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‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ DP Robert Richardson on Tarantino’s ‘Playful’ New Movie and Not Filming on 70mm

"It oscillates between humorous, serious, spooky, and it’s playful," Richardson teased about Tarantino's ninth feature. "It’s not easily describable."

Robert Richardson Robert Richardson poses with his award for best cinematography for "Hugo" during the 84th Academy Awards, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles84th Academy Awards Press Room, Los Angeles, USA

Robert Richardson

Joel Ryan/AP/REX/Shutterstock

After filming Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” on 70mm film, cinematographer Robert Richardson and the director are returning to the more flexible 35mm format for the upcoming “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Richardson, who has shot every Tarantino film since “Kill Bill: Volume 1” (save for “Death Proof”), spoke to Collider about their collaboration, which marks Tarantino’s ninth feature. While the duo used 70mm on “The Hateful Eight” because of its single-location setting, “Hollywood” proved an entirely different challenge.

“We’re doing anamorphic 35, but we didn’t trespass into the 70mm realm for financial reasons, principally,” Richardson told the outlet. “The budget is—there are a hundred sets or something so they needed to cut back somewhere, and the added cost of 70mm is quite remarkable and it also has tremendous limitations like no zooms, and Quentin wanted zooms in the film so it required us to go to 35 anamorphic.”

Richardson wouldn’t give any spoilers away about the film’s secretive plot, although he promised fans the film is “very, very, very Quentin,” adding, “I think the tone of it is—it’s difficult to describe because it’s very fresh, but it oscillates between humorous, serious, spooky; it’s playful. It’s not easily describable.”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as a famous Western television star and his stuntman, respectively. The two men try to make the jump from television to film during the industry-changing year of 1969, and they also just happen to live next door to Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. Margot Robbie is taking on the role of Tate, who was murdered by members of the Manson Family cult. No one involved in the project is willing to reveal how Manson factors into “Hollywood,” not even Richardson.

“It’s beautiful. To work with Leo together with Brad… it’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, sort of the contemporary versions,” Richardson said about the project. “These are two massive stars, and they’re so talented. Margot [Robbie] is also phenomenal and wonderful to be around. There are a number of people that you will see within the film that haven’t had as much exposure that are remarkable. We’ve got Dakota Fanning in the movie and she—phew, is she a powerhouse. It’s a great cast.”

Brad Pitt Leonardo DiCaprio filming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio filming “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”


Richardson called the feature a “tremendously unique film,” which shouldn’t strike any Tarantino fan as too surprising. One of the most interesting tidbits Richardson gave was in comparing certain set pieces in the film to the House of the Blue Leaves sequence in “Kill Bill: Volume 1.” The DP said while the scale of that scene is larger, it has a similar personal connection to Tarantino and directly related to his love of cinema in a way that “Hollywood” will do as well.

“The set pieces are unique and they’re also extremely personal to Quentin in terms of his life in Los Angeles,” Richardson said. “Not his life in 1969 — he was too young — but his life in terms of living and where he went and films that were important from that time period. Like ‘2001’ will be sitting there, and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ you’ll see on the screen has been there for eight months. That kind of thing, to be able to see these films up on the Cinerama Dome, that’s what he did, he recreated the time period pretty accurately in terms of film. So for those who are film nerds, they’re gonna love it.”

Sony is set to release “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in theaters July 26, 2019.

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