After debuting his star-studded “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” during a glittering Tuesday night premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino saddled up for the next stop on the film festival circuit: a packed press conference on Wednesday morning. Joined by stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie, press jostled to ask questions, including one that has been nagging at fans and journalists alike since the reveal that Tarantino’s latest film would include Robbie starring as Sharon Tate in the days leading up to her 1969 murder at the hands of Charles Manson’s cult.
Did Tarantino consult with fellow filmmaker Roman Polanski on the scenes involving Tate, Polanski’s second wife who was pregnant with their child at the time of her murder? Tarantino, for once, was succinct: “No, I didn’t.”
Asked about his wider relationship with Polanski, who has been living in Europe since fleeing America after pleading guilty to statutory rape in 1977, Tarantino was a touch more effusive.
The director said, “I’ve met him a couple of times. I don’t really talk about him as the greatest director but as the hottest, at that time. It’s almost unfathomable to think of how much ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ made in its day. It was common for a film to make $8 million. It made like $35 million.”
He added, “I’m a fan of Roman Polanski’s work, but particularly ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ I like it a lot.”
In the film’s official press notes, Tarantino also shies away from casting the film as being particularly Polanski-centric in any way, instead focusing on the inherent tension between the various characters and social strata that populate the film. “In this town, these people can all exist right next to each other,” said Tarantino in the press notes. “The idea of exploring that time, and that era of Los Angeles, and that era of Hollywood, with these different strata – that’s what attracted me.”
The film stars DiCaprio as fictional movie star Rick Dalton and Pitt as his loyal stuntman Cliff Booth and centers around their attempts to move from the world of television to Hollywood moviemaking in the golden age of 1969. During this wild time, Rick literally lives next door to Tate and Polanski’s Cielo Drive home, the site of the heinous murders.
In July 2018, TMZ reported that Tarantino arranged a meeting with Sharon Tate’s sister Debra Tate after she spoke to Deadline about her reservations with the project. In March 2018, Tate told the outlet, “To celebrate the killers and the darkest portion of society as being sexy or acceptable in any way, shape or form is just perpetuating the worst of our society. I am vehemently opposed to anything that does that. I’ve been dealing with this for 50 years now.”
The meeting apparently went well, and Tate told TMZ at the time, “This movie is not what people would expect it to be when you combine the Tarantino and Manson names.” Debra Tate is mentioned in the “Special Thanks” section of the film’s credits. Polanski is not.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” premiered in Competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Sony Pictures releases it theatrically on July 26, 2019.