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Quentin Tarantino
Josh Telles for Deadline

Quentin Tarantino Digs Deep On ‘Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’ As He Fears “Dark Night Of The Soul” For Filmmakers: Q&A

In a Parisian hotel suite in late November, Quentin Tarantino is hard at work. He is in town to launch the theatrical re-release of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, with a new cut that adds additional grace notes to the version released over the summer, and he’s on a mini European tour in support of the movie’s home entertainment release. But his next task is already at hand: a novel he is writing, for which the research is laid out on the desk in front of him. A handful of books alongside a writing pad crammed with notes in his familiar block handwriting.

There are other future plans afoot too, of course. Not least among them, the subject of his next—and possibly final—picture (he recently hinted there’s an idea for Kill Bill Vol. 3, and then there’s the question of his mooted Star Trek movie), and his recent personal news; he will soon become a father for the first time.

For now, though, Tarantino is content to reflect on this year. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood has been an outsized success for a non-franchise, R-rated release, grossing more than $370 million at the global box office and sparking endless debate. It has been the kind of hit that might only have been possible for a movie trailed as “the 9th from Quentin Tarantino”. Now it is a major Oscar player, with five Golden Globe nominations among a string of other plaudits.

Still, Tarantino understands that the landscape the movie released in is very different from the one that greeted Reservoir Dogs, his directorial debut, when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992. He is still able to make movies on his own terms, but over the course of a 90-minute discussion, he acknowledges that others aren’t so fortunate, and wonders whether he would be able to repeat the success of Dogs if it had been released in the current landscape of cinema.

First, though, with enough distance from the film’s release, SPOILERS ABOUND as we talk about that ending.

DEADLINE: Let’s begin with the end. At the climax of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, after Cliff and Rick have saved the day, and Rick has been invited into Sharon Tate’s house for a drink, the camera rises up above the house, and Cielo Drive, and we are lifted out of the movie, away from this fantasy world in which these people survived the events of that night. Was that shot always key for you?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: Oh, absolutely. I came up with that ending quite a few years ago. I had been working on this piece, little by little, in one way or another, for about seven years. I think sometime after Death Proof is when I first came up with the basic concept. And I came up with the idea for that last shot about five years ago. When I did, frankly, it blew me away. It was the thing that cemented that I was going to do this one of these days, because I had to film that.

It’s strange, I don’t have many examples of where I’m walking around with a shot in my head for five years; one literal shot that starts here and ends there. The shot that we did was exactly the way it had been in my head all that time.

DEADLINE: Was it hard to get that shot exactly right?

Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Sony

TARANTINO: It wasn’t hard to execute it. The hard part was finding the house that would work for it. The gate had to be exactly where the gate was. You had to be able to go through the trees. I even wrote it in the script: “It goes through the trees.” You had to be able to do that, and then see into the parking lot and the entrance of the house. I even wanted that little welcome mat right there in the shot. But it also had to work out for the rest of the movie that Rick’s house would be right next door. Nothing we looked at was exactly that. There was this thing of, well, I can’t do what I wanted to do, but I could do this or that, so I’m looking at that.

Frankly, to tell you the truth, it was Bob Richardson, my cinematographer, and my first AD Bill Clark, who found the house. They were like, “Look, they’re not coming up with the damn thing.” They got on Google Maps, and literally started driving through the Hollywood Hills on their own at the end of a day, and that’s how we found both of those houses. Without a location guy in the car, they just rang the bells. “Can we come in and look at your house?” They said yes, and we go, “This is it, this is the one.” Now, that other house worked out just fine; it happened to be for sale, so there wasn’t anybody living in it, and that wasn’t a problem. So, it was Bob and Bill, just knowing exactly what I wanted in my mind.

And by the way, the location manager, he found one magnificent location after another. But that shot wasn’t in his head in the way it was in Bob Richardson’s head. He knew exactly what it needed to be.

The weirdest thing about it, though, since it’s the end of the movie and I’d carried that shot around so long, we actually ended up doing that shot—I don’t know—maybe around week five or six. Something fairly early on in the process.

DEADLINE: How long were you up entirely?

