Talk of a Quentin Tarantino TV show fired fans’ imaginations this week when the director said he had finished writing eight episodes of a TV show and planned to direct them next year. Tarantino didn’t share any details of the show, but several clues point to it being Bounty Law, the Western show-within-a-movie that starred Rick Dalton, the Leonardo DiCaprio character in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Some background, if you haven’t seen or recently rewatched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — Tarantino’s 2019 hit about a middle-aged actor (DiCaprio) reckoning with the notion that he may no longer be at his peak. His stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) tries to buck him up, and both look with envy at the rising fortunes of Rick’s next-door neighbor, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).
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In the film, Dalton has started taking “heavy,” or bad-guy roles, after years of starring on Bounty Law as bounty hunter Jake Cahill. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starts with a clip from Bounty Law, in which tough guy Cahill (played by Dalton, played by DiCaprio) brings rough-and-tumble bad guys to justice. Tarantino created a very detailed backstory for both Dalton and Bounty Law, and said after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came out that he was thinking about shooting several episodes of the series.
“As far as the Bounty Law shows, I want to do that, but it will take me a year and a half. It got an introduction from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but I don’t really consider it part of that movie, even though it is. This is not about Rick Dalton playing Jake Cahill. It’s about Jake Cahill,” Tarantino told Deadline in January 2020. “Where all this came from was, I ended up watching a bunch of Wanted, Dead or Alive, and The Rifleman, and Tales of Wells Fargo, these half-hour shows to get in the mindset of Bounty Law, the kind of show Rick was on. I’d liked them before, but I got really into them [and] the concept of telling a dramatic story in half an hour. You watch and think, wow, there’s a helluva lot of storytelling going on in 22 minutes. I thought, I wonder if I can do that? I ended up writing five half-hour episodes. So I’ll do them, and I will direct all of them.”
The plans to do the Tarantino TV show in “a year and a half” didn’t work out, for obvious reasons. When Deadline asked him about the state of the project last June, Tarantino confirmed he had written several episodes of Bounty Law, but said the project’s forward movement was slowed by COVID and the release of his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood novelization. He was also working at the time on Cinema Speculation, his book of film criticism, which came out earlier this month.
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The director shared details of what the Tarantino TV show would be, which led to lots of — not cinema speculation, but TV speculation. (Variety noted that Tarantino last worked in television when he directed two episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2005. And there were reports last year that he was in talked to direct episodes of a Justified revival for FX.
Tarantino is understandably a big fan of Justified, which is based on the works of Elmore Leonard. Tarantino famously adapted Leonard’s novel Rum Punch into the 1997 film Jackie Brown, the only Tarantino film that is not based on a completely original story. Tarantino cast Justified villain Walton Goggins in his 2015 film The Hateful 8, and cast Justified lead Timothy Olyphant in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The latter casting may tie together all the talk of a Quentin Tarantino TV show. In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Olyphant plays James Stacy, a hot young actor starring in the new TV series Lancer, which has cast Rick Dalton as the bad guy. Much of the middle section of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood takes place on the Lancer set, as Rick Dalton struggles to deliver a great performance while processing the fact that his Bounty Law days are behind him.
Also, as Tarantino noted in his 2020 Deadline interview, Bounty Law is “not about Rick Dalton playing Jake Cahill. It’s about Jake Cahill.” So an actor other than Leonardo DiCaprio could theoretically play the part, if DiCaprio isn’t up for shooting eight episodes of a 1950s or 1960s-style TV Western.
Representatives for Tarantino, DiCaprio and Sony did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.