Ten-year-old Julia Butters is certainly the breakout star of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” In the film, she plays co-star to Leonardo DiCaprio’s middling screen actor Rick Dalton, and the two wax philosophical together. She tells him the goal of acting is “to achieve 100% effectiveness. Which is impossible.” It’s a brief, but haunting moment.
Tarantino, it turns out, discovered the young starlet off of TV’s “American Housewife,” in which she stars as OCD-addled Anna-Kat Otto.
Speaking to IndieWire, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” producer David Heyman said, of all the cuts in the nearly three-hour film, he most mourns a tour-de-force third encounter with Dalton’s “Lancer” costar (Butters). “Quentin is adept at throwing out a great scene,” said Heyman. “If she was in, she’d get an Oscar nomination for that performance. But it didn’t serve the film. It’s all about the film rhythm, to get where it needs to be. He cut out fantastic scenes, and reshaped things that made sense of the film as a whole.”
“Quentin likes to have the TV on in the background while he’s writing and I happened to be on TV while he was writing my character. He looked up and saw me and said, ‘Maybe she can try this.’ I’m so happy that the TV was on at that time and that moment because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be in the movie,” Butters told The Hollywood Reporter.
According to a recent profile from Vanity Fair, DiCaprio compared Butters to a young Meryl Streep. ““I’m like ‘Guys, she was 20!’ And I’m 10! There’s a 10-year difference,” she said. “I’m so happy that he did [that] — and so mad that he did at the same time.”
Butters’ character Trudi was inspired by an actual character from the 1968 Western series “Lancer.” Though usually not allowed to watch Tarantino films, her mother did let her watch “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — albeit until the film’s bloody, insane climax.
Butters, who got her start in a 2014 episode of “Criminal Minds,” has also starred on episodes of “Transparent” and “The Kicks.”
Additional reporting by Anne Thompson.