TARANTINO: I don’t even remember now. I think it was something like three and a half months. So it was week five or six when we did that shot, and it was a little deflating to do it that soon. It was like, shit, that’s the end. How could there be any movie left to do after that [laughs]?

DEADLINE: It’s arresting, and bittersweet, because we’ve been introduced to Sharon Tate with a light touch—the idea of this bright spirit and all the promise she had ahead. And we’re left with the reality: she was stolen from her own life, and from all of us.

TARANTINO: Look, I think part of the way it works—and again, this was always in my head—is that, with the exception of Jay [Sebring], when the victims of that night come out and we see them all, it was always that we saw them from behind. They were like figurines. It’s like a cut-out of Sharon.

What I didn’t expect to happen to me, and the strange thing that gets me about it, is it’s not just Sharon. It’s Abigail [Folger] in that little robe. Her little blue robe became iconic to me, and so there’s something about Abi puttering out of the house in that little blue housecoat she was wearing that really gets me every time I see it.

DEADLINE: My understanding of the genesis of this was that there were two ideas. Rick and Cliff, and the relationship between a struggling actor and his long-time stuntman, and Sharon Tate and the backdrop of the summer of 1969 and the Manson family. Was there a lightbulb moment when those ideas collided?

TARANTINO: Once I had that character of Cliff, it was a very quick leap to think, Well, what happens if they live on Cielo Drive? What if they lived next door to Roman and Sharon? Once I actually started thinking of it as a fully-fledged story, that came bizarrely easily. It was the first thing I came up with, actually, once I had that story. There were iterations of what could have happened but merging them together came very early on.

What started me thinking about this relationship between Rick and Cliff was witnessing an older actor on a movie. He came to me and said, “Look, I got a guy, a stunt guy. He’s been my stunt guy for the last decade or so. I haven’t busted your balls about this, because there’s nothing really for him to do, but you know that gag you have coming up on Thursday? He could do that. It’d be nice if we could throw that his way.” I’m like, “Sure, sure, sure.”

DEADLINE: How long ago did this happen?

TARANTINO: This was about eight or nine years ago, something like that.

So, this guy came down, and you could tell that there was a time he was a perfect double for this actor, but you could also tell: that time had passed. It was also interesting, because this guy wasn’t working for me, he was working for the actor. But he was an interesting guy. I remember sitting on set, just looking across at them on the day this guy worked, and there was the actor—this old guy dressed in his outfit—sitting in a director’s chair next to this stunt guy dressed identically in the same costume. They were just sitting there, like I’m sure they’ve done for years on sets, just shooting the shit. It struck me: that’s an interesting relationship. It’s a relationship I’ve never seen dramatized before. I thought, If I ever do a movie about Hollywood, that could be a really interesting way inside it; to explore that relationship.

DEADLINE: It must have been something you’d read about, or known about before.

TARANTINO: Well, frankly, I had never thought much about it before. Other than, alright, this cinematographer likes to work with this camera assistant. Or this director has this go-to AD, and they’ve worked together a long time. Of course, I know about stuff like that, and I think it happens less now than it did before.

But yes, I was very much aware that there was Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham, and there was Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins. I was aware of all that. But I had never really thought about it before.

DEADLINE: In hindsight, it seems like such fertile ground.

TARANTINO: It’s funny, even telling you this story now, it seems so obvious. Why didn’t someone do this before? It’s so rich. Even the whole concept of the fact that, yeah, they’re buddies, but on the other hand, this guy is being paid to be there. And he’s being paid to do all the things the actor supposedly does, but he really risks his life doing this. And also, he’s being paid to be his friend. He’s paid to be on set, and talk to him, and help him out, and maybe run lines with him.

DEADLINE: And probably keep him out of trouble, too.

TARANTINO: Exactly. Especially if there’s a drinking problem, which a lot of these guys had. So even talking about this now, it seems so obvious, but it was a little bit of a eureka moment.

DEADLINE: It’s a melancholic relationship here too: this isn’t Rick on his uppers, and Cliff tagging along for the ride. The ride is over. The fairground is moving on. You’ve dealt with melancholy quite a lot in your career; most especially in Jackie Brown. But you don’t seem like a very melancholic guy, so where does that come from?

