19 Things You Didn't Know About Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stars Leonardo DICaprio, Brad Pitt and MArgot Robbie and is set to be a major awards contender at the 2020 SAG Awards

By Tierney Bricker Jan 16, 2020 11:00 AMTags
Watch: Brad Pitt Spills BTS Details on "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Will Quentin Tarantino's ninth film have fairy tale ending?

Heading into the 2020 SAG Awards on Sunday night, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood is one of the frontrunner, earning nominations in four categories, including nods for its two leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt

The summer blockbuster takes place in Hollywood in 1969, centering on Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a struggling has-been actor, and war veteran Cliff Booth (Pitt), his stunt double and best friend. Years in the making, OUATiH interweaves their story with the tragic true story of Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, the up and coming actress who was murdered when she was eight months pregnant by the Manson Family cult. 

Given its all-star cast, which also includes Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, the and the late Burt Reynolds and Luke Perry and iconic director and writer, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood has already won major awards heading into the final weeks of awards season, with Pitt taking home the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama and Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay.

19 Things You Didn't Know About Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

But the movie almost didn't happen, and early on, it had a pretty different (and equally as A-list) cast shaping up before two of the most celebrated actors of their generation signed on, with one even taking a major pay cut to collaborate with Tarantino again. (DiCaprio starred in 2012's Django Unchained while Pitt starred in 2009's Inglourious Basterds after first appearing in 1993's True Romance.)

Here are 19 things you might not know about Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, including the co-star both Pitt and DiCaprio were starstruck by, the expensive prop DiCaprio provided to production and the iconic line Pitt ad-libbed on the spot...

1. While Tarantino has called the movie the "most personal" one he's ever made, it almost never got made, as the director spent five years working on it as a novel. "I let it become what it wanted to become," he told Esquire. "For a long time, I didn't want to accept it. Then I did."

2. Because it was his "love letter to L.A." and considered 1969 the "year that formed" him, growing up in Los Angeles, Tarantino had only one copy of the script for actors to read before signing on. Oh, and they had to read it in front of him., with Pitt telling Esquire, "In order to read, I had to go to Quentin's house and sit on his patio." DiCaprio also read it in the same spot.

3. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sony nabbed the sought-after rights to the film only after agreeing to Tarantino's demands, including a near-$100 million budget, final cut, "extraordinary creative controls" and 25 percent of the first-dollar gross. Plus, they reportedly agreed to revert the film rights back to him after 10-20 years. 

4. Before the film's cast was set, early reports suggested Samuel L. Jackson, one of Tarantino's go-to stars, was in talks, as well as Jennifer Lawrence (though not for the role of Sharon Tate). And before Pitt signed on, Tom Cruise was rumored to be in talks to star opposite DiCaprio, the first actor officially cast. 

5. DiCaprio halved his usual $20 million salary in order to keep the film's budget down, per Variety.

6. When it came to finding the film's young breakout star in Julia Butters, Tarantino simply cast her while watching one of his favorite sitcoms. 

"It's a funny story. I'm on this family sitcom called American Housewife. Quentin likes to have the TV on in the background while he's writing and I happened to be on TV while he was writing my character," the 10-year-old told THR. "He looked up and saw me and said, 'Maybe she can try this.' I'm so happy that the TV was on at that time and that moment because if it hadn't, I wouldn't be in the movie."

7. The biggest casting news when it came to the film was Robbie as Sharon Tate, with Tate's sister Debra Tate originally speaking out against the project. 

"It's been exploitative since day one. It's been the case since the media went crazy and has perpetuated mistruths making things even more salacious. It's now morphed into something that is more fictionalized than truth at this point," Tate said in 2018, Deadline. "To celebrate the killers and the darkest portion of society as being sexy or acceptable in any way, shape or form is just perpetuating the worst of our society. I am vehemently opposed to anything that does that. I've been dealing with this for 50 years now."

8. But after visiting the set and meeting Robbie, Tate eventually came around to the project, even lending the Australian star some of her sister's jewelry to wear.  "That was an amazing opportunity that if it wasn't for Debra would not have been possible,' Robbie told Today. "It was sometimes very sad to be that closely connected with real life Sharon."

