Quentin Tarantino has always been a versatile director. Whether it’s a non-linear heist narrative or a Western about a bunch of people trapped in an inn, the visionary director always delivers a compelling film infused with his trademark violence and dialogue. Also known as an avid film buff and a historian of Hollywood, it’s no surprise that his versatility as a filmmaker and his love of cinema has finally given birth to his new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, also known as film #9. That number is important for a variety of reasons. In too many interviews to count, Tarantino has stated his intention to retire after ten films, something I thought was crazy given how much he loves cinema. I first heard about this idea during an Oscar roundtable interview. The dichotomy of the table fascinated me. On the one hand, you had Tarantino talking retirement and James Cameron, who at the time had released Avatar after twelve years of undersea expeditions and technological advancement, saying he will continue directing until he dies.
Yet, from a certain point of view, Tarantino’s reasoning is sound. He wants to keep his filmography pristine and then retire to write novels and film criticism, both of which he has already started to do, the former being a progenitor to The Hateful Eight. While Tarantino has slightly amended his ten film rule, it also makes the audience appreciate his work more, knowing it’ll be quality over quantity. So whenever there’s news of Killer Crow, his Australian Bonnie and Clyde film, or even the fabled Vega Brothers and Kill Bill Volume 3, the promise of a definite end to his filmography makes fans and critics alike sit up and take notice. So when Once Upon in Hollywood was officially announced I was excited to see him delve into Hollywood history in a way he never has before, having very briefly dealt with it in the fantastic Inglorious Basterds.
With the stage set for Tarantino’s latest opus, the world was left to wonder just what exactly Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be about, with various outlets saying he had written roles for Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and, of course, his muse Samuel L. Jackson. Set against the backdrop of the 1960s, Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained) and Brad Pitt (Inglorious Basterds) reunite with the acclaimed director, starring as Rick and Cliff, an aging movie star and his stuntman, respectively. The former happens to live next door to Sharon Tate. I love Hollywood crime stories, whether it’s The Black Dahlia or Hollywoodland. These snapshots into a Hollywood world that has long since past are always intriguing. Adding a noir sensibility, something that Hollywood has been known for since the days of Bogart‘s The Big Sleep, only strengthens the veneer. To then take that old Hollywood story and filter it through the Tarantino vernacular mixes in a style that, at least in my memory, has never been present before in old Hollywood stories. Tarantino has a way of making something that may seem old hat on the surface feel new again.
It’s this style and voice that brings in A-list talent time and again. This movie will not only be a reunion for Pitt and DiCaprio with the director (the latter of whom had taken a pay cut to join the proceedings) but also between DiCaprio and Robbie, who first worked together on The Wolf of Wall Street. I’ve always loved when actors who worked together before come together again on a new project. A notable example of this is Revolutionary Road, which reunited DiCaprio with his Titanic co-star Kate Winslet. I can’t wait to see Dicaprio and Robbie interacting on screen together once more. Speaking of a notable on-screen pairing, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see Pitt and DiCaprio in a movie together, something that I don’t think has ever happened before. Tarantino once referred to them as the Newman and Redford of their generation, and while I believe this parallel is apt, the comparison that immediately comes to my mind is Pacino and DeNiro in Heat. At the time, that movie was being billed as the first time the two actors would share the screen, something that, for obvious reasons, was impossible on The Godfather Part ll. To this day, people still quote the diner scene in Heat, and I have a feeling that, under Tarantino’s deft hand, there will be scenes like that for Rick and Cliff in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The rest of the cast has shaped up nicely, with Dakota Fanning, Mike Moh, Damian Lewis, Damon Herriman (in his second portrayal of Charles Manson), Al Pacino, and Bruce Dern, to name a few. The last name is notable given the sad circumstances surrounding his hiring. Initially, Burt Reynolds was cast in the role of George Spahn. This was a collaboration of filmmaker and actor cinephiles like myself never thought they would see. Unfortunately, Reynolds died late last year at the age of 81 before he was able to begin filming on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For me, not being able to see these two work together remains the only drawback in a film that is on my list of most anticipated movies for 2019.
It isn’t just the cast of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood I’m looking forward to, but also hearing from the acclaimed filmmaker himself. One of the great things about having a Quentin Tarantino movie on the way is not only the quality entertainment a Tarantino production brings but also the press tour. Look no further than the aforementioned interviews. Not only do you hear what Tarantino’s process as an artist is like, but you also tend to gain a new perspective on films that you didn’t have before. (I’ll be honest, though; in this case, I’m just hoping for asubstantial update on his Star Trek film.) With an A-list cast a visionary filmmaker and a narrative set against the backdrop of the 1960s, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is shaping up to be another winner for Tarantino. I can’t wait to see what he does next.