This weekend Quentin Tarantino reunited with the stars of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for a very special Q&A. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie joined their director on stage at Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles following a screening of their film for a discussion that was live-streamed to theaters across the country. Moderator Jim Hemphill led the lively, forty minute discussion that covered the film’s influences and production.
On the spark that helped first form the film, Quentin Tarantino talked about seeing an older, unnamed actor and his longtime stuntman on a previous set. “He had a guy that he had been working with for nine, 15 years, something like that. And he came to me and goes, ‘I know you don’t really have anything for him in this, so I haven’t busted your balls about trying to hire the guy. However, there is that thing coming up on Thursday. Well, that could be my guy. So would you mind if we gave him that thing on Thursday?’ I said sure, no worries. … And this is probably going to be the last or second-to-last thing they ever do together. They’d kind of grown in different directions, getting older. But you could tell there was a time he would’ve been an amazing double. … And when I watched that stunt guy and the actor sitting in those directors’ chairs in the identical outfits talking to each other, I thought… if someday it happened that I ever make a movie about Hollywood, a relationship like that would be a really interesting way inside.”
On shaping the character of Rick Dalton, Leonardo DiCaprio talked about how he “keyed in on three guys: Ty Hardin, Edd Byrnes and Ralph Meeker. And once we honed in on Ralph Meeker, I started obsessively watching his work, because there was a vulnerability and sensitivity to him, and a sort of pathos in his work, that I felt Rick had the potential to emulate in his own career. … What kind of actor he could become was the biggest question for me. And I think we both mutually decided that yeah, there is a depth to Rick’s work, and applying himself and digging deep, he can give a great performance.”
Margot Robbie talked about the process and challenges of bringing Sharon Tate to life on screen, saying “I find it a lot easier to go dark, a lot easier to yell and scream and cry and do all that on screen. I feel like I can get there a lot quicker. But to be truly light all the time was actually hard – weirdly hard. But a joy as well, kind of like being on this beautiful vacation all the time. And I worked with a movement coach a lot and did a lot of weird stuff: Run around and pretend to be a cloud! … I looked like a lunatic. But that stuff was fun and really helpful. And then, as silly as it might sound, I made a list of all the things that make me really happy, and then I would try and do all those things on the day that I was going to work or the day before. And all the things that gave me that downward pull in life, the stress and angst, I would kind of cut that out — like, I couldn’t look at emails within 24 hours of going to set.”
After Robbie discussed being transported back to 1969 with the film’s elaborate attention to period detail, as well as the lack of cell phones on set, Brad Pitt chimed in with a memorable story about working previously with Tarantino: “Can I tell the story of when the cell phone went off on Inglourious Basterds? Epic! You have to check your phones in. There are no phones. This is sacred ground. And one went off in between takes. And you would have thought someone walked into the Sistine Chapel and took a shit. The production came to a grinding halt. And no one would cop to it, although we knew the general area. Quentin sent us home for the rest of the day. We had the afternoon off to think about what we’d done.”