Uma Thurman originally turned down the role of Mia Wallace. Quentin Tarantino was so desperate to have her as Mia, he ended up reading her the script over the phone, finally convincing her to take on the role.

The role of Vincent Vega was written for Michael Madsen, who played the character’s brother, Vic Vega, in Reservoir Dogs (1992), but he couldn’t do the film due to scheduling conflicts for another film.

Quentin Tarantino originally wanted Christopher Jones for the role of Zed.

Mia Wallace’s television pilot involved a team of 5 female secret agents (including a blond woman, an African-American woman, and a Japanese woman). Uma Thurman’s next picture with Tarantino would be Kill Bill, where she was part of a team of 5 assassins (4 of which were female and, besides her, consisted of a blond woman, and African-American woman, and a half-Japanese-half-Chinese-American woman). The French Sophie character may have also been a part of the team of assassins, making it 5. Mia’s pilot character’s specialty was knives. The Bride’s first kill in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) was with a knife.

The Ezekiel bible quote was taken from any early draft of From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Harvey Keitel’s character was supposed to say it; while walking backwards down the hallway facing the vampires.

The movie’s line “You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?… They call it a Royale with cheese.” was voted as the #81 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.

Tarantino was quoted as saying that Butch is responsible for keying Vincent’s car.

Speculation abounds as to the nature of the mysterious glowing contents of the case: – Could it be Elvis’s gold suit, seen worn by Val Kilmer (as Elvis) in True Romance (1993)? – The most persistent theory (most usually attributed to a friend of a friend who saw it posted on a message board by someone whose brother had read a report of a radio interview with Tarantino himself) is that it is Marcellus Wallace’s soul. The story goes that when the Devil takes a person’s soul, it is removed through the back of the head (this isn’t part of any known religion, but this is what the message board posters say). When we see the back of Marcellus’s head he has a Band-Aid covering the precise spot indicated by tradition for soul removal. Perhaps Marcellus sold his soul to the devil which would also explain why the combination to open the briefcase is 666. – Quentin Tarantino has said that the band-aid on the back of Marsellus Wallace’s neck had nothing to do with an allusion to the Devil stealing Marsellus’s soul… but that the actor Ving Rhames had a scar on the back of his neck he wanted to cover up. – Or could it be simply a 20-watt light bulb? – According to Roger Avary, who co-wrote the script with Quentin Tarantino, the original plan was to have the briefcase contain diamonds. This seemed neither exciting nor original, so Avary and Tarantino decided to have the briefcase’s contents never appear on screen; this way each filmgoer could mentally “fill in the blank” with whatever struck his or her imagination as best fitting the description “so beautiful”. The orange light bulb (projecting shimmering light onto the actors’ faces) was a last-minute decision and added a completely unintended fantastic element. – In a radio interview with ‘Howard Stern’ in late 2003, Quentin Tarantino was asked by a caller the contents of the briefcase, and he answered, “It’s whatever the viewer wants it to be.”

Upon the films UK video rental release, some video stores gave away a pack of limited edition Pulp Fiction matches. On the back of the packet was a quote from the film “you play with matches, you get burned”.

Mia Wallace’s comment “An Elvis man should love this” is a reference to an earlier cut scene where Mia claims that everyone can be classified as either an “Elvis” (Elvis Presley) person or a “Beatles” (The Beatles) person. She bets Vincent that he is an “Elvis”, and he confirms it.

The board games “The Game of Life” and “Operation” are both seen on a table while Vincent and Lance are administering the adrenaline shot.

Jimmie (Quentin Tarantino) is wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of “Orbit”, a local alternative newspaper in Metro Detroit, for which Tarantino did an interview when he was promoting Reservoir Dogs (1992). See also the WWW-links section.

The word “fuck” is used 265 times.

In real life, Vincent Vega’s 1964 Chevelle Malibu convertible belongs to Quentin Tarantino and was stolen during the production of the film.

Director Trademark: [Quentin Tarantino] [long take] When Butch gets out of the Honda to retrieve his watch, we follow him around a building, through a hole in a fence until he is across the street from the apartment.

Cameo: [Steve Buscemi] Having to refuse the role of Jimmie due to scheduling conflicts, Buscemi appears as the Buddy Holly waiter in Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs (1992), he refused to tip wait staff.

The cab driver, Esmeralda Villalobos (Angela Jones) appeared in a 30-minute short called Curdled (1991) in which she played a character who cleaned up after murders. This makes her fascinated by the idea of murder. Quentin Tarantino saw this film and decided to include this character in Pulp Fiction but as a cabdriver.

Pam Grier auditioned for the role of Lance’s wife Jody. Though she had a great audition, Quentin Tarantino decided not to cast her because he could not imagine Grier getting pushed around the way the character does.

Samuel L. Jackson auditioned for the part of Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs (1992), but it went to Tim Roth. Tarantino enjoyed Jackson’s work so much that he wrote the part of Jules specifically for him.

