With films like Clueless, The Silence of the Lambs, and Titanic gracing movie theaters in the 1990s, most would say it was a pretty good time for film. But even with all the stiff competition, one film stands out from the pack: Quentin Tarantino’s oddball masterpiece, Pulp Fiction.
The 1994 bonkers crime flick has been quoted, memed, spoofed, and beloved for decades. Yet there are a plethora of weird facts and behind-the-scenes secrets about the film that seem to have escaped even the most informed Tarantino buffs. Let’s open the briefcase and expose them all!
1. Everyone remembers that infamous, profanity-laced wallet Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules, owns. Well, Tarantino didn’t need to search for this kitschy treasure, as he had already owned the wallet himself and put it in the film! Good on you, Quentin.
2. A 30-year-old Tarantino wrote the script to the Pulp in a dingy, one-room Amsterdam apartment over three months in 1992. Since Google Docs weren’t exactly available in ’92 he wrote the entire script in a dozen beat-up composition notebooks.
3. After Tarantino failed to successfully bunny-sit for his friend/typist, Linda Chen, he named Amanda Plummer’s character Honey Bunny to honor Chen’s deceased pet (R.I.P. to the original Honey Bunny).
4. As hard as it is to believe, Uma Thurman originally turned down the historic role of Mia Wallace. But Tarantino begged her over the phone to take the role, desperately reading her the script aloud. Obviously his persistence worked.
5. There’s a fan theory that the bandage on the back of Marsellus Wallace’s neck was used to cover the spot from where the Devil removed his soul. Tarantino put that theory to bed when he revealed the bandage was simply used to cover a cut Ving Rhames had.
6. In one powerful scene, Jules Winnfield recites a bible verse, Ezekiel 25:17. Or does he? Well, he sort of does. Tarantino altered the actual bible verse, as he’s a man who has no problems taking creative liberties.
7. Although Rosanna Arquette played the quirky Jody — Vincent Vega’s drug dealer’s wife (the one with all the metal in her face) — Ellen Degeneres actually auditioned for the role!
8. F-bombs are to Tarantino flicks as peanut butter is to jelly; they just go together. Pulp Fiction has exactly 265 F words, making it — maybe unsurprisingly — the most that word was used in any film of 1994.
9. In 2007, Premiere voted Pulp‘s hysterical line, “You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris? They call it a Royale with cheese,” to be #81 on its prestigious list entitled “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines.”
10. Costume designer Betsy Heimann didn’t let Pulp Fiction‘s small budget discourage her. When she couldn’t find black pants long enough for Uma, she just cut them even shorter. Although capri pants weren’t really in style at the time, Mia Wallace helped bring them back.
11. When a “Speed Racer” t-shirt caught Heimann’s attention, Tarantino informed her that he proudly owned one himself. She felt the shirt would work perfectly for Eric Stoltz’s lazy character, just peeking out from under a dirty bathrobe.
12. You know that crazy scene where Butch Coolidge hits uber-bad-guy Marsellus Wallace with his car? If you pay attention, you can spot a (pre-plastic-surgery) cameo by controversial comedian Kathy Griffin. She plays one of the hit-and-run bystanders.
13. Audiences assume that Mia and Vincent won Jack Rabbit Slim’s dance contest doing the Twist. Later in the film, however, we hear a muffled television commercial for the 50s themed restaurant, which mentions the contest trophy was stolen — the same trophy Mia brought home the night of said contest!
14. You can spot a young Steve Buscemi, who plays a waiter hilariously disguised as Buddy Holly, in the famous milkshake scene. Tarantino clearly wanted to bring Buscemi’s talent back to his blooming filmography after his memorable performance in Reservoir Dogs.
15. Pulp Fiction had a budget of a mere $8.5 million, but that didn’t hold Tarantino and the crew back: the film blew its budget out of the water, grossing over $200 million worldwide.
16. People live for a good continuity error. During the scene where Mia overdoses in her own home, she is wearing Vincent Vega’s jacket. The scene then cuts to Mia picking up a cigarette, no longer wearing the jacket. Virtually a second later, we see Mia lighting her cigarette with Vincent’s jacket back on. It’s movie magic!
17. About $150,000 of Pulp‘s measly budget went toward the Jack Rabbit Slim’s set, which was built in a Culver City warehouse. No wonder that shake was so expensive.
18. A painting of Mia can be seen hanging in Marsellus’ house; it was painted by Steven Martinez, the brother of the film’s head graphic designer, Gerald Martinez. Steven is credited with “Very Special Thanks.”
