Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolf, courtesy of Miramax,
in a Saatchi and Saatchi ad for First Direct (2014)
There are many great performances and many unforgettable characters in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction: John Travolta as Vincent Vegas, Samuel L. Jackson as Jules, Uma Thurman as Mia ... Even Bruce Willis as Butch manages to stop smirking long enough to concentrate on his acting.
But for many fans of the film, it's Harvey Keitel as tuxedo-clad problem solver Winston Wolf who manages to steal the show. The Wolf is one of those rare characters who actually has character and is a man to whom self-respect and the respect of others clearly matters.
Unfortunately, twenty years on from the making of the movie, the same cannot be said of the now elderly actor happy to trade off past glory by prostituting Tarantino's Wolf character as part of a £40 million advertising campaign by Direct Line, one of the UK's leading insurance companies, thereby causing no little distress amongst those of us who held him in high regard as an artist and loved his performance in the film.
I don't know why he did it. Presumably, not because he needed the money. Perhaps he simply thought it was a fun idea. But it's a shame. And whenever the ad comes on TV I find myself having to look away. I want to remember Winston Wolf in his prime - barking orders to gangsters and speeding off for breakfast in his silver Porsche accompanied by Monster Joe's daughter; I don't want to think of him as a silly old fool selling insurance to middle-class homeowners and guaranteeing them an instant replacement for their stolen goods.
Of course, Harvey Keitel is not the first Hollywood star to sell out and violate the memory of a beloved on-screen character and he won't be the last. But this doesn't make it any easier to accept.
One wonders what Quentin Tarantino thinks of it all ... Or am I simply being naive to ask this?