9. Originally cast to play ranch owner George Spahn, legendary actor Burt Reynolds died just before he was set to shoot his scenes, with Bruce Dern ultimately taking over the role. "I'll tell you one of the greatest moments I've had in these however many years we've been at it in this town: getting to spend two days with Burt Reynolds on this film," Pitt told Esquire of rehearsing with Reynolds before his death. "It was a f--king pleasure." 

10. The cast and crew also experienced another heartbreaking death after production wrapped, when star Luke Perry died in March 2019 at the age of 52 due to a stroke; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood...was his last film. And the Beverly Hills, 90210 and Riverdale star left quite an impression on his co-stars, both of whom idolized him while coming up in the industry.

''That's Luke f--king Perry!' We were like kids in the candy shop because I remember going to the studios and [Beverly Hills, 90210] was going on and he was that icon of coolness for us as teenagers," Pitt told Esquire. "It was this strange burst of excitement that I had, to be able to act with him."

11. After auditioning for two different parts, Rumer Willis had accepted that she would not be in the film, telling THR, "I thought, 'Okay, well, at least I got the chance to audition.' I felt so grateful." But then, "Three days before my 30th birthday, I got the call that they would love for me to play this part. I said, 'Whatever it is, sign me up.'" The part was Joann Pettet, a friend of Tate's. 

12. For Austin Butler, he learned soon after his audition that he landed a coveted role...it was just the longest audition of his life. 

"Normally you go into an audition and you're there for 20 minutes and you're gone. I was there for almost 12 hours, and he gave me the job at the end of the day," the actor,  who plays Manson family cult member Tex Watson, told WWD. "Which never happens. We did a handshake deal at the end of the day and he said, ‘Do you want to do it?' And I said ‘yes, you just made my life' and I gave him a hug.

13. When it came to coming up with a title for his epic film, Tarantino struggled, long referring to it as Magnum Opus before settling on Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. "Well, there is a fairy-tale aspect, so the title fits pretty good. But this is a memory piece also. So it's not historical fact per se," Tarantino explained to Esquire. "It is a Hollywood of reality—but a Hollywood of the mind at the same time. I was so happy with the title, but I was afraid to put it into the atmosphere."

14. In the film, Tate visits a bookstore and admires a Maltese Falcon statue. And guess what? It's the real one from the 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon, as DiCaprio won a bid in 2010, purchasing the statue for a reported $325,000.

15. During their joint interview with Esquire, Pitt revealed to DiCaprio that his first-ever acting job was guest-starring on his hit sitcom, Growing Pains.

16. One of the film's most notable lines—"Hey, you're Rick f--king Dalton. Don't you forget that."—was actually an ad-lib from Pitt, based on a similar thing a guy said to him while filming a movie in the early nineties that has stuck with the superstar ever since.

"I was pretty low. And this guy was basically saying to me, 'Get your head up, hold your head up. Quit your whining. You're Brad f--king Pitt. I would like to be Brad fucking Pitt,''" he recalled to Esquire. "It did me a favor. I needed to hear it. That day, I flashed on that. The way Quentin's scene was constructed, it reminded me of it."

17. In order to keep the film's dramatic ending a secret, only DiCaprio, Pitt, Robbie  and producer David Heyman were allowed to read the full-script, with everyone else receiving only their scenes or the script with the last 30 pages removed. 

"I hadn't read the very ending, so it was a surprise to me exactly how it goes down," star Margaret Qualley told IndieWire. "I had heard rumors, but the last little bit I did not have the opportunity to read. It was super hush-hush, and we weren't allowed to know, but Brad told me. I was like, 'Brad, how does the movie end, I don't know, I want to know!' And then he told me. And I was like, 'Cool, thanks.'"

18. After Tarantino's ninth film finally made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019, the director receiving a whopping seven-minute standing ovation as soon as the screening finished. 

19. After working on Bounty Law, the fictional TV series that DiCaprio's character stars in, for the film, Tarantino was inspired to start working on it as a real TV series, he revealed to Deadline, finding himself drawn to the character of Jake Cahill. "I've written five different episodes for a possible Bounty Law black-and-white half hour Western show," he said, though he added, "I can't imagine Leonardo is going to want to do it. Cast somebody else? If he wants to do it that would be great. I'm not planning on that but I have an outline for about three other episodes."