Editor’s Note: Spoilers ahead for the ending of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Quentin Tarantino’s longtime first assistant director William Paul Clark didn’t start out in the pictures — he climbed his way up the ranks after wanting to escape the hollow life of being a stockbroker. Going back to 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” he’s been the keeper of many of Tarantino’s secrets, and there are many, as the filmmaker is notorious for keeping his scripts under lock and key, going to lengths as great as supervising the investors reading his scripts.
Such was the case for the super-secret last act of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” in which Tarantino rewrites the gruesome Cielo Drive murder of Sharon Tate and her friends to instead brutally butcher the Manson family acolytes who try and kill her. According to a new interview with Filmmaker Magazine with Clark about the film, the last act was sequestered in a vault and only given to those who absolutely needed to read that portion of the script.
“We kept the third act in a safe in the accounting department. You come, you get the script, you go into the little room, you go read the third act,” Clark said. “When you’re done, you give the script back, they put it back in the safe and you leave. You take some notes. If you need to refer to something again, you go back.”
Clark also said the safe needed to be carried with the crew even during production. “When we got out on location, we just brought a safe and you go to the producer’s trailer if you need to read it. The hardest part was getting over the fear of not having the material at your fingertips all the time. Once people got over that fear, it wasn’t an issue,” he said.
After the Cannes premiere of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Tarantino was quick to urge press to keep spoilers on the QT. (There was, at one point shortly after, a fake plot synopsis on Wikipedia that said the film ended with Bruce Lee busting into Tate’s house and offing the Manson clan.)
William Paul Clark added endings are often a source of mystery on a Quentin Tarantino set, including with 2009’s revisionist Holocaust-era epic “Inglourious Basterds,” and 2012’s Antebellum revenge film “Django Unchained.” “Well, the ending for ‘Inglourious Basterds’ wasn’t in the script anywhere,” Clark said. “That was completely reworked by him over the Christmas holiday that we had taken and never put into script format. It was basically an outline with little snippets of dialogue. He wrote this out by hand and handed me a stack of yellow ruled paper.”
Meanwhile, for “Django,” Clark said, “The final shootout…where we killed around 40 overseers wasn’t in the script. I mean, I was in that scene, because Quentin kept saying, ‘We need more people.’ I killed a couple of PAs. Anybody who could fit, we’d put in, to get more guns in there. It just had to get bigger and bigger to top what we had done in the barn earlier. The whole ending — the dynamite and everything — was all different from what was in the original script. The last month of Django was quite an exercise in flexibility.”
Read the whole interview over at Filmmaker Magazine.