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Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction cast list reveals John Travolta, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman were not first choice

Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar/Miramax


Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction cast list reveals John Travolta, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman were not first choice


Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic, may have been dramatically different if the filmmaker had gotten who he wanted for the picture.

According to a leaked hand-typed cast list, purported to be Quentin’s original wishlist, Michael Madsen, not John Travolta, was Quentin Tarantino’s initial choice to portray Vincent Vega, while Eddie Murphy was considered to play Jules Winnfield.

Debra Winger or possibly Phoebe Cates might have portrayed Mia, who was famously played by Uma Thurman with black bangs.

According to a lengthier list, Tarantino preferred Virginia Madsen over Uma Thurman, and Nicholas Cage to Bruce Willis for Butch.

Tarantino’s original cast wish list for “Pulp Fiction”

Some of the proposed casting options, such as Danny DeVito as Winston Wolfe, Marcellus Wallace’s malevolent “cleaner,” point to a totally different approach for the 1994 picture. Meanwhile, Patricia Arquette was considered for the part of Jody, Lance’s wife, but her sister Rosanna was cast in the role.


Many of the studio’s authorized casting options for the film are even more unusual. Eddie Murphy was mentioned as a potential Jules. For Butch, the samurai-sword wielding boxer, Miramax preferred Nicolas Cage or Johnny Depp (really?). Bruce Willis, wasn’t even on the initial cast list. And the role of mafia enforcer The Wolf, portrayed by Harvey Keitel with an off-kilter decorum, might have gone to Warren Beatty or Danny DeVito. Surprisingly, the studio did not believe Johnny Depp would be a good fit for the part.

Larry Fishburne was thought to be the first option for the part of Jules, with Samuel L Jackson coming in second.

Although Rosanna Arquette was not considered for the role of Jody, her sister Patricia Arquette was listed as a ‘strong possibility’.

(Picture: REX/Shutterstock)

According to the records, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who will make her Tarantino debut in the forthcoming western The Hateful Eight, was considered for both Jody and Honey Bunny. Amanda Plummer was Tarantino’s first choice for the latter role, and Tim Roth was his first choice for the small-time thief’s partner in crime, Pumpkin.

The role of Winston Wolfe, Marcellus Wallace’s ‘cleaner,’ was also considered for Danny DeVito.

Christopher Walken seems to have been Tarantino’s first option for Captain Koons, however Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino were all considered.

Pulp Fiction, which received seven Oscar nominations and is still Tarantino’s biggest box office smash when adjusted for inflation, is credited with helping to resurrect the careers of many of its performers. After garnering a best actor Oscar nod for his portrayal as Vega in Saturday Night Fever, Travolta was suddenly hot property again in a manner he hadn’t been since the film, while Willis emerged from a box office slump.

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