quentin tarantino roman polanski

Quentin Tarantino‘s upcoming movie about the Manson Family murders — or to be more precise, about Los Angeles in 1969 — seems to be unable to detach itself from controversy, with the latest update guaranteed to ruffle a few feathers.

A “key” character in the film will reportedly be Roman Polanski, the controversial director who was married to Sharon Tate at the time of her murder, and who is currently a fugitive from the U.S. after being arrested and charged with the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

This news is accompanied by a tidbit involving the character Tom Cruise (who has yet to officially sign on) may play in the film.

With the horrific, high-profile murder of Sharon Tate and four other people by followers of Charles Manson at the center of his movie, Tarantino’s latest was always going to draw some controversy. Tarantino is not known for having a particularly subtle touch, and some worried whether the stylish, bombastic director would be able to navigate the material well. Concerns were temporarily alleviated when it was revealed that the plot wouldn’t focus entirely on the Manson Family murders, but the year in which the murders took place: 1969, a time of political and social upheaval in America.

But Tarantino may be inviting another storm of controversy with the revelation from Variety’s Justin Kroll that Polanski will be a key character in the film:

To be fair, Polanski’s inclusion is not unexpected as the director — known for classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown —was married to Tate at the time of her murder. Although Polanski was in London at the time of her death, Tate was pregnant with Polanski’s child and at the couple’s home in Los Angeles when Manson’s followers attacked. And it should be noted that it won’t be Polanski himself making an appearance in the film, but a Polish actor playing the director in 1969.

But in the midst of the #MeToo movement currently sweeping through Hollywood, any portrayal of Polanski will be contentious, to say the least. In 1977, Polanski was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. Polanski agreed to a plea deal but fled the U.S. before the case went to trial, and has been living in Europe ever since. However, Polanski has worked steadily since his exile, picking up an Oscar for The Pianist in 2002and still remains a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even as Harvey Weinstein was expelled.

All these events came to light after 1969, however, so it’s likely that Tarantino won’t delve into Polanski’s muddy past. But will the director be able to reconcile what we know about Polanski with the tragedy that Polanski goes through after the murder of his wife? That’s something that even the most skilled director would struggle with.

While we know few real details about Tarantino’s still-untitled movie, it’s apparent that the director won’t be focusing on celebrity characters like Tate or Polanski. Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with Tarantino in Django Unchained, will play a television actor looking to make his big break in the movies. As Kroll notes above, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were also circling the role of a stuntman and early word suggest that Pitt has stepped away from the project. While we don’t know much about the plot of this movie, we do know that DiCaprio’s character has a frequent stuntman partner, who joins him on his quest for stardom. That could mean Tarantino is making a period-set buddy picture with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise, which certainly sounds promising. Meanwhile, Margot Robbie is reportedly circling the role of Sharon Tate.

Tarantino’s untitled film is set for release on August 9, 2019.

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