'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' Influences, Revealed By Cinematographer Robert Richardson

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood cinematographer Robert Richardson sat down for an interview about creating the unique style for Quentin Tarantino's latest, and in the process, rattled off an entire list of TV shows and movies that influenced the look and feel of the 1969-set film. It's a hefty list, but it helps give fans a glimpse into what went into creating Tarantinos new Hollywood-set epic. Check out the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood influences below, and beware of potential spoilers.

Quentin Tarantino isn't shy about referencing (and in some cases, even stealing) from films and TV shows of a bygone era. So it makes sense that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is all about the bygone era Tarantino often lovingly borrows from, is loaded with all sorts of influences. Robert Richardson, a cinematographer who has worked with Tarantino on all his films (save Death Proof) since Kill Bill, spoke with Forbes about both the retro look of the film and the pieces of entertainment that inspired Tarantino.

"We shot on film. Quentin not only shot on film, but he printed all the select dailies on film and viewed them in a projection room," Richardson said. "So, our initial grading was on film. It took us a little time in our dailies to get to where we felt we wanted it to be. It took me a little time as we went through it to see, 'Oh, should I push the stock a little more? Do I want to give it more grain? A little less grain? How does that influence it? How does it influence the dailies on film?' And then we would emulate that look for him in Avid, which is digital."

As for the references, Richardson ticked off a lengthy list of titles, and I've done my best to break them down for you.

Alias Smith and Jones

Alias Smith and Jones was a Western TV series that ran on ABC from 1971 to 1973. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in 1969, but Leonardo DiCaprio's character Rick Dalton is a famous TV cowboy, so it would make sense that Tarantino would draw on cowboy shows from the 60s and 70s.


Another cowboy series – and one that's directly referenced in the flick. DiCaprio's Rick Dalton lands a guest-star gig as a bad guy on Lancer, and we see him shooting a lengthy scene with Lancer star James Stacy, played by Timothy Olyphant

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

By now you've likely picked up on the whole Western/cowboy theme going on here. On top of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being a Western, it's also famous for teaming Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The marketing for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has made a big deal – understandably so – of teaming big stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. On top of all that, Pitt's character Cliff Booth has been given a haircut that makes him look eerily similar to the young Redford.

The Exorcist

While there's no demonic possession in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, William Friedkin's horror blockbuster The Exorcist likely served for some behind-the-scenes influences. It's easy to forget, what with all the head-spinning and cross-masturbating, but early scenes in The Exorcist take place on a film set, as Ellen Burstyn's character is a big movie star. Also, at one point in Hollywood, DiCaprio and Pitt's characters are seen driving by a movie theater marquee advertising The Night They Raided Minsky's, one of the earlier films of Exorcist director William Friedkin.


Another Friedkin film. This sweaty, anxiety-ridden thriller from 1977 was a flop in theaters but has gone on to garner a much-deserved reappraisal. There's a lot of stunt driving going on in Sorcerer, which fits with the film's stuntman subplot involving Brad Pitt's character Cliff Booth.

The Great Escape

1963 POW film from director John Sturges, starring Steve McQueen. McQueen is a character in Hollywood, played by Damien Lewis. But that's not all: we learn that DiCaprio's Rick Dalton was considered to play McQueen's part, Captain Virgil Hilts. Tarantino actually shows an entire scene from The Great Escape with DiCaprio's head digitally imposed over McQueen's body as Dalton daydreams about what could've been. That may sound weird, but it looks flawless.

Easy Rider

This hippie biker pic hit theaters the same year Hollywood is set – 1969. Easy Rider is all about the counterculture of the era, and if there's one thing DiCaprio and Pitt's characters hate in the film, it's those damn dirty hippies. Someone even derogatorily refers to one of Charles Manson's hippie "family" members as "Dennis Hopper" at one point, a direct reference to Hopper's role in Easy Rider.

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry star Clint Eastwood did a long stint as TV cowboy, just like DiCaprio's Rick Dalton. Dirty Harry also drew upon the real-life Zodiac murders for inspiration, just as Hollywood draws upon the Manson Family murders.

American Graffiti

Much like Hollywood, George Lucas's American Graffiti is a film nostalgic for the past, all while the future is coming up in the rearview mirror.

Alex in Wonderland

A 1970 comedy-drama starring Donald Sutherland as a film director reminiscing about his past, and worried about his future. The "Hollywood player dreaming of the past and scared of the future" concept is a running theme through Hollywood.

Deer Hunter

Michael Cimino's 1978 war drama is set during the same time period as Hollywood and follows several characters engrossed in the Vietnam War

The Furies

Another Western Tarantino likely drew on to pepper the many Western-themed scenes running through Hollywood.

The Man With No Name Series

The Man With No Name series is a trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone. At the start of Hollywood, Al Pacino's character, a super agent, urges DiCaprio's Rick Dalton to leave Hollywood for Italy and start shooting Spaghetti Westerns – something Rick really doesn't want to do.

The Great Silence

A 1968 Spaghetti Western about a mute gunfighter. The Great Silence was directed by Sergio Corbucci – a director Rick eventually works for when he finally gives in to the idea of doing Spaghetti Westerns. Corubucci also directed Django, which of course influenced Tarantino's Django Unchained.


Steven Spielberg's 1975 film invented the summer blockbuster as we know it. It's also a big part of the "New Hollywood"-era – an era when films began to be made by younger people who had grown up studying film. In Hollywood, the old era that Rick Dalton is used to is just about to die out, and the new era is on the horizon.


Head is a truly weird 1968 musical starring the Monkees, and written by Jack Nicholson (yes, that Jack Nicholson) and Bob Rafelson. It was embraced by the very type of hippie-counterculture audience that so scares Rick Dalton (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is really not a fan of hippies).


Michelangelo Antonioni's mod mystery, with its obsession with style and fashion, ties nicely into the look and vibe of Hollywood.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

A cold, bleak anti-Western from Robert Altman, McCabe and Mrs. Miller is another entry in the New Hollywood era.

Taxi Driver

This gritty, grungy New York masterpiece from Martin Scorsese may seem contrary to the bright, sunny Hollywood of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but both films end in sudden bursts of brutal, jarring violence.

Bonnie and Clyde

Arthur Penn's violent, French New Wave-inspired Bonnie and Clyde is often considered to be one of the very first films of the New Hollywood era.

Last Picture Show

Yet another New Hollywood entry, The Last Picture Show is all about the death knells of a small, dead-end town. That's not exactly Hollywood, but Tarantino's movie deals a lot with the dying-out of something familiar, which fits in with Peter Bogdanovich's much-praised drama.

Dr. Doolittle

This bloated, messy Hollywood musical is considered to be one of the last gasps of the old studio system – a time when Hollywood realized the old way of doing things wasn't working anymore, pathing the way for the New Hollywood era.


Another bloated old studio system production that Rick Dalton is so used to.