It’s hard to imagine Pulp Fiction without the iconic cast – but there were some other big names considered.
After reinvigorating American independent cinema with his debut feature Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino returned to screens a couple of years later with an even greater movie. His sophomore directorial effort, Pulp Fiction, managed to have an even bigger impact on indie cinema.
One of the greatest assets of Tarantino’s filmmaking is his colorful characters. From Vincent Vega to Mia Wallace to “The Gimp,” Pulp Fiction is responsible for some of Tarantino’s most memorable characters. While Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, and the rest of the cast ended up being perfect for their roles, they weren’t the first choices.
10 Michael Madsen As Vincent Vega
Tarantino’s first choice for the role of Vincent Vega was Reservoir Dogs’ Michael Madsen. However, Madsen instead chose to take an offer for Kevin Costner’s biopic of Wyatt Earp, a decision he’s since come to regret.
In the larger Tarantino-verse, Vincent Vega is the brother of Vic Vega, a.k.a. “Mr. Blonde,” who Madsen played in Reservoir Dogs. If he’d played both roles, the Vega brothers would’ve been twins.
9 Matt Dillon As Butch Coolidge
When Tarantino was writing Pulp Fiction, he’d promised the role of boxer Butch Coolidge to Matt Dillon, who’d been a big star since his revelatory turn in Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy. However, when he gave Dillon the completed script, the actor read it and said, “I love it. Let me sleep on it.”
Since he was looking for an actor who was desperate to play the role from the moment they put down the script, Tarantino pulled the offer and instead gave the part to Bruce Willis.
8 Meg Ryan As Mia Wallace
Although Tarantino wanted to cast Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace after their first meeting, the producers were hoping to cast a more established star (the kind of established star Thurman would become overnight after the release of Pulp Fiction).
One of the names that came up when the producers were searching for a better-known actor than Thurman was Meg Ryan, who’d become a huge star with romcoms like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.
7 John Cusack As Lance
On Tarantino’s casting wish list for Pulp Fiction, John Cusack is listed as the first choice for the role of Vincent’s heroin dealer Lance, with the eventual casting of Eric Stoltz marked down as the second choice.
The director noted on the casting wish list, “Wrote part for John. If John can’t do it, I want Eric.” Cusack is best-known for playing romantic leads in movies like Say Anything and High Fidelity.
6 Laurence Fishburne As Jules Winnfield
Although Samuel L. Jackson ended up being the perfect choice to play Jules Winnfield, the role was originally offered to The Matrix star Laurence Fishburne, who turned it down because of its depiction of heroin use.
Fishburne felt that the movie made heroin use seem “attractive” and that its portrayal was “cavalier.”
5 Danny DeVito As The Wolf
Harvey Keitel was always Tarantino’s top choice for the role of Winston “the Wolf” Wolf, because the character was based on Keitel’s crime scene cleaner role in the movie Point of No Return.
Before Keitel was secured for the role, the studio suggested Danny DeVito. The future Always Sunny star ultimately produced Pulp Fiction through his company Jersey Films.
4 Pam Grier As Jody
Courtney Love claimed to have been offered the role of Lance’s wife Jody in Pulp Fiction, and that Tarantino wanted Kurt Cobain to play Lance, but Tarantino denied that he’d ever even met Love.
According to Tarantino’s casting wish list, blaxploitation legend Pam Grier was one of the top choices to play Jody. Grier ended up playing the title role in Tarantino’s next movie, Jackie Brown.
3 Daniel Day-Lewis As Vincent Vega
Long before he would play corrupt oil tycoon Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis actively lobbied for the role of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.
Although Day-Lewis was Harvey Weinstein’s top choice, he had little chance of landing the role, as Tarantino wrote it for Michael Madsen and John Travolta was his firm second choice.
2 Johnny Depp As Pumpkin
Tim Roth was always Tarantino’s top choice for stickup artist Pumpkin, having worked with the actor on Reservoir Dogs, but in case Roth was unable to play the part, the writer-director included a few backup choices on his casting wish list.
According to this wish list, the second choice after Roth was Johnny Depp, who’d made his name a decade earlier in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
1 Julia Louis-Dreyfus As Mia Wallace
From Michelle Pfeiffer to Alfre Woodard to Isabella Rossellini, a ton of different actors were considered for the role of Mia Wallace. Surprisingly, Elaine Benes herself, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, was one of them.
Louis-Dreyfus had to turn down the role because the shooting schedule clashed with that of Seinfeld. The bickering back-and-forth between Jules and Vincent has been compared to Jerry and George’s dialogue in the classic sitcom.
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