Quentin Tarantino: What Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood Borrows From The Stuntman

Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood Richard Rush The Stuntman

Quentin Tarantino says part of the story structure of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is built around an idea from another movie about moviemaking: Richard Rush’s The Stuntman.

When MovieMaker asked Tarantino to break down how he wrote Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, he revealed that Rush’s 1980 film was a prime example of how he could fit action scenes into his film’s larger dramatic narrative. The Stuntman follows a fugitive war veteran (Steve Railsback) who poses as a stunt double on the set of a World War I movie to evade capture. 

Also Read: Quentin Tarantino: Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

“Richard Rush’s idea was, ‘OK, I can do an interesting drama that’s technically about filmmaking, but what the movie really is is a satirical study of paranoia,” Tarantino said. “So he did this artistic study of paranoia with comic banter, but because they’re filming a WWI action movie within the movie, he could have a bunch of action genre movie scenes that he commits to 100 percent.”

Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Richard Rush The Stuntman
Peter O’Toole and Steve Railsback in The Stuntman

Tarantino said he doesn’t think Rush “100 percent pulls off that really neat idea,” though—if only because of a plot hole he can’t get over. 

“The problem with the WWI action movie stuff is that he shoots the whole movie at this one hotel in Santa Barbara where a lot of movies were shot, which had this very famous big red roof,” Tarantino said. “So it looks like all of WWI was fought at this hotel! I didn’t think about that in ’79 when I saw it, but whenever I watch it now, it’s like, ‘OK, does any action scene not involve the roof of this hotel?’ Still, the idea is really neat, so I wanted to play around with that.”

Also Read: Quentin Tarantino on Making Movies, Finding Love, and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Tarantino said he used Rush’s plot device in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood to take us on the set of the western TV series Lancer, where star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) plays the bad guy while battling his own personal demons. 

Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt on the set of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Photo by Andrew Cooper

“I’ve got my story of changing times and my story of characters who are with the times and characters who are out of the times. Yet, because my lead character is an actor who’s done action movies and TV for a long time, I can show scenes from his movies,” Tarantino explained. “I can actually have him film his western TV show, and during those sequences I can commit to them as action sequences. It’s not a Saturday Night Live sequence. Rick Dalton’s been working on this real TV western of that time called Lancer, and right in the middle of the movie, boom—you’re now plunged into a scene of Lancer.”

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is now in theaters and available on Digital and on Blu ray.

Featured image photo by Andrew Cooper.

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