Early in his career, writer/director Quentin Tarantino made a handful of contemporary crime thrillers, which helped cement him as one of the most exciting storytellers of our generation. RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION became overnight classics, and Tarantino earned free rein to tell any type of story he so desired.
From there on, Tarantino often looked to the past, recreating film genres he adored that allowed him to rewrite history, to a certain extent. He made period films such as DJANGO UNCHAINED and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and brought back the golden age of the drive-in movie with his experimental GRINDHOUSE double feature (alongside fellow film geek Robert Rodriguez).
Tarantino blasts back to the past for his latest feature, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, where he recreates Los Angeles in the late 1960s for a meandering tale about the film industry and the types of people who flock to it. During a lengthy conversation with CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast, Tarantino talked about the tricks that he used to bring 1960’s Southern California to life on the big screen and the unique obstacles that mission presented.
“You pick a place that you have a good idea of what it looked like in 1969,” Tarantino said. “Just to give you an example, a lot of Quinn Martin shows that were based out of Warner Brothers Studios shot a lot in the valley, so they didn't have to drive around that much. So like, ‘The F.B.I.’ — all of a sudden, they're just on Riverside Drive. So, you look at it and you say, ‘Oh, OK. So, this is still fairly similar to what it was like. We've gotta do something about that, and we've got to do something about that. And that used to be this, and now it's that. But the structure of the building is still the same. I could paint it, and it would be like it was.'”
Recreating specific neighborhoods is one thing. Elements of Los Angeles, from the architecture to the landscape, may hold a piece of the 1960s. However, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is very much a “driving” movie, with Tarantino celebrating the car culture that is LA. And that required multiple scenes of Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio driving on the city’s freeways and major avenues, which presented even bigger challenges for the director and his crew.
“In that instance, that's us shutting down the freeway,” Tarantino exclaimed. "When [Brad Pitt] turns onto the Hollywood Freeway with a girl, that is, like, we own the Hollywood Freeway for an hour!”
But so many fans come to Quentin Tarantino’s movies for the dialogue, and in this movie, the director attempts something that he rarely does: He writes dialogue for actual people, from Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
“I think I captured a big part of [their characters]. I'm not saying that, that version of Bruce Lee is the be all, end all — is everything the man is,” Tarantino said. “But from everything I've heard, he was quite arrogant, and even the things I have him bring up are things that I'd heard him say, in one way or another.”
The director has picked up a number of impressive and engaging tricks over the years, and he employs basically everything that he learned on movies like KILL BILL and THE HATEFUL EIGHT to bring ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD to life. The effort that he put into resurrecting 1969 Los Angeles warrants a big-screen viewing, especially if you are able to witness the projecting in 35mm, the way that Tarantino prefers it.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD reaches theatres on July 26, so get your tickets now.