• Morgan Fagg

Once upon a time in Hollywood

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

Take a ride in the hills of Hollywood with Brad, Leo, Quintin and me.

Anyone who has read more than a few of my blogs has probably already realised that I like tv and cinema and scroll through my 300 plus posts and you will find a number of gifs with either Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt and 3 cover pictures of DiCaprio on my blogs.

Last night I watched Once upon a time in Hollywood and I was not disappointed. This is Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film which beautifully blended some other films he has made in the past with the story of a very famous family man.

Well, I should say infamous as Charles Manson and the night of August 9th has been painfully etched into Hollywood history.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee but growing up in California in the 60s, I am sure the death of Sharon Tate stuck with the young filmmaker as the horror of that night has become a part of local legend and lore.

Knowing some of the details of these psychedelic psychopaths' murders, I turned away from the film as the night of the 9th of August approached. In a recent documentary, a policeman retold the horror of seeing this heavily pregnant woman hanging in her home after she and three of her friends were brutally murdered.

Another recent story that has come out was of a Jane Doe who is believed to have been stabbed 150 times in the neck by these same lunatics that Charles Manson called his family.

My stomach churned at the thought of how Quintin Tarantino would film this very violent ending that saw four people losing their lives in the hills of Hollywood.

Set onset, we watch two great actors playing an actor and his stuntman.

Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt are of course veterans of Tarantino films with Leo playing Calvin Candie in Django Unchained and Brad Pitt playing the heroic leader Lieutenant Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds.

This is their first film together that I can think of and they work well together onscreen.

Their characters Jack Dalton, sorry Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth are joined by a few familiar faces and some new ones along for the ride.

Put your feet up and enjoy the ride

Looking at Maya Hawke onscreen, I told my girlfriend that she had a future in Hollywood but I didn't realise she was already Tinseltown royalty.

The only question, I am left asking is, how did her mother ever let her get into Cliff's car?

Maya's father Ethan has been nominated for four Oscars, a Tony and has directed three films and three Off-Broadway plays and her mother is no stranger to playing in Quintin Tarantino's films.

I believe her mother Uma Thurman and Tarantino started writing The Bride while on the set of Pulp Fiction which was later developed into Kill Bill.

While Uma Thurman drove the Pussywagon pick-up truck in Vol 1, she actually crashed the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible in Kill Bill Vol 2 which apparently caused a lot of tension between herself and Tarantino.

That exact same car re-appears as Cliff's convertible in the new film and I believe Quintin's step-father used to drive him around Hollywood in a VW Karmann Ghia.

Stuntman Cliff picks up Maya's character Pussycat in his boss' car and we see some very interesting scenes where the two lead characters represent real life and real men, and also the onscreen image presented to us.

Tarantino burnt down a Nazi cinema in one film but now he has gone all Meta by referencing films in his own films.

Leo is a star and Brad his stuntman. We meet Al Pachino as a producer and see DiCaprio acting as a struggling actor while his best friend and sidekick doesn't pull any punches.

Leo is a star onscreen but a wreck offstage. He gets the credit while others get injured and I am sure many people have contributed no-small-parts in Hollywood history.

Blurring the lines: Zoë E. Bell plays a stunt co-ordinator in this film in her third acting role in a Tarantino film. She had previously played a stunt woman alongside Kurt Russel in Death Proof but the New Zeland actress got her start as an actual stuntwoman playing such roles as Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill.

Kurt Russel makes an appearance as does Michael Madsen. Madsen's cameo is very brief but he is a staple of Tarantino's casting with roles in Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, and The Hateful Eight.

Quintin Tarantino seems to cast his stars carefully with some unusual choices where the audience is invested in the actors and the characters they play. Kill Bill’s villain, for example, was played by the legendary Kung Fu actor David Carradine.

Inspired by Kung Fu films, Tarantino must clearly have an interest in Bruce Lee as he is referenced in this film and Uma Thurman's Kill Bill motorbike outfit is strikingly similar to Bruce Lee's yellow Game of Death suit.

