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One day after Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stormed the Palais in Cannes to a rapturous response, the director and his stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie faced the throng of international reporters at a jam-packed press conference during which DiCaprio declared, “It’s really a love letter to the industry.” But when Tarantino was asked about scenes that featured “rage against women,” he danced around it, invoking the need to keep his comments from providing spoilers.
Instead, Pitt, who appears in the most graphic scene depicting violence against women, answered the question more directly, saying, “I didn’t see it as a rage against individuals, but a rage against a loss of innocence.”
The 30-minute press conference focused on the events in Tarantino’s life that inspired the sprawling film that takes place in 1969 and touches on the famed Charles Manson cult that targeted actress Sharon Tate.
Tarantino talked about being inspired by the enduring interest in the Manson murders. “The impossibility of truly being able to understand it is what causes this fascination,” he said.
A reporter suggested that Robbie, an Oscar-nominated actress who has far less screen time than her two male co-stars and few lines in the film, was underused. To that, Tarantino, looking visibly annoyed, answered curtly, “I reject your hypothesis.”
Robbie followed up with her own take on her role, saying, “I think the moments that I got onscreen gave an opportunity to honor Sharon and her lightness. I don’t think it was intended to delve deeper. As Brad mentioned, I think the tragedy was ultimately the loss of innocence and to show those wonderful sides of her could be done quickly without speaking, and I did feel like I had a lot of time to explore the character event without dialogue.”
Tarantino was also asked about what he thinks of Roman Polanski, who was married to Tate at the time of her murder and who appears as a character in the film. 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. I’m a fan of Roman Polanski’s work, but particularly Rosemary’s Baby. I like it a lot.”
Asked if he discussed Once Upon a Time with Polanski, he said: “No, I didn’t.”
DiCaprio said he particularly identified with the character he played, a washed-up TV star looking for career redemption. “I think everyone at this table has felt like outsiders looking in to this industry,” he said.
Added the Oscar-winning actor: “This movie is his love letter to his industry with these two characters who are outsiders…. It’s really a love letter to the industry and the people [Tarantino] appreciates.”
Once Upon a Time landed in Cannes 25 years to the day after Pulp Fiction bowed in the same venue, with that film going on to win the Palme d’Or. Once Upon a Time will be very much in the mix again this year as it is playing in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival and has received rave reviews so far.
The film marks the ninth feature from Tarantino and DiCaprio’s first film in four years since his Oscar-winning turn in The Revenant. The new pic also features a number of high-profile cameos, including the late Luke Perry, Lena Dunham and Kurt Russell.