An oral history of the making of Pulp Fiction

cast of pulp fiction

Mark Seal, for Vanity Fair: 

“Like a lot of guys who had never made films before, I was always trying to figure out how to scam my way into a feature,” Tarantino tells me. Though he was indisputably king of all movie knowledge at Video Archives, the suburban-L.A. store where he worked, in Hollywood he was a nobody. Surrounded by videos, which he watched incessantly, he hit upon an idea for recycling three of the oldest bromides in the book: “The ones you’ve seen a zillion times—the boxer who’s supposed to throw a fight and doesn’t, the Mob guy who’s supposed to take the boss’s wife out for the evening, the two hit men who come and kill these guys.” It would be “an omnibus thing,” a collection of three caper films, similar to stories by such writers as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in 1920s and 1930s pulp magazines. “That is why I called it Pulp Fiction,” says Tarantino.

If you’re as big of a Tarantino fan as I am you simply have to read this article. So many things I’ve never heard before. John Travolta had hair extensions so he could look like a European douche:

The black suits and ties Travolta and Jackson wore were Tarantino’s idea, but Travolta wanted to define Vincent Vega more clearly through “an extreme image”—his hair—by adding extensions onto his own mane for a “Euro haircut, which is sometimes Eurotrash and sometimes elegant,” he says. “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.”

Samuel L. Jackson, pissed that he might not get the part of Jules, showed up for his final audition with fast food and a bad attitude:

“In comes Sam with a burger in his hand and a drink in the other hand and stinking like fast food,” says Richard Gladstein. “Me and Quentin and Lawrence were sitting on the couch, and he walked in and just started sipping that shake and biting that burger and looking at all of us. I was scared shitless. 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.” Lawrence Bender adds, “He was the guy you see in the movie. He said, ‘Do you think you’re going to give this part to somebody else? I’m going to blow you motherfuckers away.’ ”

Refusing to do actual heroin, Travolta had to approximate the high during his research so as to realistically portray a junkie:

“I said, ‘There is no way I’m going to do heroin, so I’ve got to spend some time with addicts in order to do this,’ ” says Travolta. “Quentin set me up with a white-collar addict. Then I set myself up with a street addict, and I spent a few days with these guys and took notes.” The white-collar addict was Hamann, who taught Travolta how to replicate a heroin high. “He said, ‘Drink as much tequila as you can and lay in a warm pool or tub of water,’ ” the actor recalls.

That’s barely scratching the surface. Seriously, put aside 20 minutes and go read the entire thing.

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