‘Pulp Fiction’ & “The Art Of Small Talk”: Samuel L. Jackson Says “Gangsters Don’t Talk About That Stuff” In 30-Minute Q&A [Watch]

Earlier this month, as you’ve likely heard, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Harvey Keitel reunited at the TCM Classic Film Festival to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Quentin Tarantino’s classic 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.” The filmmaker himself was sadly not in attendance, presumably busy with his reportedly endless writing on the now scrapped tenth and supposedly final film, “The Movie Critic.”

TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz interviewed the cast in a fascinating and enlightening conversation about the interconnected, talky gangster movie set in Los Angeles. TCM has posted the entire conversation, and there are so many highlights. But one that jumps out is the specificity of Tarantino’s dialogue and how the shaggy, take-it’stime movie—which is just as much a buddy hang-out movie as “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” is, in retrospect—was so novel and striking to audiences at the time.

READ MORE: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Movie Critic’ Could Have Included Olivia Wilde & David Krumholtz, But Probably Not Tom Cruise

“In this one, we talked a lot, we had a great conversation, that whole thing with the Quarter Pounder with cheese and him being away,” Jackson explained. “He’s been out of town, and we haven’t seen each other, so we’re catching up. He’s catching me up on his life, and then we’re in the car, and we’re talking about other craziness, and we get to the apt. building, we’re talking about foot massages and the new girlfriend that our boss has; you know, gangsters don’t talk about that stuff.”

“It’s the art of small talk,” Travolta summarized succinctly. “Harold Pinter was a master of small talk in his plays and Quentin kind of brought that up to date. This is the modern Pinter, where you’re speaking small talk and making a meal out of small conversation.

“But you find that across the Quentin Tarantino milieu,” Jackson said. “People talk, and that’s a great thing. And you can’t hire actors that don’t have personality to do that. He has a unique talent for finding people who know how to use language, who know how to use their bodies to convey that language, or their voices in different tones, and we’ve had a great run doing that. Sometimes during rehearsal, he’ll actually tell you who your character would have been if he had made that movie in the ‘50s, like, I’m Royal Dano, what? So I appreciate that.”

“I was sorry that I never got to work with you,” Jackson said about Uma Thurman, noting that their cross never passed in the movie. Thurman, for her part, said the movie not only changed her career but changed movies, period.

“It changed cinema, so it’s almost hard to have it sink in,” she said. “I feel like I’ve had an evolving and beautiful and growing relationship with ‘Pulp Fiction’ throughout my life. It changed cinema, and it changed every filmmaker that I’ve ever met.”

Travolta spoke about how the film came at the right exact moment, helping to reinvigorate his career and jumpstart a part two.

“I had a great first chapter, and I was desperately looking for a second one. And [Tarantino] took me to the moon and back,” Travolta said. “After that, it was mind-boggling the opportunities that came my way. I mean, an actor can only fantasize about what happened after that for me. It was next level, and I could go on for hours about what it specifically meant.”

Jackson concurred; the actor was Oscar-nominated in the role, and it changed his life. “I was floating along doing well and this film was a great boost to me just working and doing it,” he said. “Right after this film, I went to ‘Die Hard With a Vengeance’ with Bruce [Willis].”

Travolta even revealed in meeting Tarantino, he was presented with two scripts, “Pulp Fiction” and “From Dusk Till Dawn,” which Tarantino’s friend Robert Rodriguez would eventually go on to direct.

“He presented this film to me called ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ and ‘Pulp Fiction,’ so he said, ‘By the way, I spoke to you about those two movies; what did you think about ‘From Dusk Till Dawn?’ I said, ‘Quentin, I’m not a vampire person; I’m not a blood guy. It’s not for me,’” Travolta recalled. “So I go, and a week later, he offered me the role of Vincent [‘in Pulp Fiction’]. And I said, ‘Why, what did you see in me that I could play this role?’ He said, ‘You have a philosophical viewpoint that I need for that character. I want you to be thoughtful about whatever he’s going through, and that’s it.’” 

Those are some top highlights, but the full, thirty-minute conversation is worth watching in its entirety below.