““I love it. Let me sleep on it””: Harvey Weinstein’s Bruised Ego Landed Bruce Willis His Dream Role That Nearly Went to Sandra Bullock’s Crash Co-Star

““I love it. Let me sleep on it””: Harvey Weinstein's Bruised Ego Landed Bruce Willis His Dream Role That Nearly Went to Sandra Bullock's Crash Co-Star
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Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fears were allayed by Bruce Willis’ inclusion in this star-studded, $213.9 million Quentin Tarantino-directed production. Tarantino has had a glorious filmography. His movies are fundamental to popular culture and have shaped cinema history. And the one Tarantino-helmed production that has best represented this sentiment is 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

Bruce Willis, John Travolta, and Uma Thurman star in Pulp Fiction.
Pulp Fiction (1994)

Read also: Bruce Willis Hated the Notion of Being Forced To Retire

The Uma Thurman starrer has created an unrivaled impact in indie filmmaking. Making constant rounds in critics’ lists of all-time great films, Pulp Fiction has established itself as one of the most renowned movies of the era. It is unimaginable to envision any other actors embodying the iconic characters seen in the film.


There was, however, a time when Weinstein, the co-chairman of a Disney-acquired Miramax, was against the casting of John Travolta. How was the issue resolved? And why was Bruce Willis’ inclusion significant? Let’s look at it.

Harvey Weinstein Was Against John Travolta’s Casting In Pulp Fiction

John Travolta as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction (1994)
John Travolta in Pulp Fiction (1994)

In a Vanity Fair report on Pulp Fiction‘s making retold through oral accounts, the casting of John Travolta was discussed. Miramax, who had helped fully finance the endeavor, saw Harvey Weinstein at the top of operations. As co-founder and co-chairman, he called the shots. Naturally, he was essential in fulfilling Quentin Tarantino’s demands.

The “term sheet” outlining Tarantino’s stipulations, comprising the final cut, a two-and-a-half-hour run time, and the final choice of actors, was provided to Weinstein by Mike Simpson, the director’s agent.


The Grease alum was the only actor on Tarantino’s final list of candidates who did not have Weinstein’s approval. The filmmaker recounted the occurrence:

“One of the actors I had on the list was John Travolta. And it came back: ‘The entire list is approved . . . except for John Travolta.’ So I got together with Harvey, and he’s like, ‘I can get Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, William Hurt.’”

Harvey Weinstein staunchly opposed John Travolta's casting!
Harvey Weinstein staunchly opposed John Travolta’s casting!

Read also: Bruce Willis Was Relieved Michael Bay Didn’t Direct His $388M Die Hard Sequel!

At the time, John Travolta wasn’t deemed a suitable pick. The controversial magnate wanted to find bankable actors and star power to be associated with Tarantino’s project. According to Simpson, Travolta was “as cold as they get. He was less than zero.” There is a reason why many credit Pulp Fiction to be the undertaking that revitalized the 69-year-old actor’s career in the ’90s.


Despite Weinstein’s insistence on selecting Daniel Day-Lewis and reluctance toward Travolta, negotiations compelled the former to agree to Tarantino’s requests. If he didn’t, the deal would be called off. But there was another element that quelled the disgraced producer’s opposition. And that was Bruce Willis’ interest in the film.

Bruce Willis’ Star Power Eased Harvey Weinstein’s Bruised Ego

Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction (1994)
Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction (1994)

Retired actor Bruce Willis has always enjoyed the stature of a global superstar. Willis and Daniel Day-Lewis were among the actors who had obtained a copy of the Pulp Fiction script. In his account of the incident, Tarantino’s agent Simpson referred to the Die Hard alum as “the biggest star in Hollywood” at the time (via Vanity Fair). Initially, both renowned actors were eyeing the role that went to John Travolta.

Nevertheless, Bruce Willis’ fascination for the project alleviated Weinstein’s concerns. The latter ultimately discovered the bankable talent he had been looking for. The question now was: which role should be given to the superstar? Butch Coolidge, an aging boxer on the run from Marsellus, was the sole option for Willis to play because Vincent Vega was no longer up for grabs.


Quentin Tarantino noted how the involvement of Bruce Willis eased Harvey Weinstein because the latter finally had an influential movie star. Following was his comment:

“Once I got Bruce Willis, Harvey got his big movie star, and we were all good. Bruce Willis made us legit.”

This outcome didn’t come without a compromise, though.

Matt Dillon was initially promised the role of Butch Coolidge!
Matt Dillon

Related: Pulp Fiction: Film Distributor Miramax Is Suing Director Quentin Tarantino


Matt Dillon, a co-star in the Sandra Bullock starrer Crash, was initially promised the part of Butch. However, when Dillon was sent the script, the actor had, according to Mike Simpson, “read it and said, ‘I love it. Let me sleep on it.’” In Simpson’s words, this delay in decision-making led Tarantino to declare:

“‘If he can’t tell me face-to-face that he wants to be in the movie—after he read the script—he’s out.’”

That’s how Bruce Willis finally got signed in for Butch’s role.

The most amusing aspect of the casting situation was that following the John Travolta incident that initially wounded Weinstein’s ego, the former producer was the first to claim credit for casting Travolta in the movie. According to Richard Gladstein, then head of production at Miramax, Harvey Weinstein stated the following 20 minutes into the Los Angeles screening of Pulp Fiction:


“I’m so glad I had the idea to cast John Travolta.”

What a rollercoaster ride. Nothing less is expected from the project that forever altered movie history! Despite several obstacles, the project’s actors and staff pulled it off brilliantly. Quentin Tarantino’s dream project finally came to be.

Pulp Fiction is available for streaming on Max.

Source: Vanity Fair


Written by Debdipta Bhattacharya

Articles Published: 659

Debdipta Bhattacharya is a content writer at FandomWire, where she has written more than 500 articles on various topics of interest. She possesses a sincere passion for popular culture, anime, film production, and the evolving world of YouTube and streaming culture which has allowed her to be a devoted and well-informed writer. Debdipta holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. She has honed her skills and expertise in content writing with over two years of experience and strives to learn and grow daily.