A-List Actors Who Turned Down Roles in Tarantino Films
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most daring, high-profile writers and directors in Hollywood. In an era when many films feature recycled stories and ideas, he always stands apart with bold originality. With nine unforgettable films under his belt, Tarantino is a name Hollywood will never forget.
For some films, he had entirely different actors in mind when he wrote the scripts, and some of those actors would have undoubtedly made the iconic roles quite different. So, was it a good or bad thing when some A-list actors turned down roles in various Tarantino films? You be the judge!
Christian Slater as "Ringo" (a.k.a. Pumpkin)
Pulp Fiction opens to a scene in a restaurant featuring thieves Ringo and Yolanda (a.k.a. Pumpkin and Honey Bunny), played by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer. Roth appears later in the film when we realize John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson were at the same restaurant.
Leonardo DiCaprio as "The Jew Hunter"
Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds received eight Academy Award nominations in 2010. The honors included Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, to name a few. The only award the film took home, however, was Best Supporting Actor. Christoph Waltz played the iconic Col. Hans Landa, otherwise known as "The Jew Hunter."
Warren Beatty as "Bill"
Originally, Quentin Tarantino wanted Kill Bill to be one movie instead of splitting it into two parts. Kill Bill Vol. 1 paid homage to old kung fu flicks, and Vol. 2 was an ode to Spaghetti Westerns. Martial arts movie legend David Carradine played the film's namesake, Bill.
Sylvester Stallone as "Louis Gara"
The 1997 flick Jackie Brown brought together some of Hollywood's best actors. Tarantino is known for resurrecting actors’ careers, and you would be hard pressed to name another director who would put Robert Forster, Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton in the same movie.
Will Smith as "Django"
Jamie Foxx's first time working with Tarantino gave us the wonderfully entertaining and uncomfortable movie Django Unchained. The main character, Django, is a slave who is freed by a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz. The film pays homage to the 1970’s blaxploitation subgenre.
Sacha Baron Cohen as "Scott Harmony"
Django Unchained suffered some setbacks and filming took much longer than planned. Some characters and scenes had to be cut out of the film. One of those original characters was a man named Scotty Harmony, who wins Django's wife, Broomhilda, when gambling. Harmony then loses the damsel in distress to DiCaprio's Calvin Candie.
Kevin Costner as "Ace Woody"
The original script of Django Unchained included a character named Ace Woody. The "sadistic slave-Mandingo trainer who works for Calvin Candie at his plantation, Candyland" was ultimately merged with another part — Billy Crash, played by Walton Goggins.
Kurt Russell as "Ace Woody"
After Kevin Costner backed out of Django Unchained, Tarantino turned to another seasoned actor as a replacement. Kurt Russell was initially cast as the slave trainer, Ace Woody. No reason was given for Russell leaving the project, and he later worked with the director in Death Proof and The Hateful Eight.
Viggo Mortensen as "Ruthless Gang Leader"
Although it's unclear exactly which character it would have been, Viggo Mortensen was asked to play a "ruthless gang leader" in The Hateful Eight. Mortenson says he met with Quentin Tarantino about the part, but scheduling kept him from accepting the job.
Jennifer Lawrence as "Daisy Domergue"
Daisy Domergue, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, appeared throughout the entire epic western The Hateful Eight. The foul-mouthed fugitive was the primary antagonist, who was being brought to justice by Kurt Russell's bounty hunting character, John Ruth. Originally, Tarantino had a much younger Jennifer in mind.
Matt Dillon as "Butch"
There's no denying which film put Quentin Tarantino on the map. Pulp Fiction gave the writer/director an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay — and a bucket-load of Hollywood respect. It's chock-full of memorable characters and lines, including Butch, the boxer paid to take a fall who fails to follow through, sparking the rage of the ruthless Marsellus Wallace.
Mickey Rourke as "Butch"
Matt Dillon wasn't the only other actor Quentin Tarantino had in mind to play Butch in Pulp Fiction. Hollywood bad boy Mickey Rourke was also on his mind. It would have been perfect, considering Rourke had just begun a new career in boxing, the character's profession.
Kurt Cobain as "Lance"
By far, the most intense scene in Pulp Fiction occurs when Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace overdoses. Vincent Vega drives her to his drug dealer’s (Lance) house in a panic. The part is beautifully played by Eric Stoltz, who brings Mia back to life with a shot of adrenaline to the heart.
Courtney Love as "Jody"
Lance also had a wife, Jody, who was around when he revived Uma Thurman's character from an overdose in Pulp Fiction. Rosanna Arquette said it was a no-brainer to play the part, even for a small paycheck. She and Eric Stoltz were incredibly believable as a couple.
