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How Quentin Tarantino And His Team Re-Created 1969 Hollywood

Feb 6, 2020
Originally published on February 6, 2020 8:21 am
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"Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. It's also up for costume and production design. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on how Quentin Tarantino and his team recreated Hollywood in 1969.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hollywood Boulevard has always been a nostalgic tourist spot - movie star hand and footprints in cement at the Chinese Theater; down the street, the Hollywood Wax Museum; and here, where I'm standing on Harrison Ford's sidewalk star, the famous Musso & Frank Grill, a mecca for movie moguls, starlets and wannabes for the past century. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino grew up in LA, and he remembers what Hollywood Boulevard was like in 1969.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: A lot of hippies or troubadours or vagabonds or runaways wandering the streets. But at the same time, though, the William Morris agents stopped wearing suits and wore Nehru jackets and wore their hair long. And it was common for a young Warner Brothers executive to have love beads show up at Musso & Frank's, you know?

DEL BARCO: Musso & Frank is one of the few landmarks that Tarantino didn't have to change or reimagine for "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood." The main characters, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, meet here for drinks with a film agent played by Al Pacino.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD")

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Rick Dalton) I'm Rick Dalton. It's my pleasure, Mr. Schwarz.

AL PACINO: (As Marvin Schwarz) Call me Marvin. Put it there. That your son?

DICAPRIO: (As Rick Dalton) No, that's my stunt double, Cliff Booth.

DEL BARCO: Tarantino's team found only a few other old landmarks still standing from '69 - the Capitol Records building, the Cinerama Dome and old movie marquees.

TARANTINO: They're almost like tombstones of an ancient Roman village.

DEL BARCO: Rather than use computer-generated images, Tarantino insisted on physically transforming some buildings back in time. So for a few weeks last year, his crew shut down streets for the production, and longtime Angelenos did double takes. For example, production designer Barbara Ling wrapped one building in pink- and purple-striped wallpaper to revamp it back to Pandora's Box nightclub. Ling had been the production designer for the 1991 movie "The Doors." She says it was harder this time to recreate 1960s Los Angeles.

BARBARA LING: LA's never been a preservation city. It just keeps reinventing itself. Even on Hollywood Boulevard, that east side is just becoming one sea of glass and steel buildings moving its way to Musso's, really.

DEL BARCO: Tarantino says his film was fictional, so it didn't have to be 100% historically accurate.

TARANTINO: We had a little bit of latitude to monkey around with things. Like, for instance, Peaches Records wasn't there on Hollywood Boulevard, but it was there, like, about, like, from '73 on. And so since it was a memory piece, it kind of worked that I could stick it on there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'")

JOSE FELICIANO: (Singing) Oh, California dreaming.

DEL BARCO: "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" also captures the way people dressed in 1969. Tarantino hired costume designer Arianne Phillips, Madonna's longtime collaborator. For this movie, she scoured vintage clothing stores, flea markets, garage sales and eBay.

ARIANNE PHILLIPS: Because costumes really create character, right?

DEL BARCO: DiCaprio's character, Rick Dalton, is a waning actor who played the villain in old TV westerns.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD")

DICAPRIO: (As Rick Dalton) It's official, old buddy. I'm a has-been.

DEL BARCO: Even offset, Rick wears cowboy boots.

TARANTINO: They're always stolen from whatever shoot that he has done before (laughter) - all the western movies he did, all his TV shows. He's always appropriated about, like, three pairs of boots from each movie.

DEL BARCO: By comparison, his best friend and stunt double wears a bright Hawaiian shirt over a T-shirt with a logo for Champion spark plugs.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD")

BRAD PITT: (As Cliff Booth) My name's Cliff.

MARGARET QUALLEY: (As Pussycat) Are you an actor?

PITT: (As Cliff Booth) No, I'm a stuntman.

(LAUGHTER)

DEL BARCO: Like the actor Steve McQueen and a lot of hippies, Cliff wears moccasins.

TARANTINO: He's not a hippie, but he's not against them the way Rick is. He doesn't - he's not as threatened by them. He's - there's some fun to be had here (laughter).

PHILLIPS: He's an outsider, you know? He's an outsider. And also, I love just the - moccasins are soft shoe, right?

TARANTINO: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: So that's actually the ultimate badass thing for a stunt man to wear, right?

DEL BARCO: Phillips also dressed Margot Robbie as the real-life actress whose story is reimagined.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD")

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Sharon Tate) I'm in the movie. I'm Sharon Tate.

DEL BARCO: She wears shorts, a long snakeskin coat, go-go boots, and sometimes she goes barefoot. Phillips says Tate's sister was a consultant on the movie.

PHILLIPS: Debra Tate was kind enough to loan us some of Sharon's personal jewelry. Margot wore it more as kind of a talisman - and kind of be reminded, like, we're doing a story about a real person here.

DEL BARCO: A real person whose fate was refashioned once upon a time by Quentin Tarantino and his Oscar-nominated team.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TREAT HER RIGHT")

ROY HEAD AND THE TRAITS: (Singing) Hey.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Hollywood.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROY HEAD AND THE TRAITS' "TREAT HER RIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.