Laurence Fishburne reveals the reason he turned down 'Pulp Fiction'

The 59-year-old star recently opened up about his decision to pass on the 1994 film, explaining what went into his decision at the time.
Earlier this year, Quentin Tarantino revealed that the iconic role of of Jules Winnfield famously played by Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction" was originally intended for Laurence Fishburne.
Earlier this year, Quentin Tarantino revealed that the iconic role of of Jules Winnfield famously played by Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction" was originally intended for Laurence Fishburne.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Earlier this year, Quentin Tarantino revealed in an interview with The Ringer that the iconic role of Jules Winnfield famously played by Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction" was originally intended for Laurence Fishburne.

Fishburne recently opened up about his decision to pass on the 1994 film, explaining what went into his decision at the time.

"'Pulp Fiction' wasn’t for me," the 59-year-old "black-ish" star told Vulture in a new interview. "Quentin wrote that part with me in mind, too, but it wasn’t for me. I just had a problem with the way the heroin use was dealt with. I just felt it was a little cavalier, and it was a little loose."

In the film, John Travolta plays hit man Vincent Vega. In one of the film's most memorable moments, Mia Wallace, played by Uma Thurman, overdoses after mistaking heroin for cocaine. Travolta’s character saves the day, reviving her with an injection of adrenaline directly into her heart.

"I felt like it made heroin use attractive. For me, it’s not just my character. It’s, 'What is the whole thing saying?' ... I just was like, 'No, I don’t get it as an actor,'" Fishburne said.

"It wasn’t about my character in 'Pulp Fiction.' It was about the way in which the heroin thing was delivered. And the whole f------ thing with the hypodermic and the adrenaline shot? No."

In his chat with The Ringer's "Rewatchables" podcast in January, Tarantino said Fishburne’s agents discouraged him from accepting the role of Winnfield because it wasn’t the main role in the film.

Fishburne said he believed it was “a leading-man part” and that Jackson "sticks the movie in his pocket and walks away from it, walks into a f------ leading-man career."

“It wasn’t about the part,” Fishburne continued. “It was about the totality of the thing."

Another role Fishburne said he passed on for similar reasons was Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing."

In the 1989 film, the character is choked to death by police officers, setting off a riot in the Brooklyn neighborhood where the movie takes place. A pizzeria where Lee's character works is destroyed during the turmoil.

“There are ways in which (Lee) takes creative license with ‘Do the Right Thing’ that just didn’t feel right to me,” Fishburne said. “If you have a business in the heart of the African American community — but you’re not African American but you’ve been there for generations — then you become a member of the family, which means you’re basically protected from anything that should happen.”

He added, “Because it was loosely based on the events that had happened in Howard Beach, I just felt that if that pizzeria existed in the Black community in Brooklyn, that pizzeria was part of the community, and so even if there was a riot and even if there was racial tension, that it would not have escalated to the point where they’d just burn down the pizza parlor. Why did they burn down the pizza parlor and not the Korean grocery market? It felt a little disingenuous to me.”

When asked what is the internal compass that guides him to make these decisions, he responded, "My intuition guides me absolutely."