Directly after his “Reservoir Dogs”, Quentin Tarantino starts his second feature film, “Pulp Fiction”. For his characters, he has very specific actors in mind. But Bruce Willis, superstar of the time and desiring at all costs to be in “Pulp Fiction”, will come to complicate his task…
The Quentin Tarantino Sensation
In 1994, Quentin Tarantino enters the pantheon of American filmmakers with his second feature film, pulp Fiction. Film of gangsters then unique in its genre, funny, violent, ultra-referenced, homage to popular culture and object of maniacal care on the part of its author, pulp Fiction gets the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festivalthe Golden Globe, the Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Screenplay, among many other distinctions.
If Quentin Tarantino so quickly became a legend of the 7th art, he owes it to this film, a perfect transformation of the essay that was, two years earlier, his Reservoir Dogs. This one, already a story of gangsters in non-linear narration, has indeed ideally prepared the ground for pulp Fiction, drawing all eyes in Hollywood to the 29-year-old director. So when Quentin Tarantino got down to developing pulp Fiction, there are many contenders for the casting. Including a star with worldwide popularity: Bruce Willis.
To play boxer Butch Coolidge, Quentin Tarantino has an actor in mind, since he wrote the role for him. It is Matt Dillon, and that’s a good thing since he is one of the actors “approved” by Miramax, which has just bought the film rights. Quentin Tarantino is free to put together the cast he wants, as long as there are at least one or two names validated by Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s company.
The situation is therefore a priori ideal, but Matt Dillon hesitates. In Tarantino’s Own Words Facing Tom Segurahe does not fully understand the character of Butch, and instead looks towards that of Vincent Vega, already attributed to John Travolta. Matt Dillon doesn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but requires time for reflection. A time that will ultimately benefit Bruce Willis.
Everyone wants to play Vincent Vega
It was during a visit to Harvey Keitel, then in Los Angeles for a shoot, that Quentin Tarantino first met Bruce Willis.
He turns out to be a huge fan of “Reservoir Dogs” (…) I think it was this kind of situation, Harvey told Bruce that my new scenario was circulating in Hollywood, and that I would be at his house and therefore that if he wanted to read it and meet me, it would be the right time… Which Bruce did, since when we met, he had already read the script for “Pulp Fiction”!
In short, at one point he takes me aside, tells me that he wants to introduce me to Demi (Moore, editor’s note), and so we walk on the beach, from Harvey’s house to his. “I want to play Vincent!” I tell him it’s already for John Travolta. We talk about it, but he does not insist, he says that it is rather a good choice, etc. In reality, it was his agent who also put pressure on me. He said to me: “Quentin, do you realize that, when your film comes out, the last film to date with Bruce Willis will have been a very big success, while John Travolta will have said ‘Hello mom, it’s is Christmas”?” (laughs)
A final phase of complicated negotiation
Anyway, Bruce Willis then asks me if he can’t play Jules… And that’s where it gets difficult. Because I already said no for Vincent, and now I have to say no to him again. So we need a star like Bruce in the movie! But, quite simply, it does not. Bruce in Jules, it just doesn’t fit. I tell him however that I will think about it, but nothing helps, it can’t work. So I tell him, the next day: “The role that would suit you perfectly is that of Butch. Just reread the script one last time and imagine yourself in this role”. “Okay, I’ll do that tonight.” The next day, I call him, and he says to me: “Quentin, the shortest sentence in the Bible is: ‘Jesus cried’. In Hollywood, the shortest sentence is: ‘I’m in’. And “I’m in.”
The anecdote is beautiful, and the sequel is too. Bruce Willis considerably reduces his salary claims against a share in the film’s receipts. On a budget of $8 million, pulp Fiction reports 214 million at the global box office. Reviews for his performance are rave reviews, and it offers Bruce Willis a resurgence in popularity and a fresh industry look at his acting roster.
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Pulp Fiction: how Bruce Willis won the casting of Tarantino’s masterpiece – CinéSéries