If Quentin Tarantino had got his first choice for the lead actors in Pulp Fiction, it would have ended up starring Michael Madsen, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Dillon, and Michael’s sister Virginia Madsen instead of John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, and Uma Thurman. Not only would the movie be totally different, but the trajectory of the careers of those four actors would be completely altered.
Quentin Tarantino‘s wish list for the Pulp Fiction cast was circulated on Twitter and elsewhere a few years ago, and it provides a fascinating insight into what the writer-director was imagining for the lead roles. It’s also a great time capsule of early to mid-90s Hollywood stars and character actors. There are definitely plenty of surprises on the list.
For Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield – the roles that went to Travolta and Jackson in one of the best thriller movies – in both cases, the actors were Tarantino’s second choice. Tarantino states that he “wrote the role” of Vincent for Madsen (who had played Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs), but that Travolta was a “strong, strong, strong second choice.”
Tarantino says that he wrote the part of Jules for Larry Fishburn [sic], with Sam Jackson and Eddie Murphy as second choices. Fishburne turned down the role due to the movie’s depiction of heroin use. Under Marsellus Wallace, Tarantino has listed Ving Rhames and Sam Jackson – both with three stars next to their names, indicating “first choice.”
Even more fascinating is that for Mia and Butch – Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis didn’t even make the longlist of names. Under Mia, there are 16 names including Marisa Tomei, Patricia Arquette, and Angela Bassett, as well as Bridget Fonda and Pam Grier – the latter two would go on to star in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997).
For Butch, Tarantino suggests Dillon, Sean Penn, Nic Cage, Aidan Quinn, and Johnny Depp. Nicolas Cage in a Tarantino movie would definitely be something to behold, and now we’re hoping that happens in his tenth (and reportedly final) movie – The Movie Critic.
One reason it’s so hard to imagine any other actor in the Vincent Vega role is John Travolta’s dancing in the iconic Jack Rabbit Slims scene. Another consequence of the casting choices is the knock-on effect it had on the careers of both Travolta and Willis – as we’d never really seen anything like this from either actor.
Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino ended up developing the character of The Bride together, who would be the star of two Kill Bill movies. Samuel L. Jackson was Oscar-nominated for Pulp Fiction and it was a huge boost to his career as well.
It’s always fascinating to imagine what might have been when it comes to the casting of now classic movies. Check out our guides to the best 90s movies and the best Bruce Willis movies. We’re also looking forward to Deadpool 3.