TARANTINO: Yeah, I’m not very melancholy, alright [laughs]. Life is pretty good. My life has been pretty charmed since I’ve been working here in Hollywood, so I don’t really have the right to be melancholy.

The thing about it is, if I didn’t throw Sharon into this story, it probably wouldn’t have been as melancholy. I don’t know what it would have been, but just putting her into it, and knowing that you’re heading towards that day—even if I stopped in February, even if I never got to August, you know August is going to happen—that, in itself, adds a sobering aspect to the film, especially in a film like this that doesn’t really have a story.

So, it was like, as I said, about four years of figuring out who Rick and Cliff were—between other projects. A little bit of it was doing research on Sharon and the Manson family, but really it was just figuring out who Rick and Cliff were. Part of that involved writing almost an entire film book about Rick. First, I had to know his career; his filmography, and every TV show he did. I needed to know that all fairly well. And then I had to get over that, so I wasn’t just shoving all that into the movie. Some people might say that’s exactly what I did, but I did have to get over it.

The way I did that was by writing it all out. I had enough of the Marvin scene—the scene with Al Pacino—to put on a one-act play. Any time I needed to figure out where Rick was, I would just write it through the Marvin scene. It was never going to be in the movie, but the way to find out about Rick was to have Marvin ask him questions. It was as thick as a novel by the time I was finished with it. Never to be in the movie, but just to understand Rick.

Then after, OK, I know who these people are, the question became: what story do I want to tell? Now it was up to me. I had a couple of ideas early on that would have been more like an Elmore Leonard story. These guys were like Elmore Leonard guys any old way, and you could imagine them in one of his novels.

But then I thought, I don’t think I need a story. I think they’re strong enough on their own. I can do just a day in the life of Rick, a day in the life of Cliff, and a little bit a day in the life of Sharon, and just follow them during that February. I thought the characters were strong enough, and I thought the milieu I was creating was strong enough.

DEADLINE: You mentioned earlier that we all know what’s going to happen come August no matter what. Maybe that’s where the melancholy comes in, because we know we’re about to witness the death of that classic version of Hollywood, too. Or, at least, we think we will.

TARANTINO: Yes, and the morbid thing about that was, once I realized it could be a day in the life, and started to write that, the murder that we know is going to happen was now operating as a dramatic motor to some degree. I don’t know if you feel it much the first day, but once we’re onto the second day, it’s like every single scene is getting you closer to August 8th. It was morbid, the fact that this real-life murder was pulling the characters along.

I was not unaware of that. I became aware through doing it, and I had to constantly ask myself, “Am I pulling this off? Because if I’m not, this could be in really bad taste.” Normally, I wouldn’t mind veering into bad taste, but in this case, it mattered to me. I didn’t want to exploit these victims. I don’t think I did that, but it was a question I kept having to ask myself.

Quentin Tarantino
Sony

DEADLINE: The optimism of the movie—and it’s there in that bittersweet final shot—is that, OK, we know what happened on the night of August 8th/9th 1969. But the picture paints a hopeful “what if”. What if we could have lived in this moment forever?

TARANTINO: The weird thing about thinking about that ending, and then doing it in the context of the movie, was that I wasn’t quite prepared for how I’d feel when it came. When it was just an idea in my head for a story I was writing, it was like, “Great, she’s saved, done.” But in the movie, when I watched it put together, it was like, “OK, she’s saved… Dot, dot, dot.”

Because no, she’s not. It’s that ellipsis where you have to realize, she’s not saved. Things did not happen this way. To tell you the truth, I never thought about that during these five years I had that shot in my head. But, in context, you can’t help but turn the page.

DEADLINE: Let me go back to what you said about the Marvin scene, and how you wrote all these conversations out. I was on the set of Django Unchained, and I was given a script that had a lot more material in it than the movie that eventually came out. You talked then about how you treat your scripts as novels, that you adapt as you go. There is material in there you never intend to actually shoot. In that movie I remember an entire sequence with Broomhilda, and a slave auction.

TARANTINO: Oh yeah, Broomhilda had a whole story and we didn’t even film it. It was just too much.

DEADLINE: It was there for the reader?

