This morning, the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s 9th feature film, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood hit the Internet. Not much is known about the plot, except that it concerns a TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) trying to break into feature films against the backdrop of the infamous Manson Family Murders of August 1969. It looks extremely promising:
The choice of setting is interesting, as the summer of 1969 was a crucial inflection point in Hollywood history. Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider had just sounded the death knell for the old studio system; actresses like Sharon Tate and her directors like her husband, Roman Polanski, were pushing the boundaries of popular cinema; and countercultural forces were ascendant everywhere. With the old gatekeepers cast aside, it was possible for the aggressively strange and itinerant guru, Charlie Manson, to talk his way into the good graces of everyone from Universal Studios to the Beach Boys. Manson’s ability to get into the room on major film and music projects in 1969 presaged the New Hollywood of the 1970s. What Tarantino makes of all this is an open question. The trailer doesn’t tip its hand either way.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood marks the fourth consecutive period piece from Tarantino, but only the second time in his career that he has strayed so close to real-life history. Since Inglourious Basterds famously rewrote World War II in its finale, it’s tempting to imagine a rewriting of August 1969 that doesn’t end quite so tragically.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood opens July 26.