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Tarantino's Pulp Fiction: From the Cast to the Music

Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 breakthrough magnum opus Pulp Fiction was a turning point for independent cinema. The brilliance of the Pulp Fiction cast, including names like John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Samuel L. Jackson, added to its iconic status. With a disjointed chronology, the film’s three basic storylines interweave through what’s been called a circular narrative, allowing the threads to inter-refer. After TriStar passed on the project, Miramax (newly acquired by Disney) committed to the film as its first fully-financed project. Among the Pulp Fiction cast, a who’s who of “actor’s actors” signed on for fairly low salaries in exchange for points post-profit. The casting of Bruce Willis, a member of the Pulp Fiction cast and extremely “bankable” then, virtually guaranteed the project’s financial viability. Budgeted at $8.5 million, principal photography began on September 20, 1993. Tarantino, banking on the proven talent of the Pulp Fiction cast, was looking to make an epic and used essentially the same cast he’d had for Reservoir Dogs (1992), including David Wasco (Production Design), Sally Menke (Film Editing), Betsy Heimann (Costume Design), and Andrzej Sekula (Cinematography). Combining obscure 60’s pop songs with iconic ballads such as “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”, music consultants Chuck Kelley and Laura Lovelace created a cinematic mixtape that took the place of a conventional film score. When Pulp Fiction was unveiled at Cannes on May 21 with the entire Pulp Fiction cast in tow, the film won the Palme d’Or. Auteur Tarantino shepherded his movie across Europe to various festivals and, by the time it opened the New York Film Festival, it garnered uniformly rave reviews. As The Guardian wrote: “A spectacularly entertaining piece of pop culture, “Pulp Fiction” is the “American Graffiti” of violent crime pictures. Following up on his reputation-making debut, “Reservoir Dogs”, Quentin Tarantino makes some of the same moves here but on a much larger canvas, ingeniously constructing a series of episodes so that they ultimately knit together, and embedding the always surprising action in a context set by delicious dialogue and several superb performances.” While the violent content of Pulp Fiction presented a challenge to Miramax’s marketers, the film’s wide American opening on 1100 screens on October 14 would seem to have worked, as its $9,311,882 gross topped the competition for its first weekend. With an ultimate gross of $107.93 million, Pulp Fiction became the first indie to exceed $100 million domestically and went on to gross more than $200 million worldwide. The Boston Society of Film Critics, Kansas City Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, Southeastern Film Critics Association, and Society of Texas Film Critics Association are all named Pulp Fiction Best Picture. Tarantino received multiple Best Director awards and his co-written script won the Oscar, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit awards for Best Original Screenplay.


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