After months of rumors, Quentin Tarantino’s 1969 film against the backdrop of the Charles Manson family murders is finally official. And the reports that big names were looking to star in the film has also been confirmed.
Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have the lead roles in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as announced by Sony Pictures on Wednesday. Here’s how Tarantino described the story in the official press release:
“[A] story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), former star of a Western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor… Sharon Tate.”
Rumors had circulated that Tarantino was going to make a film about the Manson family murders, but the director always insisted that his movie would take place in Los Angeles at the same time the killing spree was occurring. His synopsis confirms that. He went on to say that he’s been working on the script for five years.
The question now becomes who will play Sharon Tate, the actress who was murdered by the Manson family at the age of 26. When she was murdered, she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with a child she was having with husband Roman Polanski. Tarantino has reportedly asked Margot Robbie to play the role, and Jennifer Lawrence has also expressed interest.
Tom Cruise was also pursuing one of those lead roles, but the casting of Pitt and DiCaprio presumably nixes that, unless Cruise was circling another part. According to The Hollywood Reporter, negotiations with DiCaprio had reached the point where the actor was considering walking away earlier in the year.
For both Pitt and DiCaprio, this is the second time they’ll work with Tarantino. Pitt played the lead in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, while DiCaprio played the villain in 2012’s Django Unchained. (Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for his performance in each of those films, but there’s been no word on whether or not he’ll appear in this upcoming film.)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has had a bumpy road to production. Originally, Tarantino was to make the movie with The Weinstein Company, having worked with Harvey Weinstein on most of his films. But he took the film to Sony following the sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein, the producer’s firing and the Weinstein Company’s filing for bankruptcy.
Tarantino’s admission that he knew of Weinstein’s misconduct but didn’t say anything, along with Uma Thurman going public with allegations that the director forced her to perform a risky car stunt which left her with permanent damage to her neck and knees, led to rumblings that Sony might consider backing out of the project. An expensive period piece with high-paid stars could be a risky proposition, but the star power of DiCaprio and Pitt surely helped push this across the goal line.
This will be Tarantino’s ninth film and he’s said he plans to make 10 movies before he retires. (However, he’s been vague as to whether that means he would be finished making movies entirely.) Could his next movie after this one be the Star Trek movie he pitched to Paramount? That doesn’t seem likely, but a script is being written and Tarantino is still reportedly interested in directing the film.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set for an Aug. 9, 2019 release (which is the 50th anniversary of Tate’s murder).