“Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.”
That’s how John Travolta’s Vincent Vega reacts to blowing some dude’s skull off about two-thirds of the way through Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction.
It’s as if he has forgot to take the laundry out of the washer or left the stove on for too long — it’s not that big of a deal; we’ve fixed this problem before, haven’t we?
Well, no, not really, but it’s still not enough to rattle his cage and make his skin start to sweat. After all, that same morning he escaped an almost guaranteed death — was it a miracle? — in a close-ranged apartment shootout. And, as all of us former hit men out there know, once you’ve cheated death, there’s no need to take a deep breath to recollect composure.
Sure, Vince has Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winfield (easily the second coolest name in the script behind Marcellus Wallace, of course) yelling his ear off, but he still doesn’t flinch. Why? Because he’s too cool — or maybe just too disillusioned about his own existence and purpose in life— to worry about the death of somebody he barely knows.
At the end of the day, what does it all matter anyway? We’re all going to meet the same inevitable end — whether it’s on a toilet seat in some stranger’s apartment or whether it’s the basement of pawn shop turned sex dungeon — so mine as well take a different path than everyone else to get there.
And that’s the brilliance of Pulp Fiction. Where other films work desperately to pinpoint and deliver a message, or try to find some sort of meaning, to its audience, Tarantino’s thriller recklessly abandons this notion of crowd-pleasing with its non-linear narrative structure. It doesn’t seem to care — or even pretend to want to care — about finding and satisfying that solution we’ve all grown so accustomed to finding at the end of our favorite stories.
The film, which celebrates its 20th birthday on October 14th, is simply the most unconventional movie ever made and all of our lives — as media consumers — are better off because of its existence, even if we’re not completely aware or want to admit it.
Pulp’s impact on the history of cinema is monumental, for lack of a better of words, and to honor it we’ve come up with 20 fun facts you may have not known about Big Kahuna Burger, Marcellus’ medieval revenge tactics, Mia’s cheap ketchup joke, that damn gold-glowing briefcase and everything in between.
Everybody be cool, this is a robbery:
1. Bring out the Gimp
I’ve always found it odd/irritating that fans of the film find the Butch-Marcellus storyline to be the worst of the three stories that Tarantino weaves together. I mean, how can a scene like this possibly not be considered as one of the top five in the entire movie? Oh wait, we’re talking about Pulp Fiction. I almost forget, every sequence is worthy of consideration as the best.
Anyways, there is a fun fact to be told here: the song that is playing “Comanche” by the Revels wasn’t supposed to be in the film (note: it’s hard to imagine the scene without it if you’ve re-watched the movie dozens of times like I have). QT had actually wanted to use “My Sharona” by the Knack during the gimp torture but the rights had been sold to another movie — one that had nowhere near the cultural and cinematic impact of Pulp Fiction. Oh well.
2. A felt pen, a fucking magic marker!
Tarantino wrote a pair of parts for himself — Jimmie, the role he wound up playing, and Vincent’s drug dealer Lance — and had difficult deciding over which one to play. He ultimately chose Jimmie so he could be behind the camera during the overdose-needle scene with Vincent, Mia, Lance and Trudy.
It proved to be a great choice as Eric Stoltz proved to be an iconic Lance (“cocaine is fucking dead as dead…heroin, it’s coming back in a big fucking way”) and QT nailed his part as Jimmie. I’m assuming we all know by now that he doesn’t have a sign in front of his house that says…well; let’s just move on.
3. Ms. Mia Wallace
This wouldn’t be a proper history lesson if we didn’t bring in some of QT’s casting choices. While it may come as a surprise to fans of the Kill Bill series, Uma Thurman was one of numerous actresses to audition for the part of Mia (although I can’t think of any actress better suited for the part).
The director looked at a wide list of possible candidate for the part, including Julia Louise Dreyfus, Halle Berry, Meg Ryan, Daryl Hannah (who would later play Elle in Kill Bill), Joan Cusack and Michelle Pfeiffer.
He eventually realized Thurman was the only person he wanted for the role and was so desperate to have her that he read the script to her over the phone.
Similarly, Samuel L. Jackson almost lost the part of Jules before flying out to Los Angeles for a last-second audition.
4. The path of the righteous man…
“…is beset on all sides by the inequities 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 would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
Yep, Ezekiel 25:17 is the most badass biblical passage ever, except for the fact that isn’t. Say what?
The famous and often-quoted lines were actually made up by QT and Jackson. A few phrases are lifted from the good book, but the rest is simply, well, pulp fiction.
5. That’s my bad mother fucker
The infamous curse-inscribed wallet was actually Tarantino’s possession at the time of filming. The words are a direct reference to the theme song of Shaft, which, ironically, Samuel L. Jackson would go on to play six years later.
Side note: I always loved how Jules gives Ringo the wallet’s money and Vincent threatens to shoot Ringo because of it. It’s a great over reaction that Jackson neutralizes with a single flare of the nostrils (his best asset, right?). Overall, money doesn’t matters to Jules — he just wants to hold onto his bad mother fucker. I can’t blame him.
6. Oak’s nice
Like every clip hyperlinked here, this is one of my favorite scenes in the movie (OK, fine, I have a very difficult time ordering them whatsoever).
We already went over the fact that QT chose to be Jimmie so he could film the needle scene so that begs the question, who stepped behind the camera during the marvelous Winston Wolf scenes? Well, of course, it’s none other than Tarantino’s long time buddy Robert Rodriquez.
Since stepping in to the uncredited role in Pulp, the two directors have since collaborated on From Dusk Till Dawn, Grindhouse, Sin City and a plethora of other projects.
