Quentin Tarantino’s much-awaited ninth film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will be released in India on August 15, two weeks after its release in the United States of America. The movie is set in the late 1960s in Los Angeles and has a large ensemble cast led by Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood had its world premiere on May 21 at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is a work of fiction set against the backdrop of real events, including the changing culture of Hollywood in the ’60s and the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate by members of Charles Manson’s cult on August 9, 1969.
Written and directed by Tarantino, the film retraces and re-imagines these events through the story of Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a former television star, and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt). The 161-minute film is DiCaprio and Pitt’s first feature-length project together.
DiCaprio’s Dalton is grappling with a career on the wane. After leading the hit television show Bounty Law in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Dalton failed to make the transition to the big screen and is now contemplating taking on a role in a Spaghetti Western. In an interview to the Pure Cinema podcast, Tarantino described the real-life influences for Dalton’s character. “He’s a bit like George Maharis, he’s a bit like Edd Byrnes, he’s a bit like Tab Hunter, he’s a bit like Fabian, he’s a bit like Vince Edwards,” the filmmaker said. “These are all guys that were […] a certain kind of leading man that were handsome, and most of them were kinda rugged.”
Dalton’s best friend is Cliff Booth, a Vietnam War veteran whose professional fate depends on Dalton’s resurgence. In an interview to GQ Australia, Pitt, who had worked with Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds (2009), heaped praise on Tarantino: “Both times I’ve worked with him, it’s been an immediate ‘yes’,” he said. You know you’re in great hands. And you know you’re gonna get to chew on some of the best dialogue you’ll ever get.”
The dynamic between Booth and Dalton is in part inspired by the real-life friendship and professional partnership of actor Burt Reynolds and stuntman Hal Needham.
History intersects with fiction through various characters, especially Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate. In the film, Tate and her husband Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski move into the house next door to Dalton’s. A heavily pregnant Tate was murdered on August 9, 1969 along with four others when followers of Charles Manson stormed the celebrity couple’s home.
In an interview to TIME earlier this week, Tarantino said that Robbie was “really the only person” for the part. “Everybody else would be a secondary choice,” he said. Describing her role, he said, “In the movie, she’s a real person, but she’s also a presence. She’s flesh and blood, but she’s also an idea. A lot of those qualities are things that I learned from talking to people who knew her.”
The film’s start-studded ensemble cast includes Al Pacino as Marvin Shwarz, Rick Dalton’s longtime agent. Among the real-life personalities being portrayed in the film are Damon Herriman as Charles Manson, Dakota Fanning as Manson follower Lynette Fromme, Emile Hirsch as Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring, Timothy Olyphant as actor James Stacy, Mike Moh as actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee, Damian Lewis as actor Steve McQueen, Rafał Zawierucha as Polanski and Luke Perry as actor Wayne Maunde. This is Perry’s last screen role. The actor died of a stroke on March 4.
The film “is a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age”, according to the official synopsis. The golden era of the American film industry is considered to be the period between the ’20s and the late ’60s before the big studio culture took over. Towards the end of the ’60s, the New Hollywood movement began. Big production houses started to lose some of their clout, and independent filmmakers began to emerge.
Tarantino has frequently described Once Upon A Time In Hollywood as his “love letter to Los Angeles”. Speaking to Esquire in May, he said, “This film is the closest thing I’ve done to Pulp Fiction” and his “most personal” project. “I think of it like my memory piece,” he said. “Alfonso [Cuarón] had Roma and Mexico City, 1970. I had LA and 1969. This is me. This is the year that formed me. I was six years old then. This is my world. And this is my love letter to LA.”
In the same interview, he said that he had spent five years planning and writing this story as a novel, until he “let it become what it wanted to become”.
Tarantino has said that he wants to retire after making 10 films, prompting speculation that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will be his penultimate project. The filmmaker debuted with Reservoir Dogs in 1992 and produced a series of acclaimed films, including Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003), Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004), Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012).
In the interview to TIME , the filmmaker was non-committal about his retirement plans, but indicated that the end of his directorial career is near. “I want to be able to do other things and not have to live on the line, like I have for the last 28 years,” he said. “Most directors do not have a 30-year career. I’ve given what I’ve got to work at this level. And to work at another level is not interesting to me.”