Quentin Tarantino had originally intended “My Sharona” (by The Knack) to be played during the Gimp torture sequence – but the rights had already been licensed to another film, Reality Bites (1994). On top of this, one of the members of the band had become a born again Christian, and didn’t want the song to be associated with a scene of sexual violence.

There is a persistent myth that that all the clocks in the movie are set to 4:20 (although, certainly all the clocks on the wall in the pawn shop are set to 4:20). However, in at least two scenes it is obvious that this is not the case. In the “Bonnie Situation” while Jimmy, Vince and Jules are drinking coffee in the kitchen, the clock clearly reads 8:15. Secondly, when Vince and Jules go to retrieve the briefcase, it is “7:22 in the a.m.”. The significance of the time 4:20 is that it is slang for smoking marijuana.

Sylvester Stallone was briefly considered for the role of Butch.

In the script, the character of Paul the bartender (played by Paul Calderon) is referred to as “English Bob” (Jules even refers to English Bob, saying “Yeah, [Winston Wolf] is about as European as fucking English Bob”), but his line “My name’s Paul, and this is between y’all” apparently stuck, as he is credited as ‘Paul’ in the credits.

Jules’ “Bad Mother Fucker” wallet actually belongs to Quentin Tarantino. The inscription on the wallet is a reference to the theme song of Shaft (1971).

The gun Vincent uses is a 1911A1 Auto Ordnance .45 ACP pistol that has been chromed and given pearl grips. Jules’ gun is a Star Model B 9mm pistol that has been chromed and given pearl grips, too.

Quentin Tarantino continues his tradition of incorporating aspects of the Netherlands into his films. He wrote the script in Amsterdam, in a hotel room and in coffee shop (“Dutch” for hash-bar) Betty Boop. He stayed for several months, and left the video rental store “Cult Video” with an unpaid bill of about $150. This stay explains the references to Dutch culture and customs at the beginning of the movie. Vincent tells his heroin dealer that “I just got back from Amsterdam and discusses it with Jules in their opening scene. In the conversation in the Jack Rabbit Slims restaurant, Mia mentions that she goes to Amsterdam to “chill out” for a month or two every now and again. In the same restaurant, Vincent smokes Drum, which is a Dutch rolling tobacco. Also, the book version of the movie’s screenplay includes some cut dialogue between Vincent and Mia – he realizes that she was “the girl in the cowboy hat” in a photo at a hash bar they both visited, the Cobra, which is right across from the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Also in the scene at the motel with Butch, he calls Fabiene “tulip”, then she says she likes to be called “tulip”, as this flower has come to be a trademark symbol of the Netherlands.

The font and font coloring used for the opening title sequence were the same as used in the exploitation movie Policewomen (1974).

The movie cost $8 million to make, $5 million of which went to pay the actors’ salaries.

Director Trademark: [Quentin Tarantino] [red apple cigarettes] Pumpkin also has a pack of Red Apples laying in front of him in the opening scene. The red apple and the green worm can be made out when looking closely.

The T-shirt that Jimmy gives to Vincent after they get hosed down bears the logo for the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. This is not a joke; the banana slug is really the official mascot of UCSC.

The role of Butch was originally supposed to be an up and coming boxer. Matt Dillon was in talks to play the role, but never committed. Tarantino then changed the role and offered it to Bruce Willis, who had been disappointed at not being signed to play Vincent.

Isabella Rossellini, Meg Ryan, Daryl Hannah, Joan Cusack and Michelle Pfeiffer were all interviewed for the role of Mia Wallace. Out of all of them, Tarantino said he preferred Pfeiffer.

Trudi (Bronagh Gallagher) can be seen wearing a T-shirt of Irish rock band The Frames. She appeared in The Commitments (1991) with Glen Hansard, the lead singer of The Frames; they became friends, and she promised him she would wear a Frames T-shirt if she got a part in Pulp Fiction. Coincidentally, in 2008, John Travolta awarded the Oscar for Best Original Song to Hansard for the film Once (2006).

Cameo: [Lawrence Bender] film’s producer is one of the long-haired yuppies at the coffee shop.

‘Steven Martinez’ (brother of chief graphic designer, Gerald Martinez) is credited with “Very Special Thanks”. He painted the portrait of Mia (Uma Thurman) that hangs in Marsellus’ house.

Other actors considered for the film included Daniel Day-Lewis as Vincent, Mickey Rourke, Matt Dillon and Sylvester Stallone as Butch, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daryl Hannah, Meg Ryan, Joan Cusack and Isabella Rossellini as Mia. Rosanna Arquette also auditioned for Mia, but was offered Jody instead.

The restaurant scene was filmed at the Hawthorne Grille (originally Holly’s) located at 13763 Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne, CA. The building was demolished soon after filming.