There’s nothing quite like having a friendship that is as solid as oak.
7. It would have been worth it just to catch him doing it
Vince tells Lance about how is 1964 Malibu convertible was keyed by somebody while it was in storage. He’s obviously upset about it but not nearly as bummed out as the car’s actual owner — again, Quentin Tarantino, who saw the vehicle stolen during the production of the film.
8. Vincent, are we happy?
Better known as “what’s in the suitcase?” Well, that could be just about anything as QT has publicly stated that the contents are strictly up to fan interpretation and that the mysterious gold glow that it gave off wasn’t anything more than smoke and mirrors (well, technically, it was a battery and a light bulb).
So much for solving that mystery!
9. It’s not a motorcycle, baby, it’s a chopper
How about this for continuity — the first sound of the entire movie is the roar of a motorcycle engine in the parking lot of the diner where Ringo and Yolanda are eating breakfast. Oddly enough, the final sound of the film — chronologically speaking — is that of Butch and Fabienne driving away on Zed’s motorcycle chopper.
10. Marvin, what do you think?
Ah, back to dear old Marvin. In the original script, it was written that Vince was supposed to shoot him accidentally in the throat and then deliver the fatal blow to put him out of his misery. Of course, as we all know, Vincent’s gun only went off once and the scene in Jules’ car plays out a lot less dramatically as the previous scenario was written.
Two for one special: the actor who played Marvin wasn’t on the set during the shooting. QT used a prop body in both the brain explosion and in the clean up scene at Jimmies.
11. Did you see the size of that thing, it was bigger than him
In the “miracle” shootout at the apartment, a lone gunman unloads on Vincent and Jules before being taken out by the cool-headed hit men. If you watch closely enough though, there are bullet holes in the wall behind them before any shots are fired. Jules may have been onto something after all — that definitely is quite a trick that QT pulled, if not a miracle.
12. Prank caller, prank caller
For some reason, as I’m sure you can tell, I love the character of Lance. The dude is an absolute riot and he steals the overdose scene, even though its clearly Travolta and Thurman’s moment.
Anyway, if you watch the scene again, you will notice the board games The Game of Life and Operation are both visible on the floor in Lance’s apartment before he goes running off to find that ridiculously over-sized needle.
13. Pig tastes good
Everybody knows that Pulp jump-started what was almost a completely dead career for its lead actor, John Travolta. Times were so tough for the actor that he ended up playing the part for less than $150,000. He went on to receive an Oscar nod for Best Actor before eventually losing to Forrest Gump, but made history nonetheless — no Best Actor nominee has ever been paid less for a part.
14. That’s pride fucking with you
Travolta wasn’t the only one getting underpaid — Thurman and Bruce Willis (who plays Butch, how have I not mentioned this yet?) each had to take pay cuts to be a part of the film, which had a $8 million dollar budget and went on to make $210-plus million worldwide. Not too bad.
Oh, and by the way, all the stars went on to reap in the benefits of being in this highly successful project so let’s not throw any pity parties for them.
15. Momma tomato, daddy tomato and a baby tomato
Mia’s acting background includes a brief stint on Fox Force Five as Raven McCoy, who of course tells that miserable ketchup joke. The name is in direct reference to the X-Men comic books, which feature character’s named Raven Darkholme (Mystique) and Hank McCoy (Beast).
QT is a big comic guy but he’s never signed on to do a Hollywood tent pole, thankfully.
16. In the fifth, your ass goes down
Marcellus, god love him and that glorious name of his, has a strange fixation with punishing his enemies in the ass — he threatens Butch’s training with ‘dogs on his ass’ and then sends a henchman to ‘pop a cap in his ass.’ Ironically, the man gets a taste of his own medicine, literally, when he is captured and raped in the torture scene with the Gimp.
17. Give me three hundred worth of the madman
To better understand his part as a heroin addict, John Travolta talked to one of QT’s friends – a recovering addict — who suggested that Travolta get drunk on tequila and lie in a hot pool in order to properly portray the drug’s effects without taking it.
Travolta tried the method, not on set, in a hotel hot tub and has said it helped him better perform the roles where Vincent is high.
18. Say something…something
Oh boy, we almost got to the end without mentioning the needle scene again. Sorry, but I couldn’t resist. The shot of Vincent plunging the syringe of adrenaline into Mia’s chest was actually filmed in reverse with the actor pulling the needle out of the chest rather than jabbing it down into her breast plate.
Tricky, tricky, Mr. Tarantino.
19. Don’t forget my father’s watch
Of course, things come to an end for Vincent Vega inside Butch’s apartment. The gun that Butch uses to kill Vince doesn’t belong to Vince though— and its not Jules, either. The duo has split up at this point of the narrative with Jules entering his so-called retirement. Therefore, that massive machine gun left on Butch’s counter actually belongs to Marcellus Wallace, who was staking out the place as part of a two-man job with Vincent.
Have I lost anybody yet?
Marcellus is out grabbing coffee and doughnuts when Butch makes his untimely return home. Minutes later, Butch drives his car into Marcellus who has a pink box full of baked goods in his hand.
20. You’re going to go home, jack off and that’s all you’re going to do
Vincent makes taking a dump, which is a side effect of heroin, his primary occupation throughout the film. Any time he goes to the toilet, something bad happens.
At Mia’s house, he steps out to find her overdosing. At the restaurant, in the final scene, he emerges to see his partner holding up a potential robber, and, finally, as we just went over, he is fatally shot by butch after just finishing the final poop of his life. Poor guy.