19. We can’t imagine anyone other than Uma Thurman playing Mia Wallace, but the alluring Thurman wasn’t Tarantino’s first choice to play the iconic character. He initially pegged Michelle Pfeiffer for the role.
20. That Honda that Bruce Willis drove in Pulp Fiction has gotten a lot of air time by now. Tarantino put that same Honda Civic in 1997’s Jackie Brown and 2004’s Kill Bill: Volume 2. Talk about being resourceful.
21. Tarantino’s signature style involves referencing his favorite films in his own work. The famous diner dance in Pulp Fiction is actually a near-copy of a scene from Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2.
22. One of Tarantino’s best pals is fellow filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, and they’ve helped each other out on their most famous projects. Robert directed the parts of Pulp Fiction that Quentin acted in, while Tarantino guest-directed a scene in Sin City.
These hidden connections, crazy mishaps, quirks, and personal dramas are not limited to Pulp Fiction. They’re secret ingredients in all his masterpiece films.
1. In the Kill Bill films, for instance, Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah remained foes regardless of whether or not the cameras were rolling. Producers had to hire staff to keep the feuding actresses apart at the cast’s hotel and at after-parties.
2. Reservoir Dogs remains one of Tarantino’s most popular movies, but he won’t say what the title means. He once claimed he heard it when a video store customer mispronounced Louis Malle’s Au revoir les enfants, but that film wasn’t available during his employment there.
3. After the Bride defeats the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill: Volume 1, O-Ren Ishii tells her, “I hope you’ve saved your energy. If you haven’t, you may not last 5 minutes.” Their subsequent duel last exactly 4 minutes and 59 seconds.
4. Sometimes actors have more in common with their characters than you’d expect. This horse featured in Django Unchained, for example, actually belongs to Jamie Foxx! He received it as a gift years earlier and became a riding nut.
5. A skilled auteur like Tarantino knows to keep the cameras rolling, no matter what. Near the climax of Django Unchained, Leo DiCaprio — as antagonist Calvin Candie — cut his hand when slamming his fist on the table. It fit so well that Tarantino kept it in the final cut!
6. In the 1990s, Tarantino was shopping for a Volvo, as he heard they were particularly safe. While scanning the lot, it occurred to him that a stunt team could upgrade any vehicle to make it death-proof. That moment inspired the 2007 film of the same name.
7. Nothing drives Quentin as batty as egregious product placement in movies. That’s why he invents brands for his films, like Red Apple Cigarettes. Alternatively, he’ll use now-defunct items like Fruit Brute cereal.
8. Tarantino has a stable of actors that he’ll work with again and again, including Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, and Uma Thurman. But established A-listers will plead with him for a part in his films, like Robert DeNiro did for Jackie Brown.
9. In addition to his penchant for violence and profanity-laden witticisms, Tarantino’s work repeatedly fixates on women’s feet. Viewers can see a close-up shot of a foot or shoe, or even a discussion about feet, in most of his films.
10. Gogo Yubari, armed with her schoolgirl persona and deadly meteor hammer, might be the scariest part of Kill Bill. Tarantino learned that firsthand when actress Chiaki Kuriyama accidentally hit him in the head with her chained weapon!
11. Eli Roth stole the show in Inglourious Basterds as baseball bat-wielding Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz. However, Tarantino initially had a very different actor in mind. He asked comedian Adam Sandler to play the part, but he was busy filming Funny People.
12. The Hateful Eight called for Jennifer Jason Leigh to play a song on guitar, and then for Kurt Russell to grab and smash it. Unfortunately, Kurt didn’t wait for the crew to hand him a prop guitar, so he ended up smashing a priceless 19th-century instrument.
13. Besides co-starring in From Dusk Till Dawn, Tarantino wrote the script — for a mere $1,500. He accepted that project to curry favor with special effects company KNB. They, in turn, pulled off some of the more gruesome violence in Reservoir Dogs for free.
14. Shooting Reservoir Dogs on a shoestring budget of $1.2 million, Tarantino had to get creative with certain expenses. He instructed most actors to supply their own clothes for costumes, most famously when it came to Chris Penn’s tracksuit.
15. German officers in Inglourious Basterds throw a fit after Shosanna Dreyfus brings up Lilian Harvey in conversation. In real life, Harvey was a 1930s German actress who helped persecuted friends escape the country before fleeing herself.
16. A huge moment in Kill Bill: Volume 2 is when The Bride’s real name is finally revealed. However, sharp-eyed viewers can actually catch “Beatrix Kiddo” on her plane ticket in the first installment.