On October 14, 1994, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was released in theaters in America and a new Hollywood auteur was born.
In addition to teaching Americans what a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called in Europe, the film reignited the career of John Travolta (who received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his work) and showed audiences a different side of Bruce Willis. With the iconic film closing in on its 30th anniversary next year, here are 20 things you might not have known about Pulp Fiction.
1. The film was released in South Korea, Japan, and even Slovakia before it arrived in America.
Tarantino’s film first played the Cannes Film Festival in May 1994. It was shown at other festivals around the world, from Munich to Locarno, before hitting American shores on September 23, 1994, at the New York Film Festival.
The film was released in South Korea, Japan, and Slovakia before it officially opened in the U.S. on October 14, 1994. The feature rolled out across Asia and Europe throughout 1994 and 1995.
2. Honey Bunny was named after an actual rabbit.
Honey Bunny belonged to Linda Chen, who typed up Tarantino’s handwritten script for Pulp Fiction. In lieu of payment, she asked Tarantino to watch her rabbit when she went on location; however, Tarantino wouldn’t do it, and when the rabbit later died, he named Amanda Plummer’s character after Chen’s pet.
3. You can watch the film chronologically ... kind of.
The narrative structure of the film plays out of sequence, but it’s easy enough to break it down into seven distinct sections (a prologue, an epilogue, two preludes, and three large segments) that can then be re-ordered into a chronological narrative (Hint: The first prelude, to the “Gold Watch” section, plays first. If that doesn’t help, here’s an infographic).
4. The film contains 265 f-bombs.
Even that hefty number isn’t Tarantino’s highest (1992’s Reservoir Dogs used it 269 times). Still, the film was the big “f word” winner of 1994, as no other film released that year even came close to that amount of profanity.
5. Vincent Vega’s 1964 Chevelle Malibu was stolen after the shoot.
John Travolta’s character in the film had a sweet ride—which, in real life, belonged to Tarantino—and it was such a hot rod that it was stolen soon after the film’s release.
It wasn’t found for nearly two decades, when two cops happened on a pair of kids stripping an older car. After running the Vehicle Identification Number, they found it shared the number with a car in Oakland, which turned out to be Tarantino’s car. One thing’s for sure: You don’t mess with a man’s automobile.
6. It only cost about $8.5 million to make.
Five million went to the actors’ salaries. It made that all back in its first week at the U.S. box office (the film pulled in $9.3 million the first weekend of release).
7. It was also the third biggest R-rated earner of 1994.
The film lost out on the title to True Lies (which earned $146.2 million) and Speed (which banked $121.2 million). The film’s earnings were strong enough to place it in the overall top 10 for the year, though 1994 was dominated by Forrest Gump, which made $329.6 million that year.
8. Even though the film made over $100 million, it took a long time to get there.
Even though Tarantino’s film ended up being a tremendous hit—especially considering that slim budget—it took some time to get there. The film was in release for 178 days before it finally pulled in $100 million domestically. A little comparison? It took Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 only two days. That said, Pulp Fiction did gross more than $213 million internationally during its theatrical run.
9. The role of Vincent Vega was written for Michael Madsen ...
Tarantino specifically wrote a number of roles in the film for chosen actors (including Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Amanda Plummer), but nothing compared to his dedication to having Michael Madsen play Vince.
Madsen, who knew of Tarantino’s plans and said he wanted to do the part, dropped out two weeks before the script was finished to star in Wyatt Earp. He wasn’t upset over Travolta’s casting, however. “He was doing movies about talking babies! And suddenly he’s Vincent Vega,” the Kill Bill star told IndieWire in 2019. “That’s a huge, huge, huge reason why the movie worked.”
10. ... Which could have made him Mr. Blonde’s twin.
Tarantino has a long tradition of connecting characters in his various films—basically, the filmmaker is working with a number of sprawling family trees, and it’s always a treat to see how characters intersect—which would have made Madsen’s casting of Vince come with a surprising twist: It might have made him Mr. Blonde’s (a.k.a., Vic Vega, Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs) twin, as it’s long been known that Vince and Blonde are brothers.
11. It inspired Top Gear’s Stig.
The mysterious, anonymous Stig was inspired by the mysterious, anonymous Gimp. The Gimp was even the original name for the Stig, until they couldn’t find a racing driver willing to use that name.
12. Butch was supposed to be a lot younger.
Tarantino wrote the part as a young boxer, with Matt Dillon specifically in mind for the role. “I wrote it for Matt, and it seemed like it was going to be easy getting him,” Tarantino explained on a podcast. “But he read it, and he wasn’t so sure about it.”
One of the big gripes, according to Tarantino, was that Dillon wanted to see Butch actually boxing. But when the actor took too much time considering the part, it was tweaked slightly to accommodate Bruce Willis (who was a little ticked that he wasn’t asked to play Vincent).
13. Tarantino’s love of vintage board games is on full display.
The filmmaker is an avid board game collector, which is why the film features Operation and The Game of Life. Tarantino convinced Travolta to come on board with an all-day Welcome Back, Kotter, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever board game marathon.
14. Vincent’s preferred reading material is real.
Vince loves reading pulp fiction books during his, ahem, private time, including Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise, a real pulp fiction novel based on O’Donnell’s '60s comic strip.
Tarantino has long expressed interest in bringing that tale to the big screen, including giving his official license to the 2003 film (Quentin Tarantino Presents) My Name is Modesty.
15. Uma Thurman wasn’t actually Tarantino’s his first pick for Mia Wallace.
Other possible Mias? Isabella Rossellini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Meg Ryan, Alfre Woodard, Halle Berry, Daryl Hannah, Rosanna Arquette, Joan Cusack, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Tarantino’s original favorite was supposedly Pfeiffer.
16. The original theatrical poster is worth a lot of money.
The first poster had Thurman smoking not from a box of Red Apple cigarettes (Tarantino’s fake brand, seen in many films), but from a box of Lucky Strike cigarettes. However, Miramax hadn’t licensed usage rights from Lucky Strikes, which then threatened to sue. Rather than fight it, Miramax had the posters returned. Those that survived can now command big money.
17. The role of Jules may have been written for Samuel L. Jackson, but he almost lost the part.
Tarantino very much had Jackson in mind for the role of Jules, but when he auditioned Paul Calderon, he was so struck by the performance that he very nearly hired him. Jackson, desperate to get “his” role back, flew to Los Angeles and auditioned for Tarantino again.
18. Captain Koons might have a famous relative.
Well, famous in the Tarantino universe, anyway: It’s widely believed that Christopher Walken’s Captain Koons is a descendent of Django Unchained character Crazy Craig Koons, who is only mentioned by name in a Wanted poster.
19. Robert Rodriguez directed parts of the film.
When Tarantino is on screen as Jimmie, someone else had to be behind the camera—and that someone was Robert Rodriguez. The pair later teamed up for a number of other projects, including From Dusk Till Dawn and Grindhouse.
20. Travolta didn’t really inject Thurman in that scene.
The infamous scene in which Mia Wallace is stabbed with a very necessary adrenaline shot was stressful enough, so Tarantino took off some of the pressure: The needle was inserted, and then Travolta pulled it out. The scene was reversed in post-production so it looks as if Vincent Vega really is plunging that syringe into her. Movie magic!
A version of this article originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2023.