VIDEO: Nine Actors Whose Careers Got a Big Boost from Quentin Tarantino

Will Jennifer Jason Leigh experience a resurgence following her role in The Hateful Eight?

Photo: Everett Collection (2)

What jumps to mind when you hear the phrase “ Quentin Tarantino movie”? Hyperviolence? A bunch of different B-movies pastiched into something new? A lot of dialogue with a lot of bad language? That one “F” word in particular?

Any of those could be right, but there’s another thing many of Tarantino’s movies have in common: a big, meaty role for an actor who’s maybe in need of a career boost. In the case of the Tarantino movie currently in theaters, The Hateful Eight, the role is that of Daisy Domergue, a wily, foul-mouthed criminal played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Now Leigh hasn’t been without work. She’s had roles in movies over the years, in addition to recurring turns on Revenge and Weeds. But here’s the thing: Jennifer Jason Leigh is a fantastic actress who deserves the kind of role that generates Oscar buzz. At 53 years old, those roles are harder to come by, and while we should decry the unfair way Hollywood treats women, we can also be happy that Leigh’s turn in The Hateful Eight has garnered her a lot of praise – including a Golden Globe nomination – and talk about a possible Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress.

Oscar or no Oscar, we’re hopeful that The Hateful Eight (as well as her stellar voice work in Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, in theaters now) brings future roles. After all, there’s a precedence for this.

(Heads up: Being that they’re from Quentin Tarantino movies, the video clips in this article may be NSFW.)

1. John Travolta in Pulp Fiction

Easily the most famous recipient of the Tarantino boost was John Travolta. Prior to the release of Pulp Fiction in 1994, Travolta’s movie roles weren’t A-list material – the Look Who’s Talking sequels, for example. But following his performance as hitman Vincent Vega, Travolta scored an Oscar nom (his first since 1978’s Saturday Night Fever) as well as roles in Get Shorty, Face/Off and Phenomenon that he might not have landed otherwise.

John Travolta’s Changing Looks!

2. Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction

In the early ’90s, Jackson had been acting for years. And despite a supporting role in Jurassic Park, he wasn’t a household name yet. After he appeared in 1993’s True Romance, which Tarantino wrote but did not direct, Tarantino created the Pulp Fiction role of Jules Winnfield specifically for Jackson. He’s been a mainstay of Tarantino movies ever since, but has appeared in plenty of non-Tarantino mainstream hits, including Die Hard With a Vengeance, A Time to Kill, The Phantom Menace and, of course, Snakes on a Plane.

3. Pam Grier in Jackie Brown

Coffy and Foxy Brown made Grier a blaxploitation star, but she’d begun to appear in fewer films by the early ’90s. Then Tarantino adapted Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch as Jackie Brown – and changed the protagonist’s ethnicity from white to black – and offered the part to Grier. The film was a critical success, Grier got a Golden Globe nom, and a boom of roles followed, including a recurring one on the TV series The L Word.

4. Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

It would be wrong to say that Waltz was languishing before he played the villainous Hans Landa in Tarantino’s World War II movie, but he definitely wasn’t well-known to audiences outside Europe. The role won him an Oscar, however, and he’s since gone on to star in many high-profile American productions, including The Green Hornet, Muppets Most Wanted, Spectre and, of course, Django Unchained, for which he again won an Oscar, as well as a Golden Globe and BAFTA.

5. Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction

She’d been acting since her teens – check her out looking especially young and fresh-faced in 1988’s Johnny Be Good – and had even landed roles in major pictures such as Dangerous Liaisons. But it was Pulp Fiction and the subsequent Oscar nomination that led to her popularity throughout the ’90s. And then Tarantino did it again in 2003 when he turned Thurman into an action star with Kill Bill. Let’s hope they do it yet again with Kill Bill Vol. Three.

6. Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs

Doing terrible things to another guy’s ear did good things to Madsen’s career. Madsen had been acting since 1983 but was probably better known as Virginia Madsen’s older brother than as a star in his own right. After starring in what was probably the most famous scene in all of Reservoir Dogs, however, Madsen’s career took off. Beyond appearing in many subsequent Tarantino projects, Madsen also appeared in Free Willy, Donnie Brasco and Die Another Day, among others.

7. Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs

Previous to Reservoir Dogs, Roth had played supporting roles in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Playing Mr. Orange, however, made Roth a Tarantino regular – he’d star in Four Rooms as well as appearing in Pulp Fiction and The Hateful Eight – as well as scores of other character roles in other major films, from Planet of the Apes to Selma.

8. Michael Parks in Kill Bill

A longtime character actor who’d appeared in movies and TV – everything from The Colbys to Twin Peaks – Parks is probably best known for his repeat appearances in Tarantino films. He played Sheriff Earl McGraw in the Tarantino-penned From Dusk til Dawn and then reprised the role in Kill Bill Vol. One and Grindhouse. Since Kill Bill, Parks has been as busy as he’s ever been, appearing in Argo, Red State, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Park’s real-life son, James Parks, appeared opposite his pops in both Kill Bill and Grindhouse in addition to appearing in The Hateful Eight.

9. Chris Penn in Reservoir Dogs

His career may not have exploded to Travolta-post-Pulp Fiction levels, but it’s worth pointing out that the casting of Sean Penn’s youngest brother as Nice Guy Eddie in the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs marked the actor’s biggest role ever. He’d previously played supporting roles in movies such as Rumble Fish, Footloose and Best of the Best. The late Penn went on to star in 1993’s True Romance. He passed away in January 2006.

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