Is Quentin Tarantino keeping Once Upon A Time in Hollywood low key due to Uma Thurman's #MeToo claim?

Gautam Chintamani

Jun 16, 2018 11:40:02 IST

In the pantheon of foregone conclusions and no-brainers in the cosmos of films, the success and critical acclaim of a Quentin Tarantino film would probably rank the highest. He is a filmmaker who could pick up any actor from any part of the world and tell any story and speed with which such news would be hailed as a great cinematic achievement could put some of the best sports cars in the world to shame. Yet the manner in which Tarantino seems to be going about padded his next feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, seems to suggest that the filmmaker does not want anything left to chance in case of a backlash that could come his way considering his role in one of the biggest post-#MeToo movement revelations.

Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Quentin Tarantino attend CinemaCon at The Colosseum at Caesars, Monday April 23, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Eric Jamison/Invision/AP)

Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Quentin Tarantino attend CinemaCon at The Colosseum at Caesars in Las Vegas. AP

Just in the last couple of days, screen legend Al Pacino along with James Marsden and Dakota Fanning have joined the ever growing cast of Once Upon a Time In Hollywood which now includes Burt Reynolds, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. Inspired by the Charles Manson murders that rocked Hollywood in the late 1960s, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood features Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as the leads and Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, the former model, and wife of Roman Polanski, who was murdered by Manson family. Tarantino has called the film the closest to Pulp Fiction and the drama based at the height of hippie Hollywood in 1969 features DiCaprio as a former TV star, who along with his longtime stunt double, Pitt, is struggling to make it big in a changing Hollywood and they just happen to be neighbors of Sharon. Pacino would play DiCaprio's agent and Burt Reynolds is cast as the real-life George Spahn, the man who rented his ranch property to Charles Manson and his “family” prior to their murder of Sharon Tate.

It was only a matter of time before Tarantino made a film about films. His fondness for the world of the 1950s and 1960s' Hollywood, and his B-Movie fascination would come in handy when he recreates the world within Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Much like some of the cast such as Reynolds and Pacino, who were around the period the film is set in, a lot of the film is inspired by Tarantino's own life in Hollywood. Mirroring the parallel universe that he generated in Inglourious Basterds, which although set in 'Nazi Germany' featured Hitler in just two scenes, here, too, there is speculation that Robbie's Sharon would be featured fleetingly while the focus would be on the world surrounding her. Tarantino has also said that Charles would also be shown in just a year of the film, 1969, and not before.

At any other time, a film such as Once Upon a Time In Hollywood with the names attached to it, a brand name for every generation of audience ranging from the early 20s to 80s, would have been enough to set the cash registers ringing. The time when the film releases on 9 August, 2019, which incidentally would also be the 50th anniversary of the Tate murder (how is that for marketing?), there would be as always be a great deal of focus on Tarantino but unlike before, it might not be of veneration.

Following The New York Times interview of Uma Thurman in February this year, where Tarantino's supposed muse accused him of abusive behavior on the films they had collaborated on to the extent of even deliberately putting her in harm's way by insisting that she perform a dangerous stunt in Kill Bill, Tarantino's stature as an auteur has taken a beating. Had it been some other filmmaker, perhaps he would not have had half a chance to attract marquee names for his project on the heels of the Thurman disclosure but not only did Tarantino 'bounce back' in just two months, in fact, also managed to cast two of the biggest male stars in the world. This is when he even admitted negligence that nearly got Thurman killed.

It is not like Tarantino has not apologised. But the way he carries on pushing women to the limits in his films in the name of creativity — such as choking Diane Kruger to get the blood vessels bulging in a way it did not loo movie-ish, or spitting on and choking Uma Thurman in Kill Bill to make it look authentic — and never has such an instance with a man say a John Travolta or Samuel L Jackson on his set reported — makes you believe that his aura as a filmmaker makes such action 'acceptable.' Worse still, with people like Tarantino such behaviour assumes an air of a kind of a pre-requiste to excel as a filmmakerand who knows what impact it leaves on future male filmmakers. In addition to this, Tarantino's decision to cast an Emile Hirsch, who was convicted of assaulting a Paramount executive in 2015 in front of a dozen witnesses, in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also shows how someone named in #MeToo Movement can not only make a comeback in a matter of weeks but also help reinstate other men who abused women in a professional environment without much thought, while the world applauds King Quentin as if nothing ever happened.

Updated Date: Jun 16, 2018 11:51:22 IST