When Vincent first walks into Mia’s house, one of the back doors is slightly open. This was done so the camera wouldn’t be seen in the reflection.

The movie that Lance is watching when Vincent arrives with overdosed Mia is the Three Stooges short, Brideless Groom (1947). Tarantino is an avid Three Stooges fan, but couldn’t get the rights from Comedy III to show them in the movie. So while a Three Stooges film appears on screen (“Brideless Groom” is public domain), the Three Stooges themselves do not. Emil Sitka, the frequent Three Stooges co-star who does appear on screen, is credited as “Hold hands you lovebirds”.

Courtney Love claimed that Tarantino originally wanted Kurt Cobain and her to play Lance and Jody. However, Tarantino denies ever having even met Kurt, much less offered him a part.

In the diner when Mia orders her $5 shake, “Buddy Holly” (the waiter) asks her if she wants it “Martin and Lewis or Amos and Andy?” He is referring to two comedy duos – Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, two white men; Amos and Andy, two black men. Basically, he is asking her if she wants a vanilla shake or a chocolate shake. She has vanilla.

This movie contains the first product placement for a real world product of any Quentin Tarantino movie. When Esmerelda is waiting outside the arena for Butch we can clearly see ‘THERMOS’ on the bottom of the cup she is drinking from.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #94 Greatest Movie of All Time.

Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Gangster” in June 2008.

It reads in the script that “The Bonnie Situation” was originally supposed to be titled “Jules, Vincent, Jimmie and The Wolf”.

During the Bonnie Situation, Vincent says that if Jimmie had Lava in the bathroom, he (Vincent) could have gotten his hands cleaner. John Travolta started in show business singing in ads for Lava soap.

The screenplay says that Zed and Maynard are brothers.

Ranked #1 movie in Entertainment Weekly’s “The New Classics: Movies” (issue #1000, July 4, 2008).

Voted #9 on Empire magazine’s 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (September 2008).

John Travolta was paid $150,000 for his part in the film.

The role of Fabienne was written with Swiss actress Irène Jacob in mind. Jacob turned down the role to star in Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994) (English language title “Three Colors: Red”).

Many people believe that the band-aid on Ving Rhames’ neck was an intentional choice by the filmmakers. In reality, it came from an accident Rhames had while shaving his head. When Quentin Tarantino noticed this, it inspired him to open the “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace” sequence with a close-up of the band-aid instead. Ultimately Tarantino liked showing the band-aid rather than Rhames’ face because it accentuated the character’s mercurial nature and was more visually exciting than a series of single shots of Rhames and Bruce Willis.

The hairstyle of Uma Thurman’s character Mia Wallace was loosely modeled after Louise Brooks, a silent film actress of the 1930’s, and is known as the Louise Brooks bob (Uma’s hair is longer but the style is the same). Brooks was also considered one of the first naturalistic actors in cinema compared to many other silent film performers of the day.

Quentin Tarantino is an avid collector of vintage TV show board games. During the filming of Pulp Fiction, he and John Travolta were reported to have sat on the floor and played the “Welcome Back, Kotter” (1975) board game.

Whenever Vincent Vega (John Travolta) goes to the toilet something bad happens.

Bruce Willis worked on the film for only 18 days.

Jules’ car, a 1974 Chevy Nova, is never seen in full frame; only the interior or parts of the exterior are visible.

Heroin causes constipation, explaining Vincent’s frequent need to use the bathroom (Jules even comments about how he spends too much time in the bathroom).

During an interview Quentin Tarantino admitted that Jules’ Samuel L. Jackson bible quote of Ezekiel 25:17 was something he remembered from the Sonny Chiba movie Karate Kiba (1976) aka The Bodyguard. He said he never read it in the bible, and it is taken almost word for word from that film. Tarantino has always been a Chiba fan and has included references to him in _True Romance (1993)_ and a cameo by Chiba in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).

In an interview with James Lipton on the show “Inside the Actors’ Studio”, John Travolta went into details of the many obstacles of tackling his role as Vincent Vega. The most challenging being that of how he was going to show the essence of his character as that of a heroin addict. Never using the drug himself, director Quentin Tarantino had Travolta research his characters addiction by speaking to a recovering heroin addict that he (Quentin) knew personally. Travolta asked Tarantino’s friend to tell him how could he know what it felt like to be on heroin (without actually using it of course). Tarantino’s friend explained “If you want to get the ‘bottom envelope’ feeling of that, get plastered on Tequila, and lie down in a hot pool. Then you will have barely touched the feeling of what it might be like to be on heroin.” John Travolta then explained that he was ecstatic to tell his wife that he was “told” in order to research aspects of his upcoming roles’ character, he had to get plastered on Tequila and lie in a hot pool. He stated she happily joined him at the hotel hot tub which had shots of Tequila lined from end to end on the railings to assist him in his “research”.

Marsellus and Mia never actually speak to one another on-screen, even though they are husband and wife.

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