If hitRECordJoe’s not recording, nobody is. Therefore, there will only be written accounts of last night’s amazing read of Pulp Fiction at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The one-night event was completely sold-out with 600 eager fans creating the energy rush of an adrenaline shot, squirming in anticipation of what ensemble cast would be delivering this Oscar-winning script as a cold, unrehearsed reading.
There were nine empty chairs with character names taped to music stands, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack was playing and the director, Evan Goldberg took the stage. He immediately gave credit where credit is due, saying, as 12-year-olds, he and pal Seth Rogen were obsessed with Tarantino and Pulp was “literally the reason what got us into film.” He then informed everyone that he would be reading the stage directions for the night and introduced us to each actor as they casually filtered in. And your cast for the night is…
Rebecca Romijn as Fabienne and Esmerelda
Jonah Hill as Butch and Pumpkin
Lizzy Caplan as Mia and Honey Bunny
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Vincent Vega
Jordan Peele as Jules Winnfield
Michael Chiklis as The Wolf and Brett and Captain Koons
Seth Rogen as Lance, Jimmie and Maynard
Nick Kroll as Marvin and Zed
Goldberg iterated that this was a cold reading and some of the actors just met each other for the first time while waiting in the wings. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s open, expressive face looked as thrilled and fortunate to be a part of this as the audience was. He watched Jonah Hill and Lizzy Caplan kick things off as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, smiling at each familiar line. Caplan lassoed the audience in for keeps when she perfectly imitated Amanda Plummer’s line, “Any of you fucking pricks move, and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!” Next up, Jules and Vincent and one of the greatest moments of the night – the foot massage conversation. Gordon-Levitt and Jordan Peele nailed the dialogue and had Seth Rogen in tears before the read was 30 minutes in. The audience couldn’t help but applause when Peele softly capped off the topic saying, “That’s an interesting point.”
It’s really hard to believe this group didn’t have hours of rehearsal to get the timing right. A script reading can be pretty dull, no matter how great the cast is and it’s testament to Tarantino’s writing that each scene played so well. Even when the actors stumbled, the dialogue and scene descriptions were so artful and hilarious that the actors pulled it off, like when Michael Chiklis read for Brent and snorted his way through the Big Kahuna burger bit. By the time the ‘say what again’ exchange was happening, Chiklis was using his microphone as a gun, pressed against his cheek and wimpered his way to to the end, with the audience hoping he would definitely not say ‘what’ again as if being played out for the first time ever. It was hilarious, the audience and Seth Rogen lost it.
Jules: Look, just because I don’t be givin’ no man a foot massage don’t make it right for Marsellus to throw Antwone into a glass motherfuckin’ house, fuckin’ up the way the nigger talks. Motherfucker do that shit to me, he better paralyze my ass, ’cause I’ll kill the motherfucker, know what I’m sayin’?
Vincent: I ain’t saying it’s right. But you’re saying a foot massage don’t mean nothing, and I’m saying it does. Now look, I’ve given a million ladies a million foot massages, and they all meant something. We act like they don’t, but they do, and that’s what’s so fucking cool about them. There’s a sensuous thing going on where you don’t talk about it, but you know it, she knows it, fucking Marsellus knew it, and Antwone should have fucking better known better. I mean, that’s his fucking wife, man. He can’t be expected to have a sense of humor about that shit. You know what I’m saying?
Jules: That’s an interesting point. Come on, let’s get into character.
Jules: What country are you from?
Brett: What? What? Wh – ?
Jules: “What” ain’t no country I’ve ever heard of. They speak English in What?
Jules: English, motherfucker, do you speak it?
Brett: Yes! Yes!
Jules: Then you know what I’m sayin’!
Jules: Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!
Jules: Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!
As the read continued, the cast fueled the audience with familiar nods to line deliveries that are embedded in every fan’s brain and Gordon-Levitt and Caplan supplied a very cute little Twist dance to compliment one of the most classic moments from the film.
Tarantino gave us some of the most quotable lines in movie history. But there’s a forgotten masterpiece hidden behind the celluloid in form of the stage directions and Goldberg reminded everyone last night that those words are nothing short of pop-culture art.
The best scenes of the night were ‘foot massage’, ‘the adrenaline shot’, ‘the gimp’, and ‘the Bonnie situation’. Rogen’s joyful energy and Peele’s comic delivery kept the night entertaining while the rest of the cast delivered on impersonations, accents, dramatic pauses and even some new lines. At one point Chiklis forgot he was Brett and when Peele reminded him in character to respond to his question, “You ever read the Bible, Brett?” [pause, nudge] “Brett?” Chiklis whimpered, “I’m sorry”, with Peele adding “It’s alright.” Jonah Hill also momentarily spaced that he was reading for Pumpkin and nudged Caplan to read the line. She nudged back and pointed to his own script, the audience laughed, Hill shook his head in embarrassment and continued to play out the final scene.
In the past six years, 50′s diners have sprung up all over L.A., giving Thai restaurants a run for their money. They’re all basically the same. Decor out of an “Archie” comic book, Golden Oldies constantly emanating from a bubbly Wurlitzer, saucy waitresses in bobby socks, menus with items like the Fats Domino Cheeseburger, or the Wolfman Jack Omelet, and over prices that pay for all this bullshit. But then there’s JACKRABBIT SLIM’S, the big mama of 50′s diners. Either the best or the worst, depending on your point of view.
Vincent moves like greased lightning to Mia’s fallen body.
Mia has the unbeknownst-to-her heroin cut up into big lines on her glass top coffee table. Taking her trusty hundred dollar bill like a human Dust-Buster, she quickly snorts the fat line.
Sodomy and the Judds can still be heard going strong behind the closed door…
Butch drives down the street, humping a hot dog named “GRACE”.
It’s impossible to relay every precious moment of this unique evening and it’s kind of a shame that it wasn’t recorded for the millions of fans around the world that would have loved to see this play out but know this much – you would be proud. Each actor made the script come alive once again and reminded everyone in the room just how perfect the Pulp Fiction screenplay is. The live read ended with a standing ovation and of course, “Surf Rider”.