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Quentin Tarantino Reveals Inspiration Behind Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tarantino recalls how Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came together in his mind.


Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a huge movie, earning 10 nominations at the 2020 Academy Awards and grossing over $373 million worldwide. Now, in an interview with critic Peter Travers on YouTube, Tarantino has talked about his process working on the film, and what inspired the film's narrative.

(Warning: some spoilers for the movie follow.)

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Now Playing: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood - Official Red Band Trailer

Tarantino recalls the slow process of writing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and says that when he initially started work, it didn't take form as a movie script right away. "I wasn't in a hurry to sit down and write a movie script," he says. "Even my very first couple of years writing on it, I wrote it as a novel, or at least a couple of chapters as a novel, in a exploratory way."

An opening scene between Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Pacino was initially written in the style of a one-act play. These were exploratory writing activities, Tarantino explains; he never seriously intended to write the whole piece as a book.

Tarantino says that the movie really started to coalesce when an older actor on a movie he was directing (he does not give specifics) approached him about their own stunt double, who they'd been working with for nine years. The actor approached Tarantino and asked if they could maybe use the stunt double for a scene they were shooting soon, for the sake of giving the stunt double something to do in the movie.

On the day in question, the stunt double showed up and did a great job. Tarantino says that as the day went on, he observed the relationship between the actor and their stunt double. "You could tell that there was a time where this guy was a perfect double for the actor," Tarantino recalls. "Perfect. I mean, you could have shot close-ups with the stunt guy, and they would have passed. This time...was not that time."

Instead, there was an air of melancholy to the pair, Tarantino recalls.: "this was maybe the last or second-to-last thing they'd be doing together."

Tarantino says that as he watched the two actors, who were both dressed in the same costume, have a discussion, he could "see the whole nine years of their relationship," knowing that this is the tail end of it. He thought about what this friendship would look like, when "one is working for the other". The stunt person, he thought, is the one person the actor always knows on every movie set, as they might find themselves working with actors or directors they don't know. "Wow...that's an interesting relationship," he thought.

Tarantino also talks in the interview about Sharon Tate, and how he thinks she has been, historically, "reduced to an extra in her own story" because of the brutality and cultural impact of her murder. He talks about how audiences, when they think about Sharon Tate, are mostly just going to think about her murder at the hands of the Manson family--before they've seen the film, at least. "I think the perception of Sharon has people think of her as more than just a murder victim."

He also addresses controversy around how few lines Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate has in his film. "The fact that people would think that a character is denoted by the level of dialogue that they have...that is a situation where I just don't agree with that hypothesis."

The director also addresses his impending apparent retirement from film-making after his next movie. "I haven't retired, so the idea of me talking about the aesthetics of my retirement before I've retired is kind of obnoxious...But I guess I do believe that directing is a young man's game," he says, saying that he'd like to work more as a writer. "My modus operandi is facing a pile of blank paper, where there was nothing before, and filling those blank pages," he says.

Tarantino would like to "lean a little more into the literary," he says, and become more of a homebody following the impending birth of his first child. However, he also acknowledges that he's not entirely sure what he'll do next.

Tarantino was attached to direct a new Star Trek movie until recently, but it looks like that film won't be happening now. Tarantino also intends to direct the five episodes of Bounty Law he wrote for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

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