TARANTINO: Yeah. Well, it’s funny. I think there was probably a time that we euphemistically thought we were going to shoot it. I can’t imagine how we ever thought we were going to make a movie that was watchable in a movie theater with this 20- to 25-minute section in it, but I would have put it into the script anyway just for the reader. We even tried to cast that, and we briefly thought about shooting it, but I’m always putting stuff into the script that I know probably will never see the light of day, but that makes the script better. It’s a reading experience, and as a reading experience, it makes it fuller.

But then there’s a whole lot of stuff where it’s like, OK, I hope this makes it, but I don’t know. If I’m lucky enough to shoot this, and get it out of my system, maybe this scene makes it, and this one doesn’t. I can pretty much guess what’ll make it for 80% of the movie, but there’s 20% that I can’t guess. You’re always surprised. There’s a couple of scenes in Hollywood that I would have bet the farm would make it into the movie, but they didn’t. A whole little section that, to me, was at one time the soul of the movie—at least when we shot it—but now it’s gone.

DEADLINE: Can you say what it was?

TARANTINO: The little girl [Julia Butters] had more things to do. She showed up a couple more times. Then, consequently, in the August section in the third act, I had this narrator come in, and he’s describing this and that, and then he describes about how Rick can’t afford Cliff anymore, and so he has to let him go. Tom Rothman had been reading the script, and he called me and goes, “Hey, Quentin, this whole part with the narrator saying Rick has to let Cliff go… That should be a scene. It shouldn’t be narration; it should be dramatized.” Believe it or not, as long as the movie was already, Tom Rothman was actually asking me to add a scene. He goes, “I think you should write that, and make it a scene between the two boys.”

So, I did. I think I even gave Brad [Pitt] and Leo [DiCaprio] a handwritten scene the day before we shot it, so they had it handwritten but not typed up. But they read it and were like, “OK, here we go, let’s do this.” We banged it out, and they probably thought the scene would never make the movie, but it’s a terrific scene and it did end up being crucial.

It’s a heartbreaking process. It’s a little masochistic and heartbreaking to write this stuff that you’re really happy with, and then not put it in. But at the same time, it’s also really fortunate to be in a situation where I do get to shoot some of this stuff. We do get to get it out of our system. We get to play around, and have fun doing it, and it exists. If I ever want to do anything with it, that stuff still exists.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Sony

I also think there’s a quality to my movies where they’re bursting at the seams with material, and part of the making of the movie is sifting through it all. So yeah, I’m not just writing a normal script and shooting that script, and when we do all the pages, we’re done. Every movie is an erstwhile novel adaptation. And by the way, there’s a reason why people write scripts as a blueprint to be executed. I always make fun of it, but there’s a very good reason they do that, and it’s the way most people do it. They don’t do it my cockamamie way.

DEADLINE: Even out of Cannes, it made me curious what you would do with that material. The timing for The Hateful Eight landing on Netflix in episodic form made me wonder if there were darlings you’d killed on Hollywood that you might one day also return to.

TARANTINO: To me, that version on Netflix wasn’t all that different. Hateful Eight was already a long movie anyway, and the way I looked at it was, well, this is a play. I haven’t been to the theater in years where the play wasn’t at least three hours long. That’s the standard for a real play. I figured that for this movie as a play—especially the way I was doing it with an intermission and everything—that was par for the course.

DEADLINE: It was a change of form, though.

TARANTINO: It was a change of form, but at the same time… Well, yes, it was a change of form. I had to rejigger the chapters a little bit to make it work, but they were already in chapters to some degree.

With The Hateful Eight, the timing was literally a situation where Netflix offered me that option, so it was like, if they’re offering me that option, and they’re even going to pay extra for it, well, I have all this stuff, I can do it, let me see if I like it. And I did, and I did like it. I thought it was an interesting way to watch the movie.

DEADLINE: All the movies you’ve made lately have been pretty big in terms of scale and scope. What keeps you engaged? What keeps your enthusiasm going as you’re on the road to making and releasing a movie on this scale?

