Then and Now: The Cast of ‘Pulp Fiction’

Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ was released in 1994 and became an instant classic: the darkly humorous, non-linear narrative follows the stories of various small-time criminals and mobsters (and one very memorable and mysterious briefcase) as their lives intersect in Los Angeles.

Tarantino and co-writer Roger Avary won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film, which was nominated for an additional six statues, including Best Actor for John Travolta — who experienced a major comeback thanks to Tarantino casting him as lead hitman Vincent Vega.

Twenty years later, we revisit the cast of the film and see what they’re doing now.

John Travolta, Vincent Vega

Then: John Travolta played hitman Vincent Vega, a part originally written for Michael Madsen, who played the role of Vic Vega in Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ But when Madsen signed on to star in ‘Wyatt Earp’ instead, the producers urged Tarantino to cast Daniel Day-Lewis. Tarantino opted for ‘Grease’ star John Travolta, who took a reduced salary to appear in the film. At the time, Travolta’s career was in jeopardy, and he’d been appearing in family films like the ‘Look Who’s Talking’ series. The gamble paid off, though: Travolta was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Vega, and ‘Pulp Fiction’ turned his career around, landing him roles in films like ‘Get Shorty’ and ‘Face/Off.’

Now: Travolta’s career has still had its fair share of missteps: ‘Battlefield Earth,’ ‘Old Dogs,’ and ‘Wild Hogs,’ but he still stars in action flicks like ‘The Taking of Pelham 123,’ ‘From Paris with Love,’ ‘Savages,’ and more recently in the 2013 film ‘Killing Season’ with Robert De Niro. In 2012, he reunited with his ‘Grease’ co-star Olivia Newton-John for the Christmas album ‘This Christmas,’ proving he still hasn’t left his musical past behind.

Samuel L. Jackson, Jules Winnfield

Then: Though the role of Vincent Vega’s hitman partner Jules Winnfield was written explicitly for Samuel L. Jackson, he almost lost the role to Paul Calderon, who had previously worked with ‘Pulp Fiction’ stars Christopher Walken in ‘King of New York’ and Harvey Keitel in ‘The Bad Lieutenant.’ When Jackson found out that Tarantino loved Calderon’s audition, the actor auditioned a second time to secure the role, and wound up receiving a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his efforts.

Now: Jackson is best known these days as Nick Fury in the Marvel movie universe, appearing in films like ‘The Avengers,’ ‘Thor,’ and the upcoming ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ Jackson also starred in Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown,’ had a small voiceover role in ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ and co-starred in ‘Django Unchained’ as Leonardo DiCaprio’s head servant. Recently, Jackson appeared in Spike Lee’s remake of ‘Oldboy,’ and will appear next in the ‘RoboCop’ remake.

Uma Thurman, Mia Wallace

Then: Uma Thurman played Mia Wallace, the wife of mobster Marsellus Wallace. The studio wanted someone like Holly Hunter or Meg Ryan for the role, but Tarantino had his sights set on Thurman, who had previously appeared in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ and ‘Jennifer 8.’ Thurman turned the role down at first, but when Tarantino called her and read her the script himself, she eventually agreed.

Now: Thurman reunited with Tarantino as the star of his ‘Kill Bill’ films, and the director has teased a possible third film for some time now (though you might not want to keep holding your breath for that one). Thurman also reunited with Travolta for the 2005 film ‘Be Cool,’ and has appeared in the recent films ‘Ceremony,’ ‘Bel Ami,’ ‘Playing for Keeps,’ and ‘Movie 43.’ She had a recurring role on the NBC musical series ‘Smash,’ and can be seen next in Lars Von Trier’s controversial sex drama ‘Nymphomaniac,’ which hits VOD in the US this March.

Bruce Willis, Butch Coolidge

Then: Bruce Willis played Butch Coolidge, a boxer who has been paid by Marsellus Wallace to throw a fight, but wins the fight and decides to flee with his girlfriend instead. Willis had previously lent his voice to the ‘Look Who’s Talking’ films, which starred John Travolta, and although Willis was a big star, his films were no longer doing so hot at the box office — like Travolta, he needed a bit of a comeback.

Now: ‘Pulp Fiction’ did the trick, and in the following years we saw Willis in films like ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance,’ ‘The Fifth Element,’ ‘Armageddon,’ and ‘The Sixth Sense.’ In recent years he’s appeared in both ‘Red’ and ‘Red 2,’ ‘The Expendables 2,’ ‘Looper,’ ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ and ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ — the fifth film in the ‘Die Hard’ franchise. He can be seen next reprising the role of John Hartigan in ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,’ and has been teasing a sixth ‘Die Hard’ film.

Harvey Keitel, Winston Wolfe, aka “The Wolf”

Then: Harvey Keitel, who previously starred in and helped produce Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ played Winston Wolfe, a fixer also known simply as “The Wolf.” Keitel had been Tarantino’s favorite actor since the director was a teenager, the part was written specifically for Keitel.

Now: Keitel starred in the 1996 film ‘From Dusk Till Dawn,’ which was written by Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez. He reunited with Travolta and Thurman in the 2005 film ‘Be Cool,’ and had a small, uncredited role in Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ He also appeared with Bruce Willis in Wes Anderson’s 2012 film ‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ and stars in Anderson’s upcoming film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.’ Keitel can also be seen in the upcoming movie ‘God Only Knows’ with Ben Barnes.

