Bruce Willis' Casting Was Crucial To Getting Pulp Fiction Made

When Quentin Tarantino began casting for "Pulp Fiction," Miramax wanted a big-name actor attached to the film. When Bruce Willis, a big-name actor who happened to be a big fan of Tarantino's breakout debut film "Reservoir Dogs," found out that the director was prepping for his second film, he wanted a role ... even if it meant taking a pay cut.

As Vanity Fair tells it, Harvey Keitel, who would go on to play the scrupulous clean-up man in "Pulp Fiction," was picking up his daughter from Bruce Willis' home in Malibu when he told him about the upcoming project. Keitel invited Willis to a barbecue at his home where he introduced him to Tarantino. Though it appeared that the stars were aligned for Willis to star in the 1994 cult classic, Tarantino had already had most of the major roles filled. Despite Miramax's request for a big star, it appeared that Tarantino didn't have a place for Bruce Willis in "Pulp Fiction."

Bruce Willis wanted John Travolta's leading role?

According to Vanity Fair, an insider says Bruce Willis wanted the role of Vincent Vega in "Pulp Fiction," which had already been promised to John Travolta. In the early '90s, swapping out Travolta for Willis in the leading role in any movie — even a musical –- wouldn't have been a bad financial move. Willis rose to superstardom with the 1988 action flick "Die Hard," followed by a sequel at the turn of the new decade and then "The Last Boy Scout" with Damon Wayans in '91. Meanwhile, the movie career of John Travolta, who had breakout successes on the big screen in the late-70s with "Saturday Night Fever," and "Grease," was in desperate need of a booster shoot to the heart. By the '90s, he was starring in box-office stinkers like "Shout."

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Travolta admitted that those down years were of his own doing as he turned down big movie roles. "Imagine you finish "Blow Out" and the studio wants you to do "An Officer and a Gentleman," and you say, 'No, I'm going to become a pilot,' and they say they'll wait," Travolta told Rolling Stone. "Well, that happens all the time. Big movies were offered to me, and I said no."

But the fact remains: Willis had become a bigger box office draw than Travolta. But Tarantino stuck to his guns and kept Travolta in the leading role.

Bruce Willis almost didn't get Butch either

The only viable role for Bruce Willis to play in "Pulp Fiction" was Butch Coolidge, a worn boxer who reneged on his deal with a crime boss to take a dive in his upcoming fight. But even that role was promised to another actor: Matt Dillion, to be specific. The role, however, became available when Dillon didn't commit to play the boxer fast enough for Tarantino. At Miramax's request, the director offered the role to Willis.

Despite claims that Willis wanted the leading role and looked down on playing Butch, Willis told Vanity Fair that he accepted the role immediately. Tarantino said all parties were happy. "Once I got Bruce Willis, Harvey [Weinstein] got his big movie star, and we were all good," Tarantino told Vanity Fair. "Bruce Willis made us legit. 'Reservoir Dogs' did fantastic internationally, so everyone was waiting for my new movie. And then when it was my new movie with Bruce Willis, they went apeshit."

Some would argue that "Pulp Fiction" is Bruce Willis' best movie. And while Miramax got the big star they wanted in Willis, John Travolta also proved himself to be a big star and worthy of the leading role alongside Samuel L. Jackson. "Pulp Fiction" revived his career and helped him reclaim his status as a box-office commodity. Playing Vincent Vega earned Travolta an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a leading role, his first since 1978 for his performance in "Saturday Night Fever." The stars aligned for everyone in "Pulp Fiction" to fall right into the roles meant for them.