During a recent and lengthy guest appearance on the Pure Cinema Podcast, Tarantino discussed July’s programming at his historic Los Angeles movie theater, New Beverly Cinema, and how each choice relates to what could be his final film — Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The Oscar-winning filmmaker also relayed an anecdote about the first time he met with his Inglorious Basterds star Pitt in order to develop the character of Cliff Booth, the stuntman for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Pitt visited Tarantino’s home and said he had a film he wanted to watch with the filmmaker as a starting place for his character, Cliff. Pitt pulled out a DVD of 1971’s Billy Jack, which starred filmmaker-actor-activist Tom Laughlin.
“I go, ‘Brad, I have a 35mm print of Billy Jack, threaded up on the projector, waiting for you to get here,’” Tarantino told Pure Cinema Podcast’s Elric Kane and Brian Saur. “He couldn’t believe that we both were thinking of Billy Jack — and more Tom Laughlin than Billy Jack … Billy Jack always has a little preamble … a folksy story that he tells before he fucks you up, and [Cliff] kinda has his own little folksy story.”
Since much of New Beverly Cinema’s slate this month pertains to the leading men of the 1960s who inspired Rick Dalton’s characterization, Tarantino expounded on several ‘50s and ‘60s TV stars who attempted to transition from television to movies, including Steve McQueen, Dalton’s more successful counterpart.
In Tarantino’s universe, both actors had successful Western TV shows on which they played bounty hunters. Even though both actors shot movies during their hiatuses, McQueen ended up the bigger star thanks to his turn in The Magnificent Seven. Conversely, DiCaprio’s Dalton was never able to break out in a similar fashion.
“He really wants to get rid of this TV series, so he can go on to his greater fortunes in movies,” Tarantino said of Dalton. “So, he does and gets a four-picture deal at Universal. And he makes four movies there. They’re not bad, but nothing really knocks anybody out. And so, he doesn’t pull off the TV-to-movies transition.”
Tarantino went on to explain how the Rick Dalton types who failed to make the leap from TV to movies were initially unable to return to TV as the lead of another series. Because Dalton and Co. burned various bridges during their original departures for movies, they were forced to guest star on other people’s TV shows, as part of a week-to-week existence. Ultimately, Dalton has to entertain an offer to lead a few spaghetti Westerns in Italy, something many actors of his ilk had to do, including Edd Byrnes. Tarantino even recalled some dialogue from a deleted scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood where Dalton’s agent, Marvin Schwartz (Al Pacino), tries to convince Dalton to take the spaghetti Western offer in Italy.
“The Italians want McQueen, but he won’t work with them. And no matter what, he says no,” Tarantino recited from memory. “No matter how many times they ask, Marlon Brando always says no … but the Italians keep trying. Then, they realize it’s not gonna work, and then they settle. They want Marlon Brando, they get Burt Reynolds. They want Warren Beatty, they get George Hamilton. They want Steve McQueen, they get you [Rick Dalton].”
Along with thorough explanations of each New Beverly programming choice, Tarantino also shared the movies that inspired Rick Dalton’s fictional filmography, including 1958’s The Gunman’s Walk (Tanner), 1964’s The Secret Invasion (The 14 Fists of McCluskey) and 1967’s Moving Target (Operazione Dyn-o-mite).
While it’s unclear when Tarantino taped the July 3 podcast release, the episode confirms that it was recorded after the highly publicized Cannes screening of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which received a seven-minute standing ovation. Prior to the festival, Tarantino screened the film “four or five” times for audiences ranging from 40 to 220 people. After the Cannes screening, the filmmaker remarked that he might lengthen his two-hour-and-39-minute Cannes cut. When a Pure Cinema host asked when he officially finished the film, Tarantino responded that he’s been done for “about two weeks.” This admission may confirm that he did in fact fine-tune the Cannes cut, which is par for the course following his early screenings.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set to open July 26.