Tim Roth, Ringo, aka “Pumpkin”

Then: Tim Roth, who also previously starred in Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ played Ringo/Pumpkin, one of a couple of criminals holding up a diner in which Vincent and Jules are eating breakfast. The following year he appeared in ‘Four Rooms,’ an anthology film with segments directed by Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

Now: Roth went on to star in the remakes of ‘Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Dark Water,’ and ‘Funny Games,’ and in Louis Leterrier’s 2008 ‘Incredible Hulk’ film. From 2009 to 2011, he played the lead role of Dr. Cal Lightman on the Fox series ‘Lie to Me,’ and has since appeared in the films ‘Arbitrage’ and ‘Broken.’ He can be seen next alongside Nicole Kidman in ‘Grace of Monaco.’

Amanda Plummer, Yolanda, aka “Honey Bunny”

Then: Amanda Plummer played Yolanda, Pumpkin’s girlfriend and fellow robber, whom he lovingly refers to as “Honey Bunny.” Plummer had previously starred in the dark comedy ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer.’

Now: The following year, Plummer reunited with Christopher Walken in ‘The Prophecy,’ but since then she’s mostly starred in indie movies like ‘Freeway,’ ‘My Life Without Me,’ ‘Girlfriend,’ and ‘Small Apartments.’ She recently portrayed Wiress in ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ and starred alongside Brad Dourif in the 2013 Off Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ acclaimed ‘The Two-Character Play.’

Maria de Medeiros, Fabienne

Then: Maria de Medeiros played Fabienne, Butch’s soft-spoken and quirky girlfriend who has a craving for blueberry pancakes. The actress had previously appeared with Uma Thurman in ‘Henry and June.’

Now: De Medeiros had a supporting role in the 2003 film ‘My Life Without Me,’ which also co-starred Amanda Plummer. She’s also appeared in the films ‘The Saddest Music in the World’ with Isabella Rossellini, ‘Chicken with Plums,’ and ‘Journey to Portugal.’ She directed the 2000 film ‘April Captains,’ which premiered at the Cannes film festival, and followed it up with the 2004 documentaries ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus: Artistes et critiques’ and ‘Welcome to Sao Paulo.’ In addition to acting and directing, De Medeiros is also a singer and has released three albums.

Ving Rhames, Marsellus Wallace

Then: Ving Rhames played Marsellus Wallace, the intimidating mobster and employer of Vincent and Jules. Before Rhames landed the role, Tarantino wanted to cast Sid Haig, the star of several classic 70s films, but Rhames gave a very convincing audition.

Now: Rhames’ performance in ‘Pulp Fiction’ opened the door for parts in films like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Con Air,’ and ‘Out of Sight.’ He’s also appeared in the films ‘Bringing out the Dead,’ ‘Undisputed,’ and the 2004 remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ He reunited with Bruce Willis for the 2009 film ‘Surrogates,’ and recently appeared in both ‘Piranha 3D’ and its sequel, ‘Piranha 3DD.’ Rhames had a starring role on the short-lived 2013 TNT series ‘Monday Mornings,’ and reprised his role from ‘Death Race 2′ in ‘Death Race 3: Inferno.’

Eric Stoltz, Lance

Then: Eric Stoltz played the role of Lance, Vincent’s drug dealer who provides him with the heroin on which Mia later accidentally overdoses. Stoltz had previously appeared in films like ‘Mask’ and ‘Singles,’ and the following year he reunited with Amanda Plummer and Christopher Walken for ‘The Prophecy.’

Now: Stoltz has starred in the films ‘Anaconda,’ ‘The Rules of Attraction,’ and ‘The Butterfly Effect,’ and appears in the upcoming film ’5 to 7.’ He’s been directing a lot of television lately, helming episodes of ‘Glee’ and ‘Nashville.’ He also recently guest starred on an episode of the IFC series ‘Maron.’

Rosanna Arquette, Jody

Then: Rosanna Arquette played Jody, Lance’s wife. Pam Grier auditioned for the role, but Tarantino didn’t think audiences would believe someone like Grier would allow herself to be pushed around. Tarantino later cast Grier as the lead in ‘Jackie Brown,’ helping revitalize her career much as he did for Travolta.

Now: Arquette, who is the sister of actors Patricia and David, reunited with Bruce Willis for ‘The Whole Nine Yards,’ and has appeared in the films ‘Hope Floats,’ ‘Joe Dirt, and the 2011 indie horror film ‘The Divide.’ She appears in the upcoming film ‘Draft Day’ with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, and has guest starred on recent episodes of ‘Girls’ and ‘Ray Donovan.’

Christopher Walken, Captain Koons

Then: Christopher Walken had a single scene in a flashback to Butch’s childhood: he played Captain Koons, a soldier who delivers the gold watch that belonged to Butch’s father to a young Butch. Walken previously had a similarly small role in ‘True Romance,’ which was written by Tarantino.

Now: Walken has an incredibly long and varied resume, including memorable roles in films like ‘The Propechy,’ ‘Suicide Kings,’ ‘Catch Me if You Can,’ and ‘Balls of Fury.’ In 2007 he reunited with John Travolta for ‘Hairspray,’ and in recent years he has appeared in the films ‘Seven Psychopaths,’ ‘A Late Quartet,’ and ‘Stand Up Guys.’ You can see him next in ‘Gods Behaving Badly’ and Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the acclaimed musical ‘Jersey Boys.’

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