Did Cliff Booth kill his wife in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, or was it an accident? It’s a question we haven’t been able to stop thinking about since Quentin Tarantino‘s love letter to showbiz hit theaters last summer. Tarantino said he knows the answer, but refuses to divulge it — much like the contents of the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Fortunately, there are no shortage of theories floating around modern day Hollywood, so we asked everyone who stopped by the Kia Telluride Supper Suite in Park City to join the great debate and weigh in with their own interpretations of that brief scene.
Rebuilding Paradise director Ron Howard was among those who had no qualms pointing a finger at Cliff, no matter how charming Brad Pitt‘s stuntman character may be.
Nine Days star Zazie Beetz agreed. “I think he killed her,” she said. You won’t hear any argument from Summertime actor Tyris Winter. “I think he did something to her,” he said, noting “the way he looked at her in that scene when she was upset.”
The Nest star Carrie Coon knows a thing or two about playing “the wife” onscreen, and she explained that “they always kill their wives. The wife is there to be killed. That’s why the wife is in the movie. So someone can kill her.”
The pile-on didn’t stop there. “He totally killed his wife. How is that a question?” Lost Girls director Liz Garbus said with an incredulous laugh. “It’s always the husband,” added Dinner in America actress Emily Skeggs.
Some folks refused to come up with an answer, explaining that part of the fun is not knowing.
“i think that’s a question that is best left unanswered, but it’s such a good provocation in the film,” said Spree director Eugene Kotlyarenko.
Meanwhile, The Last Shift actress Allison Tolman took issue with the question. “I think that’s a pretty huge spoiler,” she scoffed, though we swear this debate won’t ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the film.
Cliff had plenty of defenders, too, of course.
“I have to believe it was an accident, otherwise I like the movie a lot less, said Run Sweetheart Run director Shana Feste. David Bruckner, director of fellow Midnight title The Night House, echoed that sentiment. “I have to believe it was an accident,” he said.
“I’m hoping it was an accident, because otherwise, why did I like him so much in the movie?” asked Uncle Frank star Paul Bettany. “It has to be an accident, otherwise you’d hate him.”
“I wanted it to be an accident so that I could enjoy the rest of the movie, so I let myself believe it was an accident, confessed Palm Springs star Andy Samberg.
Blast Beat star Kali Uchis conflated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star Brad Pitt with his character. “Brad Pitt would never do something like that. He wouldn’t be capable,” she stated with confidence.
Beast Beast director Danny Madden admitted that he changed his mind following a second viewing. “I watched it once and I thought, ‘for sure,’ and I watched it a second time and I thought, ‘maybe not.’
Horse Girl director Jeff Baena believes that the scene is a callback to Marvin’s death in Pulp Fiction. If you’ll remember, Samuel L. Jackson is driving the car, and he hits a speed bump, and John Travolta‘s gun accidentally goes off, splattering Marvin’s brains all over the car. Baena swears that if you pay attention to the camerawork in that scene, it’s clear that Cliff’s boat is riding atop a wave, and is about to come crashing down when the scene cuts away. “It’s the exact [same] sort of vibe,” he said.
In the end, Collider turned to Tesla star Jim Gaffigan to settle this debate once and for all, but he was no help. “My parents said I’m not old enough to watch that movie. It’s filled with filthy fucking words,” joked Gaffigan.
Let us know what you think happened on that boat in the comments section below, or on YouTube. For more on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, including what became of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Rick Dalton following the events in the film, click here.