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This is a list of characters with speaking roles appearing in Quentin Tarantino's widely noted 1994 Pulp Fiction. Each of the four stories revolve around a certain character, the first is Vincent Vega as is the second, the third story's protagonist was Butch Coolidge. Lastly, the final story is a partial replay of the first except from Jules Winnfield's point of view.

List of characters

  • Vincent Vega is portrayed by John Travolta in an Academy Award-nominated performance. He, Marsellus Wallace and Mia Wallace are the only characters who appear in all the film's separate stories. Vincent is the brother of Vic Vega, a character in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Vincent is a hitman who has been working for mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) in Amsterdammarker for over three years and recently returned to Los Angelesmarker, where he has been partnered with Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson). The role was written for Michael Madsen, who turned it down because he couldn't get out of rehearsals for Wyatt Earp (Madsen had also played Vincent's brother Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs). Mia calls Vincent "cowboy", a reference to his bola tie. Vincent then calls Mia "cowgirl". Travolta has said some of his dance moves with Uma Thurman during the Jack Rabbit Slim's scene were based on Adam West's Batusi from the 1960s Batman television series. The scene which depicts Vincent plunging a syringe into Mia's chest was filmed with Travolta pulling the prop needle out; the film was then run backwards.


  • Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is a hitman working alongside Vincent Vega for Marsellus Wallace. Tarantino originally envisioned Jules sporting a giant afro, but a wardrobe assistant mistakenly brought the wrong wig on the set, which was kept anyway. The character name may be a reference to former basketball player Julius Winfiled Erving, best known as "Dr. J.", who was sporting a giant afro in the 1970s.


  • Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is an aging boxer who agrees to lose a boxing match in exchange for a bribe from Marsellus Wallace. Tarantino once said that the role was written for Sylvester Stallone, who turned it down. Bruce Willis was a major star but most of his recent films had been box-office disappointments. Peter Bart noted Willis' acceptance of a role in the modestly budgeted film "meant lowering his salary and risking his star status, but the strategy...paid off royally: Pulp Fiction not only brought Willis new respect as an actor, but also earned him several million dollars as a result of his gross participation." In conceiving the character, Tarantino said, "I basically wanted him to be like Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly [1955]. I wanted him to be a bully and a jerk...."


  • Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is the wife of wealthy mob boss Marsellus Wallace. She is a former actress who appeared in a failed television pilot called Fox Force Five and is also an apparent cocaine addict. Thurman was one of three cast-members from Pulp Fiction to receive an Oscar nomination in the Best Acting category. Thurman beat out Jane Fonda, Holly Hunter, Meg Ryan, Meg Tilly and Tuesday Weld to win the role. Thurman dominated most of the film's promotional material, appearing on a bed with cigarette in hand. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in Pulp Fiction and was launched into the celebrity A-list. She took no advantage of this new found fame and chose not to do any big budget films for the next three years. Thurman's outfit reappears in two of Tarantino's later films, Jackie Brown (1998) and Kill Bill, Volume 1 (2004) and 2.


  • Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) is a wealthy Los Angelesmarker mob boss married to Mia, a former aspiring actress. Marcellus Wallace was originally supposed to be played by Sid Haig. However he turned it down, and Ving Rhames took the part. According to Pulp Fiction producer Lawrence Bender, Rhames gave "one of the best auditions I've ever seen." His acclaimed performance led to him being cast in big-budget features such as Mission Impossible, Con Air, and Out of Sight.


  • Pumpkin (Tim Roth), dubbed Ringo by Jules, and Yolanda (Amanda Plummer), also called Honey Bunny by her companion are a pair of small time crooks who have been robbing liquor stores. Tim Roth was previously cast in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs as "Mr. Orange". The part was written specifically for Roth, even though Miramax preferred Johnny Depp or Christian Slater. Amanda Plummer was introduced by Roth to director Tarantino and the part was written for her and Roth to play onscreen.


