Cannes 2019: Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie on Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Prahlad Srihari

May 23, 2019 15:22:21 IST

Read the film's review here.

Debuting at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival 25 years after Pulp Fiction won the Palme d'Or, Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood earned mostly glowing reviews and rapturous applause from audiences and critics alike. A nostalgic love letter to a bygone era when spaghetti westerns ruled the screens, the director's ninth outing brought plenty of that old-school Hollywood glitz and glamour to the French Riviera. The red carpet ushered in its three A-list stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, surrounded by media and cordoned-off throngs of fans and onlookers along the Croisette.

Cannes 2019: Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie on Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio at the photo call for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at Cannes 2019. Festival de Cannes/Getty

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is centered on Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a fading TV actor wracked by self-doubt, and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), who happen to live next door to the house of Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), hot off the success of Rosemary’s Baby and engaged to up-and-coming actress Sharon Tate (Robbie). Rick and Cliff are two men oozing old-fashioned cowboy machismo grappling with their careers, problems and hippies in the counterculture era of Tinseltown in 1969 around the time of the gruesome Manson Family murders.

At the press conference on the morning following the premiere, Tarantino, DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie fielded questions from reporters. Here are some excerpts.

On the continuing fascination with the notorious Manson Family murders

Tarantino: I think we’re fascinated by it because at the end of the day, it seems unfathomable. I’ve done a lot of research on it, read books and watched TV specials. How he was able to get these girls and young boys to cement to him seems unfathomable. The more you learn about it, the more information you get, it doesn’t make it any clear. It makes it more obscure.

Pitt: It's not a rage against individuals, but a rage against innocence. In the time building up to that, there was a free-love movement, there was a lot of hope, there were a lot of new ideas floating out there, cinema was being re-calibrated. When that event happened – the tragic loss of Sharon and others – what scared many even so today, it was a sobering dark look at the dark side of human nature. That pivotal moment was a real loss of innocence, and that’s what the film addresses.

On Rick and Cliff

Actors Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio pose for photographers at the photo call for the film 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio pose for photographers before the press conference at Cannes 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

DiCaprio: I immediately identified with this character in many ways. I grew up in the industry. This guy is on the outskirts; time is changing and he’s left behind. For me, it’s an immense appreciation I have for the position I’m in and I can appreciate the fact that this guy is struggling with his own pathos and ability to gain confidence and to persevere for the next job. I have a lot of friends in the industry who have had fewer opportunities than I have had.

Pitt: I see Rick and Cliff as one individual. It really comes down to the acceptance of your life, your place, your surroundings, your challenges and troubles. In Rick, we see someone who’s put upon in life. Life’s against him and they are some of the best breakdown scenes I’ve ever seen from my friend Leo here. In Cliff, we see a character who accepts his lot in life and takes it as it comes.

On Sharon Tate and her lack of screentime

Robbie: Quentin said it to me early on — she's the heartbeat of the story. I just saw her as a ray of light. That was my job and role to serve in this story. I felt like I could honour the memory of real-life Sharon Tate who so many people said was such a bright light.

I think the moments I was on screen gave a moment to honor Sharon. I think the tragedy was the loss of innocence. To show the wonderful sides of her could be done without speaking. I did feel like I got a lot of time to explore the character without dialogue, which is an interesting thing. Rarely do I get an opportunity to spend so much time on my own as a character.

Margot Robbie at the photocall for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood at Cannes 2019. Festival de Cannes/Getty

On DiCaprio and Pitt working together for the first time in a feature film

DiCaprio: There was an incredible ease and comfort getting to work alongside Brad. We kind of grew up in the same generation, got our start around the same time. Quentin gave us this incredible back story for our characters: their work together, their friendship, what they had been through in the industry and now as outsiders in this new era in Hollywood. And Brad is not only a terrific actor, he is a professional. So when Quentin puts you in these improvised scenarios when we both have a foothold on our history and our character, I have to say it was incredibly easy working with Brad. We together forged, hopefully, a great cinematic bond in a film about our industry together.

Pitt: It was with great, great ease and it was great fun. I had a great laugh with him. It’s that thing of knowing you’ve got the best-of-the-best on the opposite side of the table holding up the scene with you. There’s a great relief in that. I hope we get to do it again.

On the film being a love letter to Hollywood

DiCaprio: I think this movie is a love story to this industry. We studied people from Ralph Meeker to Eddie Byrne, all these actors whose work Tarantino really appreciates from an artistic perspective, who contributed in his mind to cinematic and television achievements. That was most touching about the story. It’s a love letter to this industry we’re so fortunate to work in.

On Sergio Corbucci and his films

Tarantino: Sergio Corbucci is one of my favorite directors. Django Unchained is based on my version of Corbucci. So when I was going to have Rick go to Rome and make a western, for me he’s working with one of the greatest masters of all time, but he thinks it’s Italian junk. For me if 40 years later if I ran into Rick Dalton I’d be really honoured: “So you worked with Sergio Corbucci?”

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood had its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It is one of 21 titles competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or. Click here to follow our coverage of the festival straight from the Croisette.

Updated Date: May 23, 2019 15:38:09 IST