Roger Ebert once called Pulp Fiction the most influential movie of the 1990s. It won the 1995 Oscar for best original screenplay, and was nominated in six other categories. It cost $8.5 million to make, and it earned $214 million worldwide, which made it the highest grossing independent film at the time.
Here are some behind-the-scenes facts about the film and its production that will probably surprise you.
1. In the end credits, the coffee shop manager is credited as “Coffee Shop.” That’s because in the robbery scene when he’s accused of being a “hero,” he replies “I am not a hero, I’m just a coffee shop-” and gets interrupted as he says “manager.”
Several websites incorrectly claim that the actor never says the word “manager.” But in fact he can be heard finishing the line, as it is only partially drowned out by Tim Roth yelling. The complete line is “I am not a hero, I’m just a coffee shop manager. Just take whatever you want.”(1,2)
2. The Honda Civic that Butch drives in Pulp Fiction also appears in two other Tarantino movies. It’s driven by the title character in Jackie Brown, and it appears in Kill Bill Vol. 2 in the parking lot at the “My Oh My Club.”
Also, as a related fact about the cars in Pulp Fiction, the car that Vincent Vega drives is actually owned by Tarantino. It was stolen during filming and recovered 20 years later. More information about that is covered here in our list of facts about popular movies.(1,2)
3. Tarantino took inspiration from the 1991 short film Curdled when creating the character of the cab driver Esmeralda Villalobos. The actress that played Villalobos acted in Curdled as a woman that cleans up crime scenes and becomes fascinated with the idea of murder.
The character’s interest in murder is shown in Pulp Fiction when she questions Butch about how it feels to kill a man. Tarantino was later the producer for a feature-length version of Curdled released in 1996. (1,2,3)
4. Tarantino wanted to use the song “My Sharona” by The Knack as the music during the rape scene.
Tarantino said the song “has a really good sodomy beat to it. I thought, oh, God, this is just too funny not to use.” But the licensing people turned the film down. Later, Tarantino said he was glad. “It would have been too cutely comic. I like using stuff for comic effect, but I don’t want it to be har, har, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, you know?” The music that ended up being used for the scene is the 1961 song “Comanche” by the Revels.(source)
5. Michael Madsen’s character in Reservoir Dogs, Vic Vega (also known as Mr. Blonde), was originally supposed to be in Pulp Fiction. However, Madsen was already working on the film Wyatt Earp. So the character was replaced with his brother, Vincent Vega.
In 2004, Tarantino said he considered making a movie about the Vega brothers starring Madsen and Travolta. He planned to call it Double V Vega. But in 2007, he said the project was unlikely to ever be made due to the actors’ ages and the characters’ onscreen deaths.(1,2)
6. The dialogue between Jules and Vincent about Amsterdam was influenced by the fact Tarantino lived there for three months while writing the script.
Tarantino hand wrote the script in a dozen school notebooks which he gave to a typist friend, Linda Chen. She has said Tarantino’s handwriting is “atrocious,” and the script was filled with grammatical errors.(source)
7. Bruce Willis was eager to have a part in Pulp Fiction. He heard about the project from Harvey Keitel. So he went to a barbecue at Keitel’s house that Tarantino would be attending, and made it known that he wanted to play Vincent Vega.
Unfortunately for Willis, Travolta had already been cast as Vincent. The next option was the part of Butch, but Tarantino had previously promised that part to Matt Dillon. However, when Tarantino sent Dillon the script, Dillon said he wanted to “sleep on it”. Tarantino then retracted his offer to Dillon, saying “if he can’t tell me face-to-face that he wants to be in the movie—after he read the script—he’s out.”(source)
8. Roger Avary helped Tarantino write the script for Pulp Fiction. But during the film’s production, Avary received a call from Tarantino’s lawyer asking him to give up his co-writer credit. The reason is they wanted the film’s advertising to say “written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.” Avery refused at first but ended up accepting a “story by” credit instead.
9. Tarantino shot Pulp Fiction using the slowest film available from Kodak. This provided high picture quality, but required extremely bright lights.
According to producer Lawrence Bender, “Each one of them is like the power of the sun. We thought the lights were going to crack the glass in the diner, it was so hot.”(source)
10. In the overdose scene, they used Campbell’s mushroom soup to create the spittle drooling from Mia’s mouth.
Uma Thurman has said that the glazed-eyed look she had in the scene did not involve putting anything in her eyes. “I worked myself up, acting. I don’t think we put anything in my eyes. You’re paid for something.” (source)
11. The “fourth man” who bursts out of the bathroom to attack Jules and Vincent was played by Alexis Arquette. Arquette often performed as a female impersonator and later underwent sex reassignment surgery to transition into a woman. She is well known for her role as George in The Wedding Singer.
Arquette later became a transgender activist. She died in 2016 at the age of 47 due to health problems related to HIV. Arquette’s sister Rosanna also acted in Pulp Fiction as Jody, the drug dealer’s wife.(source)
12. The bible passage that Samuel L. Jackson quotes in the movie isn’t actually from the bible. It’s taken from the opening scene of the 1976 martial-arts film The Bodyguard. Only a small portion of it is similar to the bible passage. The quote was later referenced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
In the movie, Jackson’s character Jules says he’s memorized the passage Ezekiel 25:17 from the bible, and then he recites it as follows:
“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 attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
But only the ending of that quote is similar to a bible passage. In the King James Bible, Ezekiel 25:17 reads “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”
The rest of the quote is taken from the beginning of The Bodyguard, which was the American release of the 1973 film Karate Kiba. The passage scrolls across the screen at the beginning of The Bodyguard. The quotes in Pulp Fiction and The Bodyguard are almost identical except for one major difference: in The Bodyguard, the words “the Lord” are replaced with “Chiba the bodyguard.”
As a nod to Pulp Fiction, the quote is referenced in another Jackson movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The scene at the grave site of Jackson’s character, Nick Fury, reveals that the epitaph on his tombstone reads “The path of the righteous man…”(1,2,3)