TARANTINO: Look, if I were doing really turgid dramas, or minimalistic pieces, it might not be that important to me. I think most of my stuff is really, really funny. There are laughs. And sometimes I’ll call them comedies, sometimes I won’t, but even if they’re not officially comedies, I think they have as many laughs as any comedy released that year, if not more. I’m hearing laughs all through the writing of it, and I’m hearing laughs when we do the scene, I’m hearing laughs when we cut it together, and I definitely hear laughs when I get a reaction from an audience. They’re not just sitting there, glazing over.

That’s my way of testing it out. That’s the reward for me, more than anything else. To sit in a theater and hear them chuckle at this line or that line. To laugh about this, and then to feel the tension when Cliff goes to Spahn Ranch. All of a sudden, the theater goes really quiet, you know what I mean? That’s the payoff. That’s the reward.

DEADLINE: It would be easy to have the kind of oversized success you’ve had in your career and then exhale. Not try as hard.

TARANTINO: I do feel I’ve gotten a lot more jaded over the not quite 30 years I’ve been doing this than I was in the first six years of the ’90s, when I first came out. Nevertheless, the joy and the fun of making movies, and of seeing them up on the screen with a bunch of people who could do anything they wanted to do that day, and what they decided to do was pay money to come and see my movie… That’s exciting.

DEADLINE: You started out in a fertile period for independent cinema in the early ’90s. It was a rich—and perhaps a more optimistic—world to debut in.

TARANTINO: Yeah. I always imagined that, if I was going to break into movies, I would be breaking through in independent cinema, but that was before there was a legitimate independent cinema to break into. There were always those three or four movies a year that really broke through and became a thing. Even if it only played for a week or two weeks at one of the Laemmle theaters in Santa Monica or something, and it had a little ad in the Los Angeles Times, and it got a review in The New York Times, the LA Times and LA Weekly, that would have been good enough.

None of us knew, that year of ’92, when we went to Sundance, that a good majority of the films that would be premiering at Sundance would be the harbinger for an entire movement. That most of us were going to get released over the next year. Even that other movies, that got turned down for Sundance that year, like Laws of Gravity, would find releases. Or even that, the way alternative music was taking off at that time, independent cinema would be taking off right alongside it. That they would become bedfellows.

Quentin Tarantino
Sony

DEADLINE: How do you look at the landscape today, then? You’re a celluloid guy. I don’t even know if there’s a way for a debut director now to get the money to make a 35mm film and actually get it onto a big screen.

TARANTINO: Well, some guys do. It’s a fallacy that it’s less expensive [to shoot digital]. You’ll spend money somewhere, so you could spend it there, on film.

I think the sad part is that a lot of filmmakers today just don’t care. They’re happy it’s digital because then the cinematographer isn’t so much in charge, and they’re in charge. They’ve been shooting digital, making movies on their phone and in short films, and so that’s what they’re comfortable with. They’re probably intimidated or scared. “How are we going to get an image? If we don’t have enough lights, is this going to be bad?” We were all scared of that too, but we had to wear the big boy pants and plow ahead anyway.

The independent market for cinema that did exist doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t exist the way it did when it was thriving in the ’90s, but it doesn’t even exist in the way I described it in the late ’80s, where, yeah, maybe your movie played for only one or two weeks, but it had a foothold. It owned that little real estate in the newspaper. It was playing at the Loz Feliz 2, or the Music Hall, or even one of the shoebox theaters at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. There were a lot of movies I saw that never played everywhere else but in Cinema 6 or something in the Beverly Center.

DEADLINE: You can’t even play at the Beverly Center anymore. That theater has gone.

TARANTINO: Yeah, but that was the place. It was that newspaper ad, it was a piece of real estate. You saw their little poster, the title treatment, and it was like, “I’m here!” Now, a newspaper ad means nothing. Now it’s just lost in this or that or the other.

And, oddly enough, those movies are still being made. When you read the Los Angeles Times on a Friday, you have the big new comedy—or whatever, two movies that make the front page as far as the reviews are concerned—and then you turn the page just before you get to the TV listings, and there’s seven or eight capsule reviews for films I’ve never heard of. And sometimes they star known people. I’ve never heard of them, there’s no ad corresponding to them, and I don’t even know where some of these theaters are. What are all these movies, and where are they going?

