The final cut of Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood made its official world premiere on Monday night at the Chinese Theater at the exact same time an all-media screening was held down the street at the nearby ArcLight Hollywood. And while this reporter wouldn’t dare spoil any of the film’s surprises, there was one surprise that audiences didn’t get to see, as it was cut from the film. And since that means it’s no longer a spoiler, we can finally let the cat out of the bag.
Back in June 2018, James Marsden was announced as part of the cast of Tarantino’s latest, but his role was never revealed, and has remained secret until now. Since Marsden’s appearance has been cut from the film, and it is inevitable that this will be revealed at some point, Collider can exclusively report that Marsden had been cast as screen legend Burt Reynolds, who himself was going to co-star in Once Upon a Time, though he died before filming his role.
Once Upon a Time stars Leonardo DiCaprio as fading actor Rick Dalton, who has seen better days in showbiz and has been relegated to guest star turns on TV westerns. Just like Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and James Garner before him, Reynolds made a name for himself in westerns — he did 50 episodes of Gunsmoke, for example — before going on to star in Hollywood hits like Deliverance and Smokey and the Bandit. In fact, Rick Dalton plays a character named Michael Murtaugh on an episode of The F.B.I. titled “All the Streets Are Silent” that is glimpsed in the film and in real life — albeit in 1965, not 1969 –Reynolds played that same character. I wonder if Marsden was originally supposed to appear in that scene as a young Reynolds, or whether we were going to see Burt on the backlot during the Lancer scenes featuring Timothy Olyphant and Luke Perry. Of course, it’s unclear whether Reynolds’ death prompted Tarantino to cut Marsden’s cameo, or whether it simply did not fit organically into the film. He ultimately received a Special Thanks in the end credits. Sony did not respond to a request for comment.
Reynolds was originally going to play Manson Family ranch owner George Spahn in Once Upon a Time, though he died before filming his role. According to a recent Deadline interview with Tarantino, the filmmaker said he had one day of rehearsal with Reynolds, who was present for the official script reading. Tarantino wound up re-casting his Hateful Eight star Bruce Dern as Spahn, who has a single scene in the film.
Marsden has been busy since exiting HBO’s Westworld, co-starring in Netflix’s buzzy series Dead to Me and landing the lead role of Stu Redman in Josh Boone‘s The Stand over on CBS All Access. He’ll soon be seen as the human lead in Sonic the Hedgehog, which is slated to hit theaters on Valentine’s Day next year. Marsden is represented by CAA and Authentic Talent and Literary Management, and a representative for the actor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.