Rick Dalton after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

At the end of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the career of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Rick Dalton is at an odd place. After struggling in TV guest star roles, the former cowboy TV star is starting to find lots of successful work in Spaghetti Westerns. The movie comes to a close after Rick and his longtime buddy and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) have a violent run-in with the Manson Family, and where Rick’s career goes after that is anyone’s guess. One person who has the inside scoop, though, is Quentin Tarantino, who has some ideas about what happens to Rick Dalton after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Tarantino offered his thoughts on the career of Rick Dalton after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood while appearing on The Margaret Cho podcast (via IndieWire). The filmmaker compares Rick’s career trajectory to that of George Maharis, a TV actor who appeared on the ’60s series Route 66, and Ty Hardin, who was the star of the Western TV series Bronco.

“There are a few different ways his career could have gone depending on who you hitch your horse to of who he is representing. The George Maharis way is this way, the Tye Hardin way is that way. It’s a combination of a few of them,” said Tarantino. “What could have easily have happened, even if he had a little bit more success in the 1970s than maybe I give him credit for, what I could really see happening, because it happened to a lot of these guys, is that by the late 1970s, early 1980s, a lot of these macho ’50s and ’60s television leading men they showed up on TV shows again but as the older cop who’s the boss of the younger cop that sends them out on the missions.”

I’ve talked to more than a few people who thought the end of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood suggested that Rick’s movie career was about to take off in a big way, but I didn’t see it that way. It felt to me like Rick’s leading man days were coming to an end, and it looks like Tarantino feels the same way, going on to suggest that Rick would continue to have supporting roles in TV shows rather than a bustling movie career.

“If you look at it, Earl Holliman is that kind of guy and had that character in Police Women, he was her boss and sends her around on the mission,” Tarantino said, going on to compare Rick to actors like Jack Kelly and Vic Morrow, whose later careers were spent on cop TV shows.

Of course, since none of this happens on the screen it’s all up to interpretation. Tarantino is merely offering possible suggestions as to Rick’s future – it’s up to the audience to draw their own conclusions.

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