Steel yourselves, moviegoers over thirty: the cinematic phenomenon known as Pulp Fiction happened nineteen years ago. Which means that the making of Pulp Fiction happened twenty years ago. Vanity Fair‘s Mark Seal has seized this occasion to write “Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction,” an oral history of the conception of the one movie that, more than any other, stoked the American indie-film boom of the nineties to its full cultural blaze. Seal quotes Harvey Weinstein, a force of this movement at the helm of Miramax Films and Tarantino’s longtime business collaborator, as describing Pulp Fiction as “the first independent movie that broke all the rules,” which “set a new dial on the movie clock.” Though possessed of a legendary way with hyperbole, Weinstein may have this time put it too mildly.
As a moviegoer slightly under thirty, I grew up regarding Pulp Fiction as the movie cool grown-ups loved (I remember my dad buying the poster almost immediately after seeing the film), only knowing that it had something to do with McDonald’s Quarter- Pounders in France. Seal’s article sheds special light on the picture’s genesis for those too young to have engaged with the considerable industry buzz at the time, using not just the recollections of John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, and Tarantino himself, but also of instrumental behind-the-scenes figures like co-writer Roger Avary, agent Mike Simpson, and typist Linda Chen. Before you petition your local revival cinemas to hold tribute screenings, have another shot of Pulp Fiction backstory by watching the on-set footage above. It opens on not just any set, but Jackrabbit Slim’s, the very same fictional theme restaurant Pulp Fiction‘s creators remember so vividly in the article.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.