Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie discuss their love letter to cinema at Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood press conference in Cannes
Quentin Tarantino has returned to Cannes 25 years after Pulp Fiction premiered in competition. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a tale of two friends, TV actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cliff Booth, his best friend and stunt double, played by Brad Pitt. The film acts as both a love letter to cinema and a reimagining of the Hollywood dreamscape at the time of the Manson murders. Margot Robbie stars as Sharon Tate.
Tarantino stated that he did not speak to Roman Polanski, the father of Tate’s unborn child when she was murdered on August 8th 1969. “I’ve met [Polanski] a couple of times. Rosemary’s Baby made like $35 million, which was unheard of. I’m a fan of his work.”
When it came to the film’s astounding finish, Tarantino had no desire to address it. But he spoke about the hippy movement of the period that bred the Manson Family. “I can’t address the ending. The girls in the Spahn Ranch were part of a freaky, hippy commune in February 1969. They’re creepy, no two, three or four ways about it. Even though the camp is sinister, I tried to show the day-to-day. They’re just riding horses.”
Pitt made the wider point that film is “not about rage against individuals, but of a loss of innocence. There was the free love movement, a lot of hope. When the tragic loss of Sharon and others happened, it scared people because it was a sobering look at the dark side of human nature. That’s what the film so beautifully addresses.”
On the distinctly referential nature of the film, Tarantino claimed that he had “not meant to be ridiculously self-conscious, but there’s a summing up here.”
Asked to take stock of his career, Tarantino made a point of his new circumstances. “I got married six months ago, and I had never done that before. Now I know why, because I was waiting for the perfect girl. I can’t take stock because I’m in the middle of adding together the equations at this moment.”
Of the modern day, Tarantino stated, “I prefer any time before cell phones.”
DiCaprio linked taking stock to his character Rick. “He grew up in the industry. He’s on the outskirts of times that are changing and he’s left behind. For me, it’s an immense appreciation for what I have and the position I’m in. This is reflected in Rick’s ability to gain confidence and perseverance. I feel immense gratitude.”
On whether Rick could be considered one of the best, DiCaprio stepped in. “Hell yeah, Rick Dalton’s a great actor.”
The complexity of the character was all down to Tarantino. “There are few people in this world who have the collective knowledge of cinematic history, culture and television. It’s like tapping into a computer database – the knowledge is unfathomable.”
DiCaprio summed up his and Brad’s relationship on set. “I had incredible ease and comfort. We grew up as the same generation. Tarantino gave us a bible to understand our relationship in the film. Brad is not only a terrific actor but he’s a professional. We had a great foothold on the history of our characters. Together we forged a great cinematic bond. This is a love letter to the industry from two characters that are outsiders; all of us have felt like outsiders in the industry.”
In return, Pitt stated that the pair had “great fun and ease. We had a laugh It helps when you have the best of the best holding up the scene with you. I hope we get to do it again.” He talked about the importance of acceptance, while describing DiCaprio as producing “some of the greatest breakdown scenes ever seen.”
On preparing for the role of Sharon Tate, Robbie said: “I did a lot of research. I watched and read everything I could. My job is to understand how my character serves the story. Sharon is the heartbeat of the story, a ray of light. I wanted to honour her memory. She was such a bright light in this world.”
Tarantino rejected the hypothesis that Sharon does not have enough dialogue, while Robbie argued that her “moments on screen were an opportunity to show the wonderful sides of Sharon Tate. I get to show that often without speaking.”
Photo: Sebastien Berda/ Getty Images
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is released nationwide on 14th August 2019. Read our review here.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood here: