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Studios pushed Johnny Depp for Pulp Fiction, but Quentin Tarantino wouldn't have it

Quentin Tarantino wanted Tim Roth in the role of Pumpkin despite outside pressure to bring Johnny Depp onto the project

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Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Depp
Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Depp
Image: The A.V. Club, Photo: Stefania M. D’Alessandro/Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

There’s an alternate universe out there where Johnny Depp plays Pumpkin in Pulp Fictionbut thanks to the better judgement of Quentin Tarantino, it’s not a world we have to live in. In a new interview with the 2 Bears, 1 Cave podcast, Tarantino recalls the casting process for his 1994 classic, and reveals that there was a push from the studio to add Depp to the bill of players despite Tarantino’s concerns.

Tarantino’s new comments certainly don’t exist in a vacuum. Recently, a Pulp Fiction casting “wish list” purportedly from the director went viral on social media. The document listed Depp as being the second choice actor for Pumpkin behind Tim Roth (who eventually got the part.)

“On the internet there’s a thing floating around about my wish list of the cast of Pulp Fiction, it’s kind of floating around and it’s not. It’s not that, not really,” Tarantino begins. “I didn’t know exactly who I wanted to play this part or that part, so I wrote a giant list with a ton of names. I wanted to get them all pre-approved sure and I didn’t know if it’s gonna work out, if I would like vibe with the person or if they would even do a good job but I wanted to get them approved.”

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He continues: “It’s kind of all over the place but that was kind of the idea, I wanted to be able to explore it and go all over the place but then I’m also really very opinionated.”

Once he had a large list going, Tarantino says he started to feel studio pressure, in the form of questions as to why he wanted Roth for the role above Depp, and refusals to offer Roth the role until other actors had turned it down.

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In response to the hemming and hawing, Tarantino recalls asking studio execs: “‘Do you think Johnny Depp playing the role of Pumpkin in this movie, which is the opening scene and the closing scene that’s it, do you think that will add that much to the box office?’” (Spoiler alert: the film actually worked out pretty well without him.)