How Pulp Fiction's Adrenaline Shot Scene Was Inspired By Martin Scorsese

One of the tensest scenes in "Pulp Fiction" is the literal adrenaline shot that comes in the chapter entitled, "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife." Vincent and Mia Wallace, played by John Travolta and Uma Thurman, have just come back from a date filled with milkshakes and dancing at the retro Jack Rabbit Slim's. Mia is wearing his coat, and while she's in the bathroom, she finds a bag of heroin in the pocket. Mistaking it for cocaine, she snorts it and overdoses.

Thus, we get the scene where Vincent drives Mia to the house of his drug dealer, Lance (Eric Stoltz), and has to plunge a needle full of adrenaline into her heart to revive her. Writer-director Quentin Tarantino conceived the story for "Pulp Fiction" with Roger Avary, but if you thought they just made up that whole scene from scratch, you might be surprised to know that the inspiration for it came from a lost 1970s Martin Scorsese film.

Tarantino included Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" among his twelve picks for the greatest films of all time in Sight & Sound's once-a-decade poll back in 2012 (per Collider). After "Taxi Driver" in 1976 and "New York, New York" in 1977, Scorsese made a documentary in 1978 called, "American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince." It went unreleased, but this documentary appears to be the source of inspiration for the adrenaline shot scene in "Pulp Fiction."

Scorsese's American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince

So who was Steven Prince and how did he become the subject of a lost Scorsese documentary? Well, the above video from Metaflix (by way of IndieWire) identifies Prince as "Scorsese's friend, a part time roadie [for Neil Diamond], junkie, and raconteur best known for playing the cameo role of Easy Andy in Taxi Driver."

The video goes back and forth between footage from "American Prince" and the reenacted scene in "Pulp Fiction," with Prince telling his version side-by-side. Many of the details and even parts of Tarantino's trademark dialogue match up with specific things Prince said, such as when Lance tells Vincent that he has to bring the needle down into Mia's heart "in a stabbing motion."

Vincent uses a magic marker to circle the right spot on her chest, just as Prince did with his overdosed friend in real life. It soon becomes clear that Tarantino was very much drawing from the proverbial "true Hollywood story" when he penned the adrenaline shot scene in "Pulp Fiction."

Though it never saw the light of day in terms of release, "American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince" still lived on in bootleg form. Metaflix speculates that Tarantino got his hands on a copy of the bootleg while working as a video store clerk in Manhattan Beach, California, in the mid-1980s.

In 2009, filmmaker Richard Linklater interviewed a much healthier-looking Prince, who explained that he left his former lifestyle behind and got out of the film business to keep from landing himself in an early grave. However, he said that the experience he had giving an adrenaline shot to someone as a younger man was "almost exactly like" the scene Tarantino depicted in his Oscar-winning 1994 film.