I even felt that about seven or eight years ago. I was on the Sundance jury and I watched all the films at Sundance that year because I was on the jury. We had some movies like Frozen River. That was the movie that won, so that played. The movie Ballast; that won something, and that ended up getting a theatrical release. There was another that played, and I can’t even remember the name of it right now. It takes place in the ’90s, and Ben Kingsley is a pot-smoking therapist.

DEADLINE: Oh, The Wackness.

TARANTINO: Yeah, The Wackness. That played and there were a couple of others, but back in the ’90s, getting into Sundance was a thing. That was the holy grail. So we watched all these movies at Sundance, the premier American independent festival, and they had named people like Winona Ryder and Paul Giamatti and all those people in them, and I never heard from most of those movies again. I never even saw them show up on cable. I thought, OK, it’ll be on Showtime 4 or something like that, but no, I never saw them. They never got a theatrical release, and they literally got the pinnacle of what the goal was for independent cinema in the ’90s. They just disappeared.

DEADLINE: Does it make us dinosaurs for hoping that movies exist and have a life in the theatrical space rather than just appearing one day on streaming and disappearing the next?

TARANTINO: A streaming platform is one thing, but those movies I’m talking about? I don’t think they’re appearing on streaming platforms either. When you read those little capsule reviews, the critics all seem pretty snotty about them, but they’ll describe interesting-sounding stories, or an interesting take on a genre. You’ll think, Maybe this guy doesn’t like it, but it sounds like a cool movie. Maybe I won’t see it this week at the San Gabriel blah-blah-blah, but I’ll see it when it comes on cable. And then I never see it show up on cable. And those are the ones that actually got a theatrical release.

DEADLINE: If the 29-year-old Quentin Tarantino were starting his career tomorrow, with Reservoir Dogs, do you think that movie would break out?

TARANTINO: I’ve thought about that a lot. I think the movie is a good movie, but I think at its heart what it has going for it is the Tim Roth/Michael Madsen aspect of it. If I had guys of that caliber—who they were then, now—I think that would be a thing. I could actually see Reservoir Dogs being picked up by one of the smaller divisions of the studios or something. I’m being optimistic about that, but I’ve thought about it, and it’s like, no, the market that existed, that took me under its wing and actually gave me a platform to do my movies… That market doesn’t exist anymore.

When it came to Reservoir Dogs, the film I wanted to emulate as far as what I hoped it would do, and the success it might get, and how it would stand out from the crowd, was Blood Simple. That was my jumping-off point. I didn’t know if I was going to get the reviews that Blood Simple got, but I remembered that ad, and I trucked down to the Beverly Center to see it. It’s an independent film, but it had a genre base. It was doing genre in its own way. That’s what I was hoping to emulate. What the Coen brothers did with Blood Simple.

DEADLINE: When Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood came out, it spawned a million think pieces, many of which seemed to blithely ignore the context for what you were presenting. But it was also the motion picture event of the year. How gratifying was it to see it become this kind of phenomenon all its own in a world of superhero pictures and franchises?

TARANTINO: It felt wonderful. Look, I think a lot of us making movies are facing a dark night of the soul. I know I am, and so are a lot of us who make movies, where movies were one thing to us, and they were this one thing for a long time. We are wondering if we’ll still be doing it this way 15 years from now. And my guess is not. I don’t know what it’s going to be like 15 years from now, but I don’t think this way will be the way.

Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Sony

Even more important than that, at the end of the day—and it’s sad, but it’s also how things change—you’re just talking about a delivery system for how people see stuff. Now, I think it is more than that, but you can reduce it to that if you’re talking about the bigger question I’ve heard many people pontificate on, on podcast after podcast. That’s the question of, do movies matter anymore? Are movies important? Are movies part of the conversation?

The thing about it is, there was a time—and it lasted for my entire life—where movies were at the center of the zeitgeist. A movie would hit, and become popular, and it would be at the center of the conversation. It would be the conversation. And then there were also the movies that opened in theaters and the critics didn’t quite get them, and they didn’t do so well at the box office, but five years later, after they’d been on cable and everything, the movies might as well have been big smashes because everyone has seen them and is quoting them. They become part of the fabric.

