Quentin Tarantino has been in hot water for about a month now, but his next project appears to be chugging along.
Sony Pictures has confirmed that the director’s ninth film finally found its A-list leads: Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” set to hit theaters in August 2019, will follow former Western star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt). The washed-up duo struggles to find work in 1969’s free-spirited Hollywood, an environment in which Rick’s neighbor, actress Sharon Tate, thrives. Given the year in which the movie takes place, we can guess what terrible things happen next.
The title likely pays homage to Sergio Leone, the Italian director of “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” who is often credited with creating the spaghetti western genre.
“I’ve been working on this script for five years, as well as living in Los Angeles County most of my life, including in 1969, when I was seven years old,” Tarantino said in a release. “I’m very excited to tell this story of an LA and a Hollywood that don’t exist anymore. And I couldn’t be happier about the dynamic teaming of DiCaprio & Pitt as Rick & Cliff.”
This is DiCaprio’s second outing with Tarantino, following his appearance as the slave-owning villain Calvin Candie in 2012’s “Django Unchained.” Pitt worked with the director on “Inglourious Basterds” in 2009, when he played Nazi-fighting American Lt. Aldo Raine. Both names have been thrown around in discussions of the project for months, with DiCaprio pretty much confirmed back in January.
Though the role has not officially been cast yet, it is rumored that Margot Robbie has been asked to play Tate. Members of Charles Manson’s cult brutally murdered Tate on Aug. 9, 1969, exactly 50 years before the scheduled release of Tarantino’s film. The actress was weeks away from giving birth to a child with husband Roman Polanski, who was charged eight years later with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.
Polanski will likely be a character in the movie, a somewhat controversial move given an old radio interview that Jezebel unearthed in February. In 2003, Tarantino defended Polanski on Howard Stern’s show in response to the host asking why figures in Hollywood continued to support “this mad man, this director who raped a 13-year-old.” Tarantino said, “It was statutory rape . . . he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down — it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world.”
Tarantino publicly apologized to the victim, Samantha Geimer, days after Jezebel’s post in a statement shared with IndieWire.
“Fifteen years later, I realize how wrong I was,” he said. “Ms. Geimer WAS raped by Roman Polanski. When Howard brought up Polanski, I incorrectly played devil’s advocate in the debate for the sake of being provocative. I didn’t take Ms. Geimer’s feelings into consideration and for that I am truly sorry.”
(Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 and spent 42 days in jail, but he left the United States the next year after hearing that a judge was planning to disregard the plea bargain and sentence him to years in prison.)
The director had already been under fire following a New York Times piece, published a month ago, in which Uma Thurman detailed mistreatment on the set of the 2003 film “Kill Bill.” Much of the interview dealt with her experiences with producer Harvey Weinstein, but Thurman also revealed that she had gotten into a near-fatal car crash on set. The Times published shocking footage of the crash, in which Tarantino is seen approaching Thurman afterward.
In a subsequent interview with Deadline, Tarantino also admitted to actually choking Thurman while filming a fight scene.
“Not forever, not for a long time,” he said of his technique. “But it’s not going to look right [without really doing it]. I can act all strangle-ey, but if you want my face to get red and the tears to come to my eye, then you kind of need to choke me.”
Tarantino’s films are known to be quite violent, with gruesome imagery and almost comically excessive gore. Sony Pictures acquired his latest in November after a slew of sexual assault allegations broke against Weinstein, a longtime Tarantino collaborator. The studio, which also distributed “Django Unchained,” reportedly agreed to a $95 million production budget.