Quentin Tarantino revealed on the ReelBlend podcast that his favorite scene in the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” script was removed from the film’s theatrical release. The scene was an emotional phone conversation between Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and child actor Trudi Fraser (Julie Butters), footage of which debuted in the trailer for the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” novelization.
“That was my favorite scene in the script. So the idea that that wouldn’t be in the movie was unfathomable,” Tarantino said. “I think it was probably Leo’s favorite scene that he shot. We were in tears. It was the only time … I’ve gotten misty-eyed every once in a while when I was shooting this scene versus that scene. But that thing, I mean, Julia [Butters] was in tears every time we finished every take.”
“Hollywood” producer David Heyman told IndieWire after the film opened in theaters that Butters would’ve earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress had Tarantino left this scene in the theatrical cut, adding, “Quentin is adept at throwing out a great scene. 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.”
Tarantino told ReelBlend that it’s not uncommon to have to cut out “scenes that are really terrific” from a theatrical cut because “a timeline imposes itself on the cut. And if it falls outside of that timeline, then no matter how good it is, it’s got to go.”
“The reason it’s not in the film is a two-fold one,” Tarantino said regarding cutting the DiCaprio-Butters phone conversation. “It seems like an ending to the movie. Which actually was okay in the script, because in the script I looked at everything that happens in February as part of a three-act structure. And then the stuff that happens on the night of the murder as an epilogue. But that was the wrong way to think about it. Once we started putting the movie together, the stuff that happens in August isn’t an epilogue. It’s the third act. We’ve got to look at it that way.”
Tarantino continued, “When we really worked on assembly … we realized after Spahn Ranch, that ends the February section. There’s no coming back from that. That is the ending of that. And now we can’t just end it with the Spahn Ranch. So the idea is, after Spahn Ranch, we have to wrap up February as soon as we possibly can. And then once we do, then we go into August.”
The phone conversation is included in Tarantino’s “Hollywood” novel, which is now available to purchase. Read IndieWire’s glowing review of the novel here.