It’s hard to imagine the contemporary cinema world existing without the original, varied and daring voice of Quentin Tarantino who over his career has created countless hits – both critical and commercial – ranging from True Romance to Django Unchained.
Peppered with layered performances and callbacks to what seems like a seemingly endless string of interconnections, the more new work we get from Tarantino, the more evidence we get that there is a connection to the past. Perhaps best known for his 1994 classic, Pulp Fiction, we decided to look back and dig up some tidbits that are rooted in facts – unlike the mysterious contents of Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Pulp Fiction (and one we wish were true but probably isn’t).
The script for Pulp Fiction wasn’t technically written by Quentin Tarantino
The actual nuts and bolts for what would become Pulp Fiction was written in a dozen school notebooks that featured hundreds of pages of indecipherable handwriting. Thus, when it came time to actually turn it into a blueprint for producers and studios to read, it was turned over to a typist, Linda Chen, who was the unofficial script consultant for Robert Towne – writer of legendary film, Chinatown. As she told Vanity Fair, “Quentin was fascinated by the way I worked with Towne and his team. Quentin found this dynamic of genius writer and secret weapon amusing. It began with calls where he was just reading pages to me.”
Interestingly enough, Chen actually always had to pick Tarantino up when it came time to work because he couldn’t drive due to unpaid parking tickets. Vanity Fair noted, “He has said that his first drafts look like ‘the diaries of a madman,’ but Chen says they’re even worse. “His handwriting is atrocious. He’s a functional illiterate. I was averaging about 9,000 grammatical errors per page. After I would correct them, he would try to put back the errors, because he liked them.”
It was the first independent film to gross over 200 million dollars
Made for a mere $8 million USD, the film would go on to gross over $200 million USD worldwide – becoming the first independent piece of cinema to earn that distinction.. In subsequent years, films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Fahrenheit 9/11, Good Will Hunting, Juno, The Blair Witch Project, Shakespeare in Love, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Slumdog Millionaire and The Passion of the Christ would all join Pulp Fiction.
John Travolta prepared for his scenes where he’s high on heroin by drinking tequila and laying in a bath tub
While the casting of John Travolta as Vincent Vega was a controversial one as producers thought the general public viewed him as a has-been, ultimately he proved the world wrong with a tour-de-force as the heroin-fueled hit man. In order to prepare for the role and understand the feeling of what it felt like to be under the influence of the opiate, Tarantino had a former addict/friend of his help Travolta – culminating in the actor submerging himself in a hot tub while intoxicated in order to mimic the feeling.
Eric Stolz – who played Lance the heroin dealer – was originally cast as Marty McFly in Back to the Future and actually shot scenes as the character
While his portrayal of Lance the drug dealer would prove to have a drastic impact on Vincent and Mia’s relationship, the minor role probably would have been handled by someone else had Eric Stoltz starred as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy. Stoltz actually donned the puffy red vest for five weeks of shooting before Robert Zemeckis and producers realized that “something was missing.”
The original song intended for the Gimp scene was “My Sharona”
As Quentin Tarantino told Rolling Stone, “Part of the fun of Pulp,” Tarantino said, “is that if you’re hip to movies, you’re watching the boxing movie Body and Soul and then suddenly the characters turn a corner and they’re in the middle of Deliverance. And you’re like, ‘What? How did I get into Deliverance? I was in Body and Soul, what’s going on here?'” Those that have seen Deliverance will recognize that Tarantino is referring to a particularly depraved, rural sex act that our main characters face – a similar urban fate encountered by Butch and Marsellus Wallace in the pawn shop.
Rolling Stone further notes, “The script dictates that the music playing during the rape of Marsellus is “The Judds, singing in harmony.” But Tarantino never intended to use the country-music family: he had gotten wise to the notion that if he specified the song he really wanted on the soundtrack, whoever controlled the rights would charge him extra, so he would plant false musical cues. The track he actually planned to use? The Knack’s No. 1 New Wave single from 1979, “My Sharona.” Unfortunately, the 1994 Gen-X rom-com Reality Bite salso wanted it for a scene where Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo, and Steve Zahn dance in a convenience store, and the licensing people chose Pringles over sexual assault. Instead, he picked ‘Comanche,’ a 1961 song by the surf band the Revels.”
Mia Wallace’s failed pilot character on Fox Force Five has major roots with the X-Men
During their date, Mia and Vincent discuss her failed role as Raven McCoy in Fox Force Five. Her fictional name has roots in comic book lore – as “Raven” is an homage to Raven Darkholme, the real name of Mystique, and”McCoy” points to Hank McCoy, the real name of Beast. Additionally, during the explanation of her character’s backstory she tells Vincent she was raised by circus performers: the same upbringing as Kurt Wagner, better known as Nightcrawler.
Christopher Walker’s Captain Koons is a descendant of Crazy Craig Koons, a member of the Smitty Bacall Gang from Django Unchained
There’s no question that Tarantino likes to have his characters exist in the same world – albeit separated by time and geography. Most notably we know that Lee Donowitz from True Romance is the son of Inglourious Basterds’ Donny “the Bear Jew” Donowitz and that Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs is the brother of Vincent Vega. But there’s another Easter Egg hidden in the Pulp Fiction universe.
Most of Jules’ “Ezekiel 25:17” speech isn’t found in the Bible
Perhaps one of the most memorable movie monologues of all-time as delivered by Samuel L. Jackson, almost the entire speech is fabricated and doesn’t appear in the Bible.
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
“And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
When Travolta agreed to meet Tarantino at his place to discuss details about Vincent, he realized Quentin was living in his old apartment
Call it the planets aligning or merely an unbelievable coincidence, but when the two met to discuss a role that could potentially reinvigorate Travolta’s post Welcome Back Kotter-career, he would discover that Tarantino was actually living in the same Hollywood apartment he once lived in before he landed his first major TV role.
Vincent Vega’s ’64 Malibu was actually Quentin Tarantino’s car
The car that Vincent Vegas drives was actually Quentin Tarantino’s own set of wheels, and actually stolen during production. The car would resurface 20 years later in 2013. According to Yahoo, “Bill Hemenez of San Leandro, Calif., spent over $40,000 to restore a classic 1964 Chevy Malibu that he’d purchased from a collector more than 12 years ago. He drove the car to countless shows across the state and was continually investing money into keeping it meticulous. So Hemenez was a little puzzled when police called him last year asking after a stolen Malibu in his driveway — the very same one he’d put so much money and time into. It turns out that Hemenez’s little red Chevy was none other than the car Vincent Vega drove during his troubled date with Mia Wallace in ‘Pulp Fiction’ – a car that went missing outside of director Quentin Tarantino’s home nearly two decades ago.” While it’s been reported my many sites like Shortlist, it remains unconfirmed…yet intriguing.
Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace didn’t win the dance contest, they stole the trophy
The dance scene at Jackrabbit Slim’s is one that many will point to when they discuss not only the film, but Tarantino’s ability to infuse humor, whimsy and music into a scene that pits a hitman against his boss’s wife. While it’s widely-assumed that Vega and Mrs. Wallace took home the dance contest prize for their twist routine, there’s an internet rumor reported in multiple places that they in fact stole the trophy. Keen-eared viewers will note that when Butch returns home to retrieve his watch, a radio broadcast mentions Jackrabbit Slims as he walks past his neighbor’s window. To us, there’s nothing we hear to confirm the rumor – but we wish it were true.