Clint Eastwood Once Reflected on Seeing ‘Pulp Fiction’ for the First Time

by Caitlin Berard

In 1993, the script for the second offering from budding filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction, landed on the desk of TriStar Pictures execs. Well, Reservoir Dogs was strange, incredibly brutal, and unbelievably profane, but it was a modest success at the time. Maybe this one would be even better.

Upon reading the script, however, they were horrified to learn that Pulp Fiction was somehow stranger. In fact, it was deemed “too demented” for the production company to stand behind. So it went to Miramax instead, who snapped it up immediately, recognizing it for the brilliant film that it was.

Sure, it was odd, but there were plenty of cinephiles out there whose tastes skewed bizarre enough to enjoy it. And it didn’t take long for this daring choice to be proven the correct one. Pulp Fiction went on to make a staggering $200 million at the box office, the first “indie” film to surpass $100 million in the United States.

The black comedy became an instant cultural phenomenon and is now widely hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Before all that, however, it faced the judgment of critics at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, one of whom was none other than the Man With No Name himself, Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood Attends Cannes Film Festival

Every year, the Cannes Film Festival is held in Cannes, France, where a panel of judges from around the world preview new films of all genres. They then choose the best film, which receives the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize.

In 1994, Clint Eastwood received the incredible honor of being chosen as the representative for the United States on the judges’ panel. Over the span of two weeks, the judges viewed around two dozen films, including Pulp Fiction. And, according to Clint Eastwood, it was a mixed bag.

“We were watching a lot of shows, some of them great, some of them good, some of them…not so good,” Eastwood said with a mischievous grin in an interview with the American Film Institute.

Clint Eastwood Recounts His Experience Watching ‘Pulp Fiction’

As it was the early ’90s, avoiding spoilers was a far easier task to accomplish. And the entire panel of judges was careful to do so. Clint Eastwood explained that none of the judges, including himself, knew anything about Pulp Fiction ahead of time. In fact, they purposefully steered clear of any potential spoilers, wanting their initial opinions to be entirely their own.

“And then when Pulp Fiction came along… We sat there and watched it,” Eastwood recalled. “It sort of drew everybody in. And I was amazed it was the European guys on the jury that really jumped on it. They turned around and said, ‘That’s the best picture! That’s the picture of this festival.'”

True to form, however, Clint Eastwood was a bit harder to win over. “I didn’t jump… I was kind of still waiting, thinking in my mind, ‘Well, it’s definitely interesting,'” he said with a chuckle. “It was exciting, it came at a time when we needed a little excitement, too.”

“[Pulp Fiction] came right after a couple that were…lulling, there,” Eastwood added. “So, it was refreshing. And then everybody started talking about it and we went back and looked at a couple more films. [But] when they got into the jury room, everyone was kind of unanimous that [Pulp Fiction] would be the picture.”