Only One Of Quentin Tarantino's Director Friends Saw What A Hit Pulp Fiction Would Be

"Pulp Fiction" hit theaters on October 14, 1994 as a bona-fide, paradigm-shifting indie blockbuster. It was the film geek's "Easy Rider," a movie no one knew they needed until it got plunged deep into their veins. It's hard to believe Quentin Tarantino didn't know what he had prior to premiering the film at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, but, per a 2014 interview with his buddy Robert Rodriguez, his first screening for friends and esteemed colleagues wasn't entirely reassuring.

Let's take a step back and survey the cinematic landscape in 1994. Tarantino was the equivalent of Nirvana pre-"Nevermind." He was a hit with film geeks who'd mainlined "Reservoir Dogs" and connected with Tony Scott's high-style take on "True Romance," but there was something potentially gimmicky about his writing. His screenplays were laden with deep-tissue pop-culture references and wildly violent set pieces. Oliver Stone's take on "Natural Born Killers," released two months prior to the debut of "Pulp Fiction," was hailed by some critics as a more evolved rendition of Tarantino's gore-soaked genre noodling.

Was Tarantino due for a sophomore slump? Was he a pretender? No one knew for sure, and this included the colleagues he invited to his first screening of "Pulp Fiction."

Kathryn Bigelow knows stuff

According to Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino did not receive raves from the filmmakers who checked out "Pulp Fiction" prior to its Palme d'Or triumph at Cannes. To hammer home the tepidness of the recepection, Rodriguez cited George Lucas' infamous first screening of "Star Wars," where everyone outside of Steven Spielberg thought the soon-to-be billionaire's follow-up to "American Graffiti" was going to bomb.

Rodriguez couldn't attend this screening, but he asked Tarantino if there was a Spielberg in this screening. There was. "Kathryn Bigelow," said Tarantino. "Absolutely, positively. She was its biggest fan."

Bigelow was gearing up to shoot "Strange Days" at this point, and knew John Travolta was about to hit a massive career resurgence. According to Tarantino, she wanted the actor for the part of Lenny Nero (which would ultimately be played by Ralph Fiennes). She talked the film up to her producing partner James Cameron, but Travolta was immediately snatched up by Barry Sonnenfeld for "Get Shorty."

As for the other attendees of that pre-Cannes screening, Tarantino isn't naming names. But he does remember their dire prognostications. "There was [one guest] that was planning on, 'Okay, I'm going to have to have a hard talk with Quentin, but I'll wait 'till he comes back from Cannes.' Literally, they left a message like, 'Well, I was actually going to actually get a little tough with you, but I guess we can forget that. What the hell do I know?'"

Nothing worth knowing, evidently.