In his Oscar acceptance speech for Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino said that he believes the most endearing part of his filmography will be his characters. Considering these characters are his legacy, Tarantino has extra pressure than the average filmmaker to cast the perfect actor to play each role.
From giving careers to Tim Roth and Michael Madsen to giving career comebacks to Pam Grier and John Travolta, Tarantino has often paired the right actor with each role. But the actors who end up appearing in Tarantino’s movies aren’t always the ones he had in mind when he was writing the character.
10 Lt. Archie Hicox (Written For Simon Pegg)
According to Bleeding Cool, Simon Pegg was once faced with “a heartbreaking week” in which he had to choose between appearing in a Tarantino movie and appearing in a Spielberg movie.
The Cornetto star was offered Inglourious Basterds and The Adventures of Tintin for the same time in his schedule and had to pick just one. The role in Basterds was the British undercover spy, Lt. Archie Hicox. Pegg ended up going with Tintin and Michael Fassbender was ultimately cast as Hicox.
9 Bill (Written For Warren Beatty)
According to CinemaBlend, Tarantino wrote the titular villain in Kill Bill with a specific A-list movie star in mind. The director explained, “I wrote Bill for Warren Beatty and it ended up not working out.”
When David Carradine was cast, Tarantino rewrote the part to suit his acting style from Kung Fu. Tarantino elaborated on the version of Bill that would’ve been played by Beatty: “Bill was a little bit more of an evil James Bond type. Rather than the Bondian villain, he was more like an evil Bond.”
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8 Butch Coolidge (Written For Matt Dillon)
According to IndieWire, Tarantino wrote the role of boxer Butch Coolidge in Pulp Fiction for then-rising star Matt Dillon. Tarantino’s agent Mike Simpson explained, “He gave Matt the script and he read it and said, ‘I love it. Let me sleep on it.’ Quentin then called me and 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.’”
So, the part went to Bruce Willis. Tarantino has credited Willis’ star power with making Pulp Fiction a blockbuster: “Bruce Willis made us legit.”
7 Stuntman Mike (Written For Mickey Rourke)
According to WhatCulture, Mickey Rourke was the first choice to play Stuntman Mike in Death Proof. Rourke’s representation overplayed their hand – in Tarantino’s words, “the agent was f**king around with us” – and Tarantino moved on to a different ‘80s A-lister.
Kurt Russell ended up being perfect for the part. Stuntman Mike is a wholly unique slasher villain – his weapon of choice is a stunt car – and thanks to Russell’s charms, he’s an oddly charismatic sociopath.
6 Vincenzo Coccotti (Written For Robert Forster)
It’s impossible to imagine anybody besides Christopher Walken opposite Dennis Hopper in the iconic Sicilian scene from True Romance. But in 2003, Robert Forster told NPR’s Terry Gross that Tarantino wrote the part with him in mind. Forster’s producer friend Bill Lustig initially bought True Romance and Tarantino told him to cast Forster in it, but Lustig ended up selling the rights to another producer and Tony Scott took over.
Forster elaborated on the Jackie Brown DVD special features that the True Romance role he was recommended for was Vincenzo Coccotti, Walken’s cartoonishly exaggerated mafioso.
5 Sgt. Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz (Written For Adam Sandler)
According to the Huffington Post, Adam Sandler had a similar situation to Simon Pegg, as he was offered Inglourious Basterds at the same time as another lucrative project he couldn’t turn down.
Sandler had to choose between playing “the Bear Jew” for Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds and playing a fictionalized version of himself for his former roommate Judd Apatow in Funny People. He ended up going with the latter, more personal project, and Tarantino instead cast fellow director Eli Roth as the Bear Jew.
4 George Spahn (Written For Burt Reynolds)
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the role of George Spahn in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – a bit part, but the centerpiece of the movie’s most suspenseful sequence – was written with Burt Reynolds in mind.
Reynolds was cast, but he sadly passed away after a script reading during pre-production. Regular Tarantino collaborator Bruce Dern stepped in and played the role admirably in his place.
3 Django Freeman (Written For Will Smith)
According to IndieWire, Tarantino wrote the titular gunslinger in Django Unchained for Will Smith. However, Smith turned down the offer because he “didn’t want to make a slavery film about vengeance.”
Smith would’ve been a great Django, but Jamie Foxx ended up being a perfect choice. Like Smith, Foxx has the combination of leading-man charisma, comedic chops, and dramatic nuance required to make this unique role work.
2 Vincent Vega (Written For Michael Madsen)
Perhaps the Vega brothers were supposed to be twins. According to IndieWire, Tarantino wrote the role of mob hitman Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction for Michael Madsen, who’d just played Vic “Mr. Blonde” Vega in Reservoir Dogs. However, Madsen turned it down to do Wyatt Earp.
In the documentary QT8: The First Eight, Madsen said, “I was already committed to Wyatt Earp. And now, here’s Quentin, wants me to do Pulp Fiction. And they were both going at the same time.” The role of Vincent ended up giving John Travolta a much-needed, much-deserved career comeback.
1 Col. Hans Landa (Written For Leonardo DiCaprio)
According to MTV, while Tarantino was writing Inglourious Basterds, he pictured Leonardo DiCaprio as the sinister Col. Hans Landa. When the script was finished, Tarantino realized the part should be played by a native German-speaking actor.
He ended up finding the perfect Landa in Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his performance. DiCaprio instead played Calvin Candie and Rick Dalton in Tarantino’s later films.
NEXT: 10 Movie Ideas Quentin Tarantino Mentioned That He Never Made
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About The Author
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Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, and independent filmmaker. He writes lists for Screen Rant and features and reviews for Game Rant, covering Mando, Melville, Mad Max, and more. He’s currently in pre-production on his first feature, and has been for a while because filmmaking is expensive. In the meantime, he’s sitting on a mountain of unproduced screenplays. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema, Comic Book Resources, and BabbleTop. You can catch him performing standup at odd pubs around the UK that will give him stage time.
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