On October 14, 1994 a new film by a unheralded young director debuted in America and immediately turned the film industry upside down. Pulp Fiction was the movie and Quentin Tarantino was the filmmaker, a brash former video store clerk with a love of movie history and an exciting vision for the future of Hollywood. Pulp is a watershed film. It's a hyperlink to Tarantino's influences and a visceral experience as he rejects a linear narrative to weave interconnected stories together despite their chronology.
Now, 20 years after Pulp Fiction premiered for American audiences, it's still as brash and influential as it ever was. Tarantino is now an Oscar-winning filmmaker and he has a legion of fans anticipating his next projects with an feverish yearning. But do they know everything about Pulp? Maybe not. So to celebrate the movie's historic 20th anniversary, here are 20 fun facts about the production, the rock star writer/director, and the cast who brought it all to life:
1. Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction in Amsterdam. This explains the many Dutch/European references peppered throughout the film: The "Royale with Cheese" conversation is about American food in Europe; Vincent tells Lance he just got back from Amsterdam; Mia Wallace says she likes to go there to chill out; and Vincent rolls his cigarettes with Drum, a Dutch tobacco.
2. Samuel L. Jackson auditioned for the guy who trains Mr. Orange in Tarantino's first film, Reservoir Dogs, but the role went to Randy Brooks. Nevertheless, Tarantino enjoyed Jackson's work so much he wrote the part of Jules especially for him. That promise seemed to be in danger when Paul Calderon gave a great audition and wowed the director. When Jackson heard this, he flew to Los Angeles and auditioned again to secure the role. Calderon ended up in the film anyway as Paul the bartender. ("My name's Paul, and this is between y'all.")
3. According to her manager, Julia Louis-Dreyfus turned down the role of Mia Wallace due to her commitment to Seinfeld. So did Uma Thurman at first, but Tarantino was so desperate to get her, he read her the script over the phone, finally convincing her to say yes. Isabella Rossellini, Meg Ryan, Daryl Hannah, Joan Cusack, and Michelle Pfeiffer were all interviewed for the role and Alfre Woodard, Halle Berry, and Annabella Sciorra auditioned. Out of everyone, Tarantino said he preferred Pfeiffer.
4. The role of Vincent Vega was originally written with Tarantino favorite Michael Madsen in mind. Tarantino had been working on the script for seven months and, even though Madsen knew the plan and had expressed a desire to play the part, he bailed to play Virgil Earp in Wyatt Earp (1994). Daniel Day-Lewis wanted the role also, and James Gandolfini was considered, but Tarantino turned them down in favor of John Travolta.
5. In an interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio, Travolta went into details about the many obstacles of playing Vincent Vega. The most challenging was deciding how he would convey the character's heroin addiction. Travolta researched by speaking to a recovering addict that Tarantino knew personally. Travolta asked the friend how he could simulate feeling what it's like to be on heroin. The friend explained, "If you want to get the 'bottom envelope' feeling, get plastered on tequila and lie down in a hot pool. Then you'll have barely touched the feeling of what it might be like to be on heroin." Travolta said he was ecstatic to tell his wife (Kelly Preston) that he had to "research" aspects of his upcoming role by getting plastered on tequila and relaxing in a hot tub.
6. Tarantino hesitated over whom he wanted to play: Jimmie or Lance. He chose Jimmie because he wanted to be behind the camera during Mia's overdose scene (which happens at Lance's house). Eric Stoltz was cast as Lance.
7. Mickey Rourke passed on the role of Butch Coolidge, which eventually went to Bruce Willis. Harvey Keitel, who plays Mr. Wolf, convinced Willis to join the production. He knew his friend was a fan of Reservoir Dogs .
8. Mia and Vincent never win the trophy at the Jack Rabbit Slim's, they actually steal it. When Butch is sneaking back to his apartment for his watch, you can hear a story on his neighbor's TV talking about it. The dance Vince and Mia perform at Jack Rabbit Slims was copied, movement by movement, from the dance performed early in Federico Fellini's 1963 classic 8½ by Gloria Morin (Barbara Steele) and Mario Mezzabotta (Mario Pisu).
9. The cab driver, Esmeralda Villalobos (Angela Jones) appears in a 30-minute short called Curdled (1991) in as a character who cleans up murder scenes. This explains her fascination of the idea of murder. Tarantino saw the film and decided to include this character in Pulp Fiction.
10. The man who bursts from the bathroom in Brett's apartment is played by Robert Arquette (whose sister, Rosanna, plays Jody). However, he's listed in the credits as Alexis Arquette, the name he later adopted following a sex change.
11. When Vincent calls Lance on his cell phone, Lance is eating a bowl of Fruit Brute, a cereal from the beloved monster cereal family (Fruit Brute, Yummy Mummy, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, Count Chocula). Fruit Brute was later discontinued, but Tarantino held onto a box and he drops it into scenes from time to time. It appeared in Reservoir Dogs as well.
12. Jules' "Bad Mother Fucker" wallet belonged to Tarantino. The inscription is a reference to the theme song of Shaft. Coincidentally, Jackson (who else?) would play John Shaft in the 2000 remake.
13. The shot of Vincent plunging the syringe into Mia's chest was shot backwards. Travolta "pulled the needle out" in real time. Then Tarantino ran the footage in reverse to get the effect.
14. Thurman didn't like the song played in the Jack Rabbit Slim's Twist Contest (Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell"), and went to Tarantino, telling him it didn't sound right. But the director disagreed and reportedly said, "Trust me, it's perfect."
15. Many people believe the Band-Aid on Ving Rhames' (aka Marsellus Wallace) neck was an intentional choice by the filmmakers. In reality, it came from an accident Rhames had while shaving his head. When Tarantino noticed it, it inspired him to open the "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace" sequence with the now famous close-up. 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 Willis.
16. A "KILLIAN'S RED" neon sign at the pawn shop is partially lit. It reads: "KILL ED," urging on Butch to kill Zed.
17. Tarantino had originally intended "My Sharona" by The Knack to play during the Gimp torture sequence, but the rights had already been licensed to another film the same year: Reality Bites. Also, 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.
18. In both the diner bathroom and Butch's apartment bathroom, Vince is reading a copy of the Peter O'Donnell book Modesty Blaise. Tarantino has expressed a desire to adapt the novel into a film and he even "sponsored" a direct-to-video adaptation, My Name is Modesty.
19. According to co-writer Roger Avary, the original plan was to have the mysterious briefcase contain diamonds. But, this seemed neither exciting nor original, so Avary and Tarantino decided to have the briefcase's contents never appear onscreen; this way, each film-goer 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. The light bulb (plus batteries) is also what's actually in the case.
20. Originally set to be released by Tri-Star, the studio got cold feet when they read the script.