Sadly, the portrayal of Bruce Lee is less than flattering and the Lee family have criticised Tarantino for it with both his wife and daughter disappointed about the Tarantino treatment.

Bruce Lee and his martial arts son Brandon both died making films in what is known as "The Curse of the Lees" but Bruce does have a connection to both Sharon Tate and the murder.

In fact, a very different director once thought that Bruce Lee might be the murderer.

Bruce Lee trained with many Hollywood stars including Sharon Tate and Steve McQueen.

Bruce Lee was fierce and fought with Chuck Norris back in the day. He helped train Tate for Wrecking Crew and her husband, director Roman Polanski thought that Bruce Lee might be the killer when Bruce mentioned that he lost a pair of sunglasses.

Polanski was suspicious as the police said that someone had left behind a pair of glasses and he believed that Bruce Lee was one of very few people capable of killing a house full of people.

That was of course before we discovered the details of the Manson Family living at Spahn ranch.

Tate is played by actress Margot Robbie who played the love interest for Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

I liked the pace of the film which I thought had been heavily criticised when it first came out. I liked it a lot and was happy to watch Sharon Tate watching herself in the cinema.

I was as unfamiliar with the career of actress Sharon Tate as I was of Elizabeth Short's short-lived career but will always remember her horrific Hollywood history as the Black Dahlia. Two murders 22 years apart that left a scar on Tinseltown's bright lights.

Four people lost their lives in Cielo Drive in August 1969 but thank god it wasn’t worse.

In this Hollywood home where four friends enjoyed a night together, a baby slept. Luckily this baby managed to avoid the attention of the Manson family who could have easily killed the baby or taken the child back to their cult-like camp. I say four people died but Sharon Tate was 8 1/2 months pregnant so the death toll was actually 4 adults and her unborn baby.

Luckily, Manson’s drugged-up dream didn't incite a race war. Known as Helter Skelter, Charles Manson wanted the slayings to stir up a race war in California.

Hollywood legend Steve McQueen and music producer Quincy Jones were also meant to attend the party but neither made the part in the end.

At 86 years of age, Quincy Jones has been lucky to survive drugs, mafia, and the Manson family. In 1947, he was the sole survivor of a car crash and never learnt to drive as a result. He has seen his share of famous friends come and go including Ray Carles, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin and Michael Jackson. He has partied with astronaut Buzz Aldrin and had his music played on the moon and apparently turned down the chance to go on a date with Marlyn Monroe.

Quincy Jones has seen some impressive Hollywood stories in his lifetime and is lucky he missed this gathering with his friend Jay Sebring. They had spent the previous day watching Bullet with Steve McQueen and he received a call from Bill Cosby the following day to say that Jay had died.

I wish things could have been different for Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger but maybe that is a job for the director’s cut.

The tragic story of Sharon Tate’s murder reminds me of The Bride where Uma Thurma is attacked by a gang of killers dressed in black who show up at her wedding recital.

Dressed in white, the beautiful blonde bride who was also heavily pregnant at the time meets a horrible fate. In Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, four hitmen dressed in black, show up in Cielo Drive which is reminiscent of Kill Bill Vol 1.

There are endless stories in the world, both real and imagined and Tarantino nicely distorts history and takes inspiration from both life and cinema.

In one scene, Rick Dalton plays a WWII soldier who burns down a Nazi gathering reminiscent of Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds.

In Inglorious Basterds which was based upon an actual army unit, Brad Pitt carves swastikas into Nazi soldiers' heads so that they will forever be known for what they have done.

As little as I know of the Basterds (X-Troop), I do know one sick bastard that could have inspired Quintin Tarantino's branding.

Charles Manson was never forgotten for his involvement in the Tate murders and carving a swastika on his forehead never helped convince anyone that he was either sane or innocent.

DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton is also seen wearing an eyepatch in that scene which reminds me of both the very real Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who tried to blow up Adolf Hitler and the fictional Elle Driver AKA California Mountain Snake AKA actress Daryl Hannah.

The Hollywood hills are full of stories and I am sure ghost stories too and Tarantino's version of history is definitely worth checking out with a big bucket of popcorn.

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