Tarantino on What Happens to Rick F-in Dalton After ‘Once Upon a Time…’

     February 3, 2020

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Spoilers for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood follow.

By his own, thorough account, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino got to make the Oscar-nominated Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood his way. Via The Wrap, Tarantino’s ode to/dissection of classic Hollywood starring Leonardo DiCaprioBrad Pitt, and Margot Robbie, was budgeted $100 million from Sony Pictures — and wouldn’t you know it, Tarantino and company came in under budget! As Tarantino said, “We got to make it the full-on way. There’s a different version of this movie where we don’t have this much money, and we’re having to cut corners. We’re having to do more CGI, we’re having to build less and just build it around one building that still exists from that time period. And look — that movie would be good, too. But to actually be able to do it old-school style was wonderful, That’s a luxury in today’s Hollywood.”

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Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

“Luxurious” is definitely the word I would use to describe Once Upon a Time… and part of its luxury comes from Tarantino’s thorough construction of his fake Hollywood world that Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and stuntman Cliff Booth (Pitt). As I learned at a delightful screening/Q&A, Tarantino would screen real movies for DiCaprio, the duo would talk about specific actors that Dalton felt like, and Tarantino even submitted a fake IMDb profile for Dalton (which the website, sadly, denied). With all this luxury, all this authentic-feeling created reality, it begs the question: What happens to Rick Dalton at the end of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood?

If you recall, the film ends with Dalton and Booth effectively stopping the Charlie Manson massacre of Sharon Tate. Instead, Booth and his dog attack the hell out of a bunch of his followers, and Dalton straight up cooks one with his prop flamethrower. Clearly, that would affect his career moving forward, right? Tarantino certainly has an answer, and, well, I should just let him tell it in all his untethered glory.

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Image via Columbia Pictures

The whole incident with the flamethrower and the hippies got a lot of play. No one quite knows what a big deal that was, but it was still a big deal. And it’s a big deal that he killed ‘em with the flamethrower, with the prop from one of his most popular movies. So he starts becoming in demand again. I mean, not in demand like Michael Sarrazin at that time was in demand, but he’s got some publicity and now all of a sudden “The 14 Fists of McCluskey” is playing more on Channel 5 during Combat Week and stuff. And so he gets offered a couple of features — low-budget ones, but studio ones. But the thing is, on the episodic-TV circuit, he’s a bigger name now. He’s not quite Darren McGavin, all right? Darren McGavin would get paid the highest you could get paid as a guest star back in that time. But Rick’s about where John Saxon was, maybe just a little bit higher. So he’s getting good money and doing the best shows. And the episodes are all built around him. So as opposed to doing ‘Land of the Giants’ and ‘Bingo Martin,’ now he’s the bad guy on ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and it’s his episode… Oh, and he does a Vince Edwards show, ‘Matt Lincoln.’ Or a Glenn Ford show, ‘Cade’s County.’ And that’s a big deal, ’cause he did ‘Hell-Fire Texas’ with Glenn Ford and they didn’t really get along. But now they bury the hatchet and they make a big deal about the two guys doing it together. And then he does a couple of Paul Wendkos’ TV movies… And you know, he’s doing OK.

Dang! One thing’s for sure: Tarantino knows his film and TV history. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to IMDb every single name and title he just mentioned.

For more on Once Upon a Time…, check out this half-hour making-of documentary for free. Plus: Pitt looks back on his career in a retrospective.

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