In a fairly competitive category, Pitt beat out fellow nominees Tom Hanks (Fred Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict XVI in “The Two Popes”), Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa in “The Irishman”), and Joe Pesci (Russell Bufalino in “The Irishman”).
This is Pitt’s fourth nomination as an actor, and his first acting Oscar win. Previously, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1996 for “12 Monkeys,” for Best Actor in 2009 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” for Best Actor in 2012 for “Moneyball.”
As a producer, he has three Best Picture nominations: “Moneyball” (2012), “12 Years a Slave” (2014), and “The Big Short” (2016). He won for “12 Years a Slave,” which was his first ever Oscar win.
Pitt already won both the Golden Globe and the SAG award in the Best Supporting Actor category, and was fully expected to win the Oscar as well.
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IndieWire awards editor Anne Thompson predicted that Pitt would win the category, with Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”) potentially playing spoiler. Her bottom line: “Nobody can possibly catch up with Pitt’s performance as moccasin-wearing zen stuntman Cliff Booth, nor his awards circuit charm offensive (including witty, self-deprecating speeches — his ghost writer earned their fee — and hand-holding with his ex, Jennifer Aniston). While ‘The Two Popes’ is an unsung actor-fest that many voters love, Oscar voters want this key win for ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’.”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” received a total of 10 nominations. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2019, and was theatrically released in the U.S. on July 26, 2019.
The film has grossed $374 million worldwide and received universal praise from critics for Tarantino’s screenplay and direction, acting, cinematography, costume design, production values, and soundtrack.
Set in 1969 Los Angeles, during the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), former star of a 1950s western TV series, and his longtime stunt double and easygoing best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has very famous next-door neighbors: Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) — the filmmaker and budding actress whose futures will forever be altered by members of the Manson Family.
As with any Tarantino film, the reception for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” wasn’t without controversy. Although its context is a possibly-skewed memory of Cliff Booth’s, and not a “real” event in the narrative, the film’s portrayal of Bruce Lee drew much criticism from fans, contemporaries and Lee’s family.
Specifically, a key fight sequence involving Pitt’s character and Lee was the subject of much contention. In the scene, Lee challenges Cliff to a three-round fight on the set of “The Green Hornet” after Cliff insults him. Lee wins the first round by knocking Cliff off his feet. Cliff wins round two by launching Lee into the side of a car. But just as the final round is to begin, a “Green Hornet” stunt coordinator, played by Zoë Bell, arrives on set to puts an end to the contest, effectively calling the match a tie.
Although, according to stunt coordinator Robert Alonzo, the sequence was supposed to be much longer, with Cliff definitely beating Lee. But Pitt wasn’t comfortable with the idea of Lee losing the fight, and (along with Alonzo, who considers Lee a personal hero) petitioned Tarantino to alter the script, which he of course did.
But of Lee’s general portrayal, daughter, Shannon, said this: “[Bruce Lee] was continuously marginalized and treated like kind of a nuisance of a human being by white Hollywood, which is how he’s treated in the film.”
Tarantino responded to the criticism, saying Lee was “kind of an arrogant guy”, and that Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, wrote in her 1975 book “Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew,” that he could beat Muhammad Ali. But Cadwell was actually quoting a TV critic. In 1972, Lee himself said: “Everybody says I must fight Ali someday … Look at my hand. That’s a little Chinese hand. He’d kill me.”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” features a large ensemble cast led by DiCaprio, Pitt, Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, and Al Pacino.
It is the last film to feature Luke Perry, who died in March 2019.
Produced by Lynette Howell Taylor and Stephanie Allain — their first involvement with the Oscars — the 92nd Academy Awards were held on Sunday, February 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, in Hollywood, and was televised live on ABC. The Oscars are also televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.