SUMMARY

John Travolta's role as Vincent Vega in "Pulp Fiction" revived his career and reminded him of his 1970s stardom.

The success of "Pulp Fiction" flooded Travolta with great offers that brought both success and chaos in his life.

Quentin Tarantino cast Travolta due to his admiration for the actor and Travolta's concern for Tarantino's finances.

John Travolta has gone through all the highs and lows of a film career that anyone can imagine. From his breakout roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease to his unexpected comeback in Pulp Fiction, he has experienced it all in Hollywood.

John Travolta
John Travolta | via John Travolta’s Instagram

However, it was the 1994 crime film by Quentin Tarantino that completely changed the actor’s path. What made this film phenomenal isn’t just that it put Travolta back on the map, the film re-launched his career and took it back to his early days of stardom.

Pulp Fiction Took John Travolta Back to the ’70s

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction | via Miramax YouTube

When Pulp Fiction was released in theaters in 1994, it wasn’t just that it became a cultural phenomenon, it also revived John Travolta’s career. The role of Vincent Vega, a philosophical hitman with killer dance moves, reminded audiences of Travolta’s charm and talent.

Suddenly, Travolta was back in demand. Speaking in a 1990s Rolling Stone interview, Travolta stated that he was getting overwhelmed by the offers after Pulp Fiction. He said,

I can’t keep up with it. On Friday, I got 17 offers. I haven’t had 17 offers in my life.

This influx of opportunities was quite similar to his post-Saturday Night Fever days when he was the hottest thing in Hollywood. Travolta was not missing the glory days of the ‘70s. He said in the interview,

It’s exciting, but my concern is: Am I prince for a year, and now it’s all over? It’s been 18 years since Saturday Night Fever, so I thought, ‘Will it be another 18 years?’

This then brought Get Shorty, Face/Off, Phenomenon, and more movies that further put Travolta back on the map. According to The Ringer, he was once again a bankable star, commanding $20 million in paychecks and having his pick of roles.

However, the sudden success brought a familiar concern with it. It appeared for Travolta as if each new script was an opportunity to earn a fortune, and decision-making became difficult. It was a chaotic time, filled with both excitement and anxiety.

The parallels between these two periods in Travolta’s career were striking. Both were filled with opportunities, fans’ attention, and the need to choose the right movie in order to remain a star.

How Did Quentin Tarantino Cast John Travolta in Pulp Fiction?

John Travolta in Pulp Fiction
John Travolta in Pulp Fiction | via Miramax YouTube

The story of how John Travolta landed the role of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction is almost as legendary as the film itself. Travolta did not find his way to this career-defining role, instead, the role found him.

Quentin Tarantino was a fan of Travolta and always wanted to work with him. In an interview with People, Travolta said,

I never had preconceived ideas of actually what I needed or should have, but [Pulp Fiction] kind of found me more than I found it because Quentin was such a die-hard fan of mine that he had this fantasy of working with me in something.

At some point, Tarantino wanted to cast Travolta in From Dusk Till Dawn, but he was not quite enthusiastic about playing a vampire. 

However, Travolta immediately agreed to Pulp Fiction. During the Q&A panel at the TCM Classic Film Festival, Travolta revealed that what won over Tarantino was his concern about Tarantino’s finances, as he was an upcoming filmmaker at the time. That gesture left a mark on the legendary filmmaker.

While talking about what made him land the role of Vincent Vega, Travolta said,

‘You had this philosophical viewpoint,’ that he (Tarantino) called it, that I need for that character. He said, ‘I want him to be thoughtful about whatever he’s gone through.’ And that was it.

The impact of Pulp Fiction on Travolta’s career can’t be overstated. It brought him back into the spotlight and also earned him an Oscar nomination. Looking back on the film’s impact about 30 years later, Travolta describes it to People as “evolved and epic.” He credits the audience for making the film what it was, noting how its popularity grew over time. 

Pulp Fiction is now available to stream on Max.

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