Actors and director talk Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is unique for different reasons: it’s a postcard from 1969’s Los Angeles, it reimagines an era mixing fiction and reality and it’s a passionate tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May and it was released in the United States last week. The ensemble cast also includes: Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino. It is also the last film to feature Luke Perry, who died in March 2019.
Set in Los Angeles, in 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and longtime friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they make their way around a film industry they struggle to recognize. Rick is looking for a new opportunity to revamp his career, Cliff runs the risk of losing his job every day. In Tarantino’s alternate reality, Rick lives next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), the actress and model who was brutally murdered, along with others, by members of the Manson Family, in the house she shared with husband Roman Polanski.
Yesterday Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie and Quentin Tarantino attended the Rome premiere of the film, which hits italian theaters on September 18, 2019. Today, they met the press to present the film.
Leonardo, you play an actor who is slowly losing fame: in the film we see Rick Dalton’s weaknesses, emotions and insecurities. How did you work on this character?
Leonardo DiCaprio: «First of all, let me say that Quentin’s script was so brilliant: I love the way he brought these two characters together, a stuntman and an actor living in the outskirts of Hollywood, looking at the changing culture and the changing industry and simultaneously trying to survive. What is so interesting about his approach is that it’s “slice of life”, a couple of days. I think that a lot of the original conversation Quentin and I had was “How do we portray the soul of the character within a matter of days?” and a lot of that had to do with my character working on a TV show he didn’t necessarily wanted to be working on, feeling like a punchbag to a new generation of actors while he’s been sort of… left behind. Our creative process was figuring out those moments, those details that would really give the audience a sort of pathos of who this man was. It was all about messing up with lines, giving the idea that the character might be bipolar, that he was dealing with the anxiety of being mortal and that culture and industry are moving on despite him.»
How did it feel to be part of famous films and TV shows such as The Great Escape and The F.B.I.?
Leonardo DiCaprio: «As you all know, Quentin is a true cinephile and not just a cinephile: he knows almost equally as much about television and music. One of the privileges of being an actor is being exposed to a time period and I got exposed to an era of 1950’s cowboy television, a sort of B and pulp cowboy movies, films that I never would have stopped to go see but, you know, Quentin has this incredible respect for those films equally as much as all those masterworks that we all respect. »
Margot, you’re really young, you were not even born in 1969, so you had to catch up with those stories, those film productions: what kind of impact did they have on you?
Margot Robbie: « I think in some ways I’m very happy to be working in the era that I’m working: these days female characters are so exciting and kind of groundbreaking, but I don’t think it was so different back then, maybe some things felt more shocking, the shift between ’65 and ’69 paved the way for the 70s. I think Hollywood is currently living a similar situation, but I like it back then as much as I do now.»
Quentin, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood had an incredible debut in the U.S.A.: it was your best opening weekend to date. Do you think there’s some nostalgia for the old cinema in your audience?
Quentin Tarantino: «I think it’s a combination of the subject’s matter and the fact that people are very excited to see these actors in the film. It’s very unique and also they did a good job selling it, it looks like a very entertaining movie.»
Everybody knows about your passion for italian b-movies and genres like spaghetti western and sexy comedy. What do you like about these kind of films?
Quentin Tarantino: «I’ve always loved the italian takes on genres whether is a spaghetti western or macaroni come back movie or giallo films. I think Italians reinvented canonical genres and just the idea of taking all genres and reinventing them in a different way for a new type of audience, with a different emphasis, I mean… I just love; In the case of the spaghetti westerns, the directors Leone, Corbucci, Sollima, almost all of them started off as movie critics and then turned into screenwriters. They were all passionate about cinema, they had enthusiasm for the genre and what makes their works so italian is their commitment to opera, I love the operatic quality of those films.
How has Hollywood changed over the years?
Quentin Tarantino: «To me cinema is so different from what it was in the 90s, when I started, so even to go back to 1969… you don’t know where to start. Back then, I mean even in the 90s, the 2000s, people committed to building sets, it wasn’t just “added later”. There were these magnificent warehouse sets where they created this whole new world. I watched Renny Harlin’s Cutthroat Island: it’s a fantastic movie they build this entire bay, the village and there’s this great action sequence the they had to do, no CGI involved. I thinks that there’s just something terribly lost: there’s just something terribly lost on the picture, in the movie and there’s a horrible loss when it comes to craftsmanship and I think that it’s a very big danger. »
In this film you did something you did in the past: you rewrote a news story. Do you think cinema can change history?
Quentin Tarantino: «I don’t think that cinema can change history, I think it can influence history.»