Bruce Willis Scored His Role in ‘Pulp Fiction’ Because Matt Dillon Angered Quentin Tarantino

Back in the 1990s, Bruce Willis was a massive movie star. It’s hard to imagine him pinning over a movie role, but apparently, that’s exactly what happened. Willis reportedly was desperate to appear in Pulp Fiction but had missed his opportunity. The role he wanted had gone to John Travolta. While most of the parts had been cast, One role was available. Willis slid in and became Butch Coolidge. The role was only open to him because Matt Dillon had offended director, Quentin Tarantino.

Bruce Willis only ended up with his role after Matt Damon annoyed Quentin Tarantino 

Willis didn’t get the role he was hoping for, but he did get the chance to appear in Pulp Fiction. His casting was a bit of kismet, though. In fact, he would have missed out on the role of Butch if Matt Dillon hadn’t annoyed Tarantino. Willis’s part was originally written with Dillon in mind, and the script was passed to him to read. Dillon didn’t have the response Tarantino had hoped for, though. 

John Travolta and Quentin Tarantino in a still for 'Pulp Fiction'
John Travolta and Quentin Tarantino in a still for ‘Pulp Fiction’ | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 2013, Mike Simpson, Tarantino’s agent, sat down with Vanity Fair to discuss Pulp Fiction’s casting. He recalled that Dillon said he loved the script but wanted to sleep on it before accepting the role. Upon hearing that Dillon wanted to think about taking the job, Tarantino took him out of contention. According to Simpson, he said, “He’s out. 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.”

Tarantino later said that casting Willis was a great decision

Tarantino ended up being extremely happy that Dillon didn’t accept the role of Butch right away. Dillon’s trepidation gave Willis enough time to grab the part. His star power proved important to the movie’s success. According to Tarantino, Willis, even if it he wasn’t in the starring role, made the film “legit”, thanks to the success of Reservoir Dogs.

Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis
Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis | PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP via Getty Images

Willis’s star power allowed the production company to see a return on their investment before the movie even began filming. Tarantino told Vanity Fair that the production house sold the international rights to the film for 11 million, making a $2.5 million profit immediately. The movie would go on to earn more than $200 million at the box office.

Uma Thurman didn’t get the same response as Matt Dillon when she was unsure of the film

While Tarantino instantly wrote Dillon off when he wanted to sleep on the script, he didn’t do the same with Uma Thurman. Thurman eventually appeared in Pulp Fiction as Mia Wallace and later appeared in more Tarantino flicks. Thurman is largely considered Tarantino’s muse, but she almost passed on Pulp Fiction.

Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman at the premiere of 'Kill Bill Volume 1'
Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Thurman was reportedly uncomfortable with the amount of violence in the film. According to IMDb, the famed director was so desperate to have her on board that he spent hours convincing her to take the role. She eventually agreed, and the movie served as the launchpad for her career.