Daniel Day-Lewis was sounded out to play lead character Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino's classic 1994 crime-thriller Pulp Fiction, though Michael Madsen was eventually favored, who himself had to give way for John Travolta due to scheduling conflicts. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Tarantino revealed producer Harvey Weinstein had the opportunity to land Oscar winner Day-Lewis for the role, though Quentin was adamant Vega should be played by his Reservoir Dogs pal Madsen.
Tarantino had Travolta on his shortlist for the role, though he was initially scratched at an early stage. The director recalled, "One of the actors I had on the list was John Travolta. And it came back, 'The entire list is approved... except for John Travolta.' So I got together with Harvey, and he's like, 'I can get Daniel Day-Lewis." In the end, Travolta made himself available for the role, and the rest - as they say - is history.
In the same Vanity Fair article, Tarantino's agent Mike Simpson confesses the role of Butch Coolidge, played by Bruce Willis, was initially offered to Matt Dillon. "Quentin... gave Matt the script and he read it, and he said, 'I love it. Let me sleep on it'. Quentin then called me and said, 'He's out. 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.'" Weinstein eventually decided upon Die Hard man Willis, though there was still casting changes to be made.
Puerto Rican actor Paul Calderon, who plays a smaller role in the film, was almost handed the starring role of Jules Winnfield, played in the movie by Samuel L Jackson. The actor failed to impress in his initial audition, after which Jackson walked into the room and landed the part. Calderon remembers, "I was the first one who was going to audition, Sam was supposed to come after me. We went into the audition room, and one of the producers started to read with me, which to this day, I look back on it and think, 'I should have said no. I couldn't recapture the rhythms...' At the end, I said, 'I give up'. The air was going out of me like the Goodyear blimp."
Perhaps most surprisingly, Meg Ryan was considered for the role of Mia Wallace, eventually played by Uma Thurman, who turned in a career best performance as Marsellus Wallace's enigmatic girl. Michelle Pfeiffer and Holly Hunter were others tried out for the crucial part, though it was Thurman who eventually triumphed. "He (Tarantino) wasn't this revered demigod auteur that he has grown into. And I wasn't sure I wanted to do it... No one could believe I hesitated in any way. Neither can I, in hindsight," she recalled.
With its eventual cast, Pulp Fiction was hailed as a modern classic, nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture and winner of Best Original Screenplay. It also landed the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival while revitalizing the ailing career of its leading man John Travolta. We're not sure Daniel Day-Lewis will regret not pulling out the stops to land the role, though we dread to think which direction John Travolta's career would have headed should he got have played Vincent Vega.
Which Pulp Fiction cast do you prefer?