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Film

The film role Quentin Tarantino turned down Daniel-Day Lewis for

@Russellisation

Of all the actors, directors and screenwriters who have helped to shape the contemporary landscape of cinema, there is no one that has influenced it more so than the filmmaker and auteur Quentin Tarantino. Redefining American independent cinema with Pulp Fiction in 1994, Tarantino brought a radical, youthful charm to the stiff suits of Hollywood, infusing the industry with his own frenetic passion. 

Having educated himself in the language of cinema through working in a video store in his young life, Quentin Tarantino bypassed film school and instead watched, listened and learned from the masters of cinema. Noting filmmakers such as Sergio Leone, Takashi Miike and Akira Kurosawa as just three of his very favourite directors, Tarantino borrowed many elements from his heroes, going on to create violent genre flicks that toyed with the conventions of the medium. 

As a result of his self-driven obsession with movies, Tarantino has developed a deep-rooted passion for the cinema experience, often discussing the importance of keeping the spectacle of the big screen alive. Speaking in a recent interview on The Late Show, Tarantino colourfully described the act of visiting the cinema, noting: “You have an experience with a bunch of strangers and at that moment, when the movie gets going and the lights are down, you become a collective…those are the things that stay in your mind and that you remember for the rest of your life”. 

If Quentin Tarantino has helped to shape the contemporary industry behind the camera, there are few people that have developed cinema in front of the camera than Daniel Day-Lewis, revolutionising Hollywood with his take on method acting. Taking the industry standard to new heights from the very start of his career, Day-Lewis has become known for his dedication to roles in films such as There Will be Blood, My Left Foot and Lincoln

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In the 1990s, Daniel Day-Lewis was enjoying steady success with The Last of the Mohicans, In the Name of the Father and The Age of Innocence each performing well, whilst Quentin Tarantino had barely broken into the industry following his debut with Reservoir Dogs. With the unbeknownst golden ticket of Pulp Fiction in his back pocket, Tarantino was after a massive film to break him into industry relevance and was even willing to deny Daniel Day-Lewis a role in his film in order to realise his complete artistic vision. 

As stated in an article from Vanity Fair, Quentin Tarantino put together a list of potential actors he wanted for the role to present to the film’s producers. “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’”, Tarantino stated. Angered by the decision he got together with the producer Harvey Weinstein who told the director that he could get Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn or William Hurt instead. 

Though Quentin Tarantino had a distinct vision and was adamant in wanting John Travolta, an actor who was out of the cultural limelight at the time, as opposed to the Hollywood dynamite Daniel Day-Lewis. Thankfully Tarantino’s risk paid off, with Travolta shining in his role as Vincent Vega and Pulp Fiction going on to win the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.