once upon a time in hollywood story

Quentin Tarantino‘s much-anticipated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes its world premiere at Cannes today. While the rest of us peasants have to wait a few months to clap eyes on this thing, everyone is already buzzing. Tarantino has put together a killer cast, and more than that, he’s also hinted at some big surprises awaiting audiences in the film. So many surprises, in fact, that he issued a plea to the Cannes audience not to give away the game. So what’s going on in Tarantino’s latest opus?

The filmmaker and his two leading men, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, sat down for an in-depth interview, and dropped some clues about what’s in store.

Long before we had an official title, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was being referred to as Quentin Tarantino’s Charles Manson movie. We knew the movie was set in 1969, and we knew Manson figured into the plot somehow. Tarantino himself tried to distance the film from that perception – yes, Manson is in the movie, and so is Sharon Tate, one of the Manson Family’s most famous victims. But the movie isn’t about Charles Manson.

So what is it about? It’s about Hollywood, obviously. A Hollywood undergoing some changes. The star-studded film focuses in on three leads: Leonardo DiCaprio as fading actor Rick Dalton, Brad Pitt and Rick’s longtime friend and stunt double Cliff Booth, and Margot Robbie as Rick’s new neighbor, Sharon Tate. In a new interview with Esquire, Tarantino, DiCaprio and Pitt talk about the film without giving too many big spoilers away, since Tarantino is very keen on keeping the movie’s secrets intact. One new bit of information that is revealed, however, is the acknowledgement that the movie is set on three specific days:

The stories of Rick, Cliff, and Tate unfold over three days or, as Tarantino says, in three acts: February 8, February 9, and, finally, August 8—the night when Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) dispatched four members of his “Family” to the house next to Rick’s on Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, where they found Tate, hairdresser Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), and three others.

The wording here is a bit intriguing. That description mentions only that the Manson Family “found” Tate and company, with no mention of their murders. I can’t help but think this ties into a theory I’ve been pushing since the first Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer dropped: Tarantino is going to change history again, and Sharon Tate is going to survive.

I keep going back and forth on this theory, simply because a part of me thinks it’s too obvious at this point. But Tarantino’s insistence on avoiding spoilers, and a few bits of info he drops in this new interview, makes me think that the theory is indeed correct. “One of the things we don’t want to try to help you solve here but what you’re poking around about is, yes, this is a Hollywood movie in the same vein as, like, The Stunt Man or Singin’ in the Rain or any other movie about Hollywood,” the director says. “And there’s a good-hearted spirit to it. Then you ask, ‘How does the Manson Family fit in?’ Well, that’s the trick. And that is, actually, how it is supposed to work: ‘How does this rancidness figure into everything?’ And I want the audience asking that question, and I hope that’s one of the things that helps lead you to the theater. It’s like we’ve got a perfectly good body, and then we take a syringe and inject it with a deadly virus.”

Tarantino also adds that the film’s title, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, deliberately invokes a fairy tale:

“Well, there is a fairy-tale aspect, so the title fits pretty good. But this is a memory piece also. So it’s not historical fact per se. It is a Hollywood ofreality—but a Hollywood of the mind at the same time.”

Again, this is all wild speculation on my part, and I could be 100% wrong – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. The bottom line is I’m genuinely intrigued to see what Tarantino and company have put together here.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opens July 26, 2019.

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