Are you ready for a deep movie dive? Like, a Quentin Tarantino-level submersion?
The writer-director makes a two-and-a-half-hour appearance on the latest episode of the Pure Cinema Podcast to discuss upcoming screenings at Los Angeles’ New Beverly Cinema, which Tarantino owns and programs. The films talked about include his latest offering, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, with Tarantino teasing some of the real-life actors who inspired its lead characters.
“Leonardo DiCaprio plays an actor named Rick Dalton,” Tarantino tells Pure Cinema hosts Elric Kane and Brian Saur. “Rick had a very successful NBC series called Bounty Law. It started [in] the ’58-’59 season and ended in the ’63-’64 season. It came out the same season as Steve McQueen came out with Wanted Dead or Alive, and they’re pretty much identical shows. McQueen on Wanted Dead or Alive played a slim, cocksure bounty hunter named Josh, and on Bounty Law Rick Dalton played a slim, cocksure bounty hunter named Jake. And they were both equally popular on television for the time and the fan magazines played up the rivalry: ‘Josh or Jake, who’s the biggest hunk? We let our readers decide!’ He became quite popular and, like McQueen, during his hiatus, started doing movies… And they did okay, but during McQueen’s hiatus, eventually, he did The Magnificent Seven, and that was that. So, when [McQueen] goes back to his series, to finish his last season… he’s a f—ing movie star. Rick is still Jake… He doesn’t pull off the TV-to-movies transition.”
In Tarantino’s film, Brad Pitt plays Rick’s stunt double, Cliff Booth. On the podcast, Tarantino reveals that both he and Pitt independently decided that one point of inspiration for the Fight Club actor’s performance could be Tom Laughlin, the star of 1971’s action-thriller and box office hit Billy Jack, about a progressive-minded ex-Green Beret.
“Brad came over to the house,” says Tarantino. “He brought something he wanted to watch with me, and he hadn’t seen it in a long time, but he was thinking that this could be a good starting place… for his character, Cliff. He pulls out a DVD of Billy Jack and he went, ‘I was thinking maybe Tom Laughlin, maybe we should watch Billy Jack and think about that.’ And I go, ‘Brad, I have a 35 mm print of Billy Jack, threaded up on the projector, waiting for you to get here.’ He couldn’t believe that we both were thinking of Billy Jack — and more Tom Laughlin.”
Listen to the Pure Cinema episode above for more. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opens July 26.