So, the question of do movies matter is a big question, and people are pontificating about that in print and in conversations in coffee houses and on podcasts the world over. That’s all depressing, but what’s not depressing is when you make a movie and—all that being said—you are part of the conversation. There was an undeniable fact that, for the first four weeks of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood playing in its theatrical engagement, everybody was talking about it. It was in the conversation. Everybody was talking about it.

You’re being very sweet about a lot of the snotty think pieces that came out in the wake of the movie, but it took me a long time to realize something. I didn’t feel like this before, and I would get mad at those things. Now, some of those pieces, yes, I think they’re being incredibly unfair in a lot of ways. But they’re not hurting me. They’re actually, in their own, ass-backwards way, helping me. They are keeping the conversations alive. They are creating an argument about the movie. And frankly, maybe more important than a conversation is an argument. If you’re going to have an argument, you need somebody on the opposing side. So, I might think they’re dicks—and definitely, I think some of them were very, very unfair—but they were helping me in their own way, because the movie was worth fighting about. The movie was worth the arguments.

It was all a little less painful to me on this movie, those think pieces. Because to me, some of them—not all of them, but some of them—had their interesting points, and you could give them their due and everything. And many of them, they revealed exactly where they were coming from in the piece. Their unfairness was right there. They revealed it, and they were actually rather naked in their bias.

DEADLINE: Margot Robbie told me the other day that she had gone to the Bruin, which is the theater her Sharon watches The Wrecking Crew at in the movie, to see Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. She said it was late into the run, there were only a handful of people there, and she sat in almost the exact same seat that Sharon does.

TARANTINO: I talked to her about that! Well, I haven’t talked to her about it since she did it, but I talked her into doing it [laughs]. I was like, “Have you ever done that?” She had some version of it, but not exactly what Sharon does in the movie. I go, “Well, Margot, it’s playing at the Bruin right now. You could go next week, on a Wednesday afternoon for the 2 o’clock show, and you could literally do what Sharon does.” She was like, “Oh my God, I think I’ll do that.” So, I knew she was going to do it.

DEADLINE: I didn’t ask if she’d put her feet up on the seat in front.

TARANTINO: Knowing her, she probably did [laughs].

DEADLINE: But she said it was fascinating to watch the people watching the movie and hear how they were reacting to it.

TARANTINO: Hear the laughs and all that stuff? Yeah.

DEADLINE: That’s something you’ve been doing since the beginning of your career, right?

TARANTINO: Oh yeah. Sharon’s basically me in that situation. I’ve even done that at the Bruin. I remember the first thing of mine to play at the Bruin was True Romance. It was actually kind of funny, because I was already a little known when True Romance came out, because of Reservoir Dogs. I wasn’t worldwide known, but some hip people knew who I was.

AwardsLine December 18 - Quentin Tarantino
Read the digital edition of Deadline presents AwardsLine’s directors issue, with Quentin Tarantino on the cover, here. Josh Telles for Deadline

So, I was on a date, and we show up at the Bruin. Not during the daytime; they were getting ready for an evening show. I thought to myself—and not because I’m cheap—but I thought, Well, I did write this movie. So, I talk to the manager, and I go, “Look, I wrote this film. Do I have to pay?” He goes, “What do you mean you wrote it?” I go over to the poster and I go, “See? That’s my name, Quentin Tarantino. That’s me.” He goes, “How do I know it’s you?” I go, “Well, I can show you my driver’s license.”

And then my date proceeds to work out the deal with the manager. I’m standing there, listening to them argue, and all of a sudden, some people come up to me, and they recognize me. I’m over there by the poster, and these people come up and go, “Oh, you’re Quentin Tarantino. Reservoir Dogs is one of my favorite movies. Will you sign my autograph?” I start signing the autograph.

My date, meanwhile, is still negotiating with the manager of the Bruin. And then he’s like, “Wait a minute. What’s all this going on?” She goes, “Those are his fans! He’s signing autographs for his fans. That shows you who he is.”

DEADLINE: Did you get in?

TARANTINO: Yeah [laughs]. The guy’s grumbling like, “Yeah, sure, go in, but how was I supposed to know you wrote the damn thing?”

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