Hollywood, as the old saying goes, is a sunny place for shady people. And with his ninth movie, the legendary Quentin Tarantino has captured the Golden State’s split personality of high-roll glamour and dirty deeds carried out under cover of darkness.
Set in the dying days of ’60s Tinseltown, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is classic QT – stylish, intelligent and violent, with a motley crew of characters and a script written with a razorblade. Let’s take a closer look...
Meet Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio): a leading man on the skids in the late-’60s, watching his career shrivel as he limps between bit-parts, shadowed by his mellow- but-unstable stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
“Rick is having a real tough time making the transition psychologically,” DiCaprio told Empire. “The era of the cowboy actor is gone, and he and Cliff are really on the outskirts of the industry: ‘I once had the crown and now I’m visiting sets and getting beaten up by the new hotshot...’”
Dalton and Booth never existed, while the director’s vision of a bygone Hollywood is fast, loose and full of poetic licence. But Tarantino has woven in strands of reality, consistent with the late-’60s backdrop.
You’ll see walk-ons by everyone from Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) to Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), while Margot Robbie has a lead role as Sharon Tate: the Valley Of The Dolls actress who was murdered by the Manson Family cult in 1969.
“Quentin said to me she’s the heartbeat of the story,” noted Robbie at the Cannes Film Festival. “I saw her as a ray of light.”
Since the early-’90s, Tarantino only has to snap his fingers and the glitterati come running – and for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the director has pulled off some of his biggest casting coups to date.
Amazingly, this is the first time that DiCaprio and Pitt have appeared in the same movie, while the prestige of the project means you’ll find heavy-hitters like Al Pacino (as Dalton’s agent Marvin Schwarz), alongside QT regulars like Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen.
Most tantalising of all is a possible cameo by Jack Nicholson, the supposedly retired icon who hasn’t appeared in a movie since 2010.
From the moment that Tarantino kicked off 1994’s Pulp Fiction with the crazed surf- guitar of Dick Dale’s Misirlou, he announced himself as a director who understands the potency of music.
Hollywood is no exception, with a soundtrack that hits ’60s California on the nose, taking in everything from The Mamas And The Papas’ Straight Shooter to Bring A Little Lovin’ by Los Bravos.
“I would have to say that the ’60s was the best decade for music,” noted Tarantino. “You’ve got the great pop bubblegum hits on one side, you’ve got Bob Dylan on another side.”
It’s been said that Tarantino uses words like bullets, and the signature scrawl of his fast, darkly funny poison pen is all over the Hollywood script. But as you might have heard, the director knows when to let his characters stop talking and take action, too.
The scene where Dalton blowtorches a map room full of Nazis with a cry of: “Anybody order fried sauerkraut?” might seem excessive (as, indeed, might the film’s bloody climax).
But then, this is Quentin Tarantino. As the man who handed us a cop’s sliced ear back in debut feature Reservoir Dogs, we’d be disappointed with anything less...
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognise anymore.
The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age.