Pam Grier as "Jody"
There's no doubt Quentin Tarantino has an affinity for Pam Grier. He referenced Grier in both Reservoir Dogs and True Romance before casting her as the lead in Jackie Brown. She even won a few awards for her role, including a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Johnny Depp as "Ringo"
The opening and ending scenes of Pulp Fiction are some of the most memorable. Tim Roth's British accent as Ringo (a.k.a. Pumpkin) pretty much sets the wild film in motion. He also closes the motion picture down with his superior talent. There's a good reason Tarantino always wants to work with him.
Gary Oldman as "Jules Winnfield"
The original script for Pulp Fiction called for two of the main characters, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, to be British. We're not sure if the "Royale with cheese" discussion would have been just as timeless with someone other than Samuel L. Jackson, though. Regardless, Tarantino always has a method to his madness.
Paul Calderón as "Jules Winnfield"
Quentin Tarantino flipped the Pulp Fiction script to make Vincent and Jules white and black Americans instead of British. One person who read for the role of Jules Winnfield was actor Paul Calderón. He had an incredible audition and almost got the part.
Sid Haig as "Marsellus Wallace"
A major plot point of Pulp Fiction centers around Marsellus Wallace and his briefcase. The underworld gangster needed to be played by a demonstrably tough actor. Ving Rhames was ultimately a great choice; however, he was not Quentin Tarantino's first choice.
Rosanna Arquette as "Mia Wallace"
Casting for the role of Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction was much more complicated than fans might think. Rosanna Arquette, who played Jody, the pierced wife of Vincent's drug dealer, was just excited to be in the film. Of course, she originally aimed for a much more significant role.
Kate Beckinsale as "Mia Wallace"
Pulp Fiction was released in 1994 and quickly assumed its rightful place on the American Film Institute's Top 100 list. Mia Wallace was such a memorable character, and casting her was one of the most challenging tasks for Quentin Tarantino and the other filmmakers.
Jennifer Aniston as "Mia Wallace"
The journey to find Mia Wallace continued throughout the pre-production process. Uma Thurman wasn’t quite in the picture (pun intended) yet. Tarantino and casting directors Ronnie Yeskel and Gary Zuckerbrod had their work cut out for them. A couple of options had them looking to the small screen for possibilities.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as "Mia Wallace"
Casting Mia Wallace was becoming more difficult by the day. Quentin Tarantino had already considered Friends co-star Jennifer Aniston and many others for the role. He expanded his search throughout NBC studios and considered another actor from the biggest show on the network — and television altogether.
Michelle Pfeiffer as "Mia Wallace"
Before filmmakers found Pulp Fiction's Mia Wallace in Uma Thurman, they searched Hollywood for the right woman. Quentin Tarantino had been inspired by Tony Montana's wife, Elvira Hancock, in Scarface when he was writing the character. He believed Mia's looks and personality matched Elvira's.
Uma Thurman as "Honey Bunny"
Uma Thurman was the face of Pulp Fiction, prominently displayed on the movie poster and the soundtrack album cover. She received an Oscar nod for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Her performance is breathtaking, and she deserves a mountain of credit for her acting prowess.
Michael Madsen as "Vincent Vega"
Michael Madsen and Quentin Tarantino have a storied history together. Madsen appeared in four films released in 1992, one of those being Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. The scene where Mr. Blonde cuts off the ear of the kidnapped police officer is probably one of the most iconic in cinema history.
Daniel Day-Lewis as "Vincent Vega"
Following Michael Madsen's decision to not take the part of Vincent Vega, Quentin Tarantino turned to another top-tier actor when casting one of the most important roles in Pulp Fiction. The disgraced former owner of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, did not want John Travolta to play the part as long as Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis was actively interested in the role.
Simon Pegg as "Archibald 'Archie' Hicox"
Inglourious Basterds was a supremely entertaining take on a serious topic. There’s just something appealing about a covert unit of Jewish soldiers hunting down and scalping Nazis. Some members of The Basterds weren't Jewish, including Brad Pitt's Hugo Stiglitz and Michael Fassbender's Lieutenant Archibald "Archie" Hicox.
Adam Sandler as "The Bear Jew"
There are two extremely graphic, yet memorable, scenes in Inglourious Basterds that were given to actor/director Eli Roth. He plays Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz, who is known for using a baseball bat to smash the heads of Nazi commanders. He also had the opportunity to shoot a fictional Adolf Hitler in the face.
Quentin Tarantino as "Mr. Pink"
Tarantino wrote the scripts for both True Romance and Reservoir Dogs quite some time ago. He originally wanted to make Reservoir Dogs on 16mm film with a minimal budget for his directorial debut. The initial plan was to cast a few of his friends as the main characters.