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Twenty-five years to the day after Pulp Fiction bowed in the same venue, Quentin Tarantino unveiled Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, perhaps the most anticipated film to hit the Palais in Cannes in the ensuing years. And the result was nothing short of spectacular, drawing a six-minute standing ovation after the Cannes Film Festival world premiere and leaving audience members buzzing that his latest pic was fantastic.
Tarantino and the film’s stars — Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie — soaked up the deafening cheers.
After the screening, Tarantino told the assembled crowd, “To my wonderful actors, producers and the studio that helped me make this movie. Thank you for being such a fantastic audience, for the first time we ever showed it to an audience. See you on the Croisette!”
Once Upon a Time marks the ninth feature from Tarantino and rode into Cannes with Beatlemania-like hype, given that it marks the first film for DiCaprio in four years since his Oscar-winning turn in The Revenant. The new pic also features A-listers Pitt and Robbie in starring roles.
The premiere drew stars from all over the world, including Zhang Ziyi, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Guillaume Canet and Gilles Lellouche, along with directors Nadine Labaki and Xavier Dolan, adding luster to the A-list red carpet. Also on hand were the film’s Dakota Fanning as well as Adrien Brody and Michelle Rodriguez (chewing gum on the red carpet). Meanwhile, someone held a sign that read “Viva Tarantino.”
On the eve of the premiere, the director released a statement asking audience members for “no spoilers” when they wrote about the film, adding an extra layer of mystery to a project already filled with intrigue. At a Sony Pictures Classics party hours before the Once Upon a Time bow, Sony Entertainment chief Tom Rothman told The Hollywood Reporter: “I hope the no spoilers holds up. It is the greatest fucking ending ever.” (Sony is set to release the film July 26.) Ahead of the screening, Cannes head Thierry Fremaux made the same plea, so those who see the movie when it hits theaters in July can enjoy it spoiler-free.
The premiere, however, was not without drama, as a number of people, including film executives, weren’t able to get in.
“There were serious film people in line that were very disappointed,” said one American producer. “It was so sad, people were legitimately upset. There were people having meltdowns.”
The producer and his wife had tickets and made it as far as past the metal detector before being corralled into a pen they waited in.
“It was really frustrating to get there so early and get so close and have real tickets and be told by some French official ‘Nous sommes complet.’ It was surreal,” the producer said.
Tarantino’s return to Cannes this year is significant as it marks the 25th anniversary of the director’s Pulp Fiction winning the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. The Cannes regular also screened 2007’s Death Proof and 2009’s Inglourious Basterds in the festival’s competition and served as president of the jury in 2004.
Once Upon a Time had been expected in the original lineup, which was unveiled April 18, but Fremaux told reporters that day that the film wasn’t ready. The festival then announced the movie’s addition to the competition program on May 2.
“He was running really late,” Fremaux said Monday. “He finished shooting at the end of the year. … At the end of March, the film wasn’t quite ready.”
The 1969-set Once Upon a Time in Hollywood deals with “memories of [Tarantino’s] childhood, the Hollywood he knew,” Fremaux said. “It’s important to have Quentin Tarantino here because he’s one of the greatest directors of his generation. He’s a friend, and it’s very pleasant to have one’s friends coming back.”
The frenzied response to the pic’s world premiere offered the kind of jolt that Cannes needed, given that the festivities have been somewhat muted, with the exception of an electrifying screening of Rocketman on May 16 that was followed by a performance on the beach by Elton John and the film’s star, Taron Egerton.
Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die opened the 72nd edition of the festival on the French riviera on May 14. The fest runs through Saturday.
Five-time Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro G. Inarritu, who directed DiCaprio in The Revenant, leads the main competition jury for the films that are in the running for the Palme d’Or.
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