Quentin Tarantino Very Nearly Reveals the Inspiration Behind Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth

     December 11, 2019


Quentin Tarantino sure likes to play with history. He did this, most jarringly, in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. Believe it or not, Hitler was not roasted in a movie theater and peppered with bullets by avenging Jews.

This year, when Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood premiered, fans got to wondering if Tarantino would be telling the real story of the Manson murders, or some fantasy version. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the historical record was altered just a little. However, careful attention to detail was a priority for the film, its researchers working hard to recreate an accurate picture of 1969 Los Angeles.

Tarantino paid attention to some details as well while crafting the story in his head. As he revealed to Seth Meyers two nights ago, he based the relationship of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) on an actual actor/stuntman duo. In the film, Dalton and Booth are inseparable. The best of friends, there’s a mutual respect between them, even if the former has a lavish home up in the Hollywood Hills, the latter kicking back in a grimy trailer with his dog. Despite appearances, it’s Cliff who seems content, Rick wracked with anxiety over his fading career.


Image via Columbia Pictures

So, who was the real life Rick Dalton? Well, Tarantino doesn’t quite give it away. But he tells the story of being on set of one of his films, observing an actor and his stuntman smoking and sharing laughs together. It got him to thinking that this relationship could be an interesting one to explore. Not too many guys fit the description here—someone who worked with Quentin before and was also known for his action roles in years past. Kurt Russell (Death Proof) might make the most sense.

Later in the interview, the director talks about growing up in Hollywood and going to see movies like The Wild Bunch and Deliverance in a double feature as a third grader. He claims he asked his mother then why she would allow him to see movies like this when none of his friends could. Her response? “Quentin, it’s a movie! There’s nothing you’re going to see in a movie that’s going to screw you up!” Wise maternal words, to be sure.

You can check out the full clip below. Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood has been nominated for five Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

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