The Big Picture

  • Quentin Tarantino cast John Travolta in Pulp Fiction after connecting with him for a night of board games.
  • Tarantino appreciated Travolta’s philosophical nature, which is exactly what he needed for the role.
  • Pulp Fiction
    celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

The TCM Classic Film Festival recently marked its celebration with a nostalgic 30th-anniversary screening of Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s groundbreaking 1994 film that reshaped the landscape of modern cinema. At the TCL Chinese Theatre, iconic cast members John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Harvey Keitel reunited, igniting excitement among fans and festival attendees. The event highlighted the enduring appeal of the film, known for its highly unconventional narrative structure, sharp dialogue, and unforgettable characters, even though Tarantino himself was notably absent from proceedings.

During the festival, Travolta shared an intriguing story about his initial meeting with Tarantino, involving a night of board games and unexpected bonding. The, quite frankly, weird but delightful story has shed some light on how their little bonding session ultimately led to Travolta landing the pivotal role of Vincent Vega, the slickly dressed hitman. Travolta recounted his first encounter with Tarantino at the director’s Hollywood apartment where they connected over board games based on movies and TV shows in which Travolta had starred.

“He was so adorable,” Travolta remembered, as he described how Tarantino eagerly suggested playing games like the Saturday Night Fever and Welcome Back, Kotter versions. In typical Tarantino fashion, the director made a geeky request for Travolta to occasionally drop lines from his films during the game without warning. The evening of board games was not just a fun anecdote but a critical moment for Tarantino in deciding that Travolta was the right fit for the role of Vincent in Pulp Fiction.

Despite Travolta’s initial reluctance to accept a role in From Dusk Till Dawn due to his disinterest in vampire-themed stories, Tarantino saw a deeper, philosophical quality in Travolta that he felt was essential for Vincent Vega. Travolta revealed that Tarantino had told him: “You have a philosophical viewpoint that I need for that character.” The casting choice marked a significant turning point in Travolta’s career, which had been somewhat stagnant prior to Pulp Fiction after the high point of his work in the 1970s and 1980s. The role of Vincent Vega brought him back into the spotlight, showcasing his abilities in a way that was both refreshing and dynamic.

Why Was ‘Pulp Fiction’ So Memorable?

Pulp Fiction was more than just a career booster for Travolta; it revolutionized American cinema with its inventive use of non-linear storytelling, razor-sharp dialogue, and intense, pulsating scenes that have left a permanent imprint on pop culture. The film’s legacy continues to influence filmmakers and serves as a critical point of reference in discussions about cinema from the 1990s.

You can check out the entire Q&A in the video above. Pulp Fiction is available to stream on Hulu in the U.S.


Pulp Fiction

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Release Date
September 10, 1994

Watch on Hulu

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