  • Marvin (Phil LaMarr) is an informant for Marsellus who lets Jules and Vincent into the apartment at a pre-arranged time. The original script called for Marvin to be shot in the neck and then mercy killed by Vincent and Jules but Tarantino later thought it would be funnier to dispatch the character with a single head shot.


  • Paul (Paul Calderon) is Marcellus' close aide and perhaps his second in command. Calderon almost got the part of Jules after a positive audition, but the part went to Samuel L. Jackson and Calderon got the smaller part of Paul. In the original screenplay, Calderon's character is named "English Dave". However, the character's name is spoken once in the released version of the film ("Hey, my name's Paul and this shit's between y'all").


  • Lance (Eric Stoltz) is a heroin dealer who lives in a cluttered Hollywood bungalow. Quentin Tarantino was originally going to play Lance, but decided to play Jimmie Dimmick instead because he wanted to be behind the camera during Uma Thurman's resuscitation scene.


  • Captain Koons, portrayed by Christopher Walken, appears in a flashback depicting how he came to see Butch about 20 years earlier, when the boxer was a child. The flashback is devoted to the Vietnam veteran's monologue about the gold watch. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Captain Koons: "The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He'd be damned if any slopes gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy's birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this watch up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you."

In 1993, Walken had appeared in another small but pivotal role as Vincenzo Coccotti in the "Sicilian scene" in the Tarantino-written True Romance. Walken was also considered for films Reservoir Dogs and From Dusk Till Dawn, which also written by Tarantino. Walken didn't star in From Dusk Till Dawn due to scheduling conflicts. He also turned down the role in Sin City, a film in which Quentin Tarantino was a guest director



Academic analysis

Ken Dancyger explains that "Pulp Fiction has a series of main characters who are criminals wrestling with an ethical question or problem" and that the use of "multiple characters" undermines "the opportunity for identification." Meanwhile, Lisa Dethridge observes that "Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction)" uses "a passing parade of diverse, colourful characters to prove a certain premise. It's not easy to identify a singular, clear-cut protagonist in Pulp Fiction..."

Critical reception

Richard K. Sherwin writes, "In Tarantino's film the characters come at us from a well-known genre....The fun comes when the...character types we know so well drift in and out of our expectations, bringing those very expectations into view. The thugs are violent and indifferent to the pain and death they deal out, as thugs are prone to be. But they are strangely self-aware, articulate, by turns philosophical and bizarre. These are characters who can quote scripture one moment and in the next lash out at a friend for soiling car upholstery with the blood of an innocent victim. The mix is strange and amusing. Curiously, even when they become violent they do not lose their appeal."

References

  1. Pulp Fiction (1994) - Trivia
  2. Michael Madsen biography
  3. Bart (2000), p. 85. Willis's deal for a percentage of the box office gross was presumably on top of a base weekly salary that was identical to the other main actors', per Polan (2000), p. 69; Dawson (1995), p. 148.
  4. Quoted in Dargis (1994), p. 10. As for Willis himself, "He reminds me of Aldo Ray in Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall [1956]. I told him I could imagine Aldo Ray being great as Butch and he said, 'Yeah, I like Aldo Ray, that's a good idea.' So I said let's go for that whole look" (ibid.). Other sources have claimed that Butch was patterned after Ray's Nightfall role—Brooker and Brooker (1996), p. 234; Polan (1999), p. 23. Tarantino's one public statement on the topic, quoted here, is clearly devoted to Butch's look and not his personality.
  5. Dawson (1995), p. 155.
  6. Charyn (2006), p. 73.
  7. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) - Trivia
  8. Sin City (2005) - Trivia
  9. Ken Dancyger, The Technique of Film and Video Editing: history, theory, and practice, Third Edition (2002), 395.
  10. Lisa Dethridge, Writing Your Screenplay (2004), 169.
  11. Richard K. Sherwin, When Law Goes Pop: The Vanishing Line Between Law and Popular Culture (2002), 30.


Further reading



See also




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