The Hollywood Reporter said critics had "an overall positive view," with some calling it "Tarantino's love letter to '60s L.A.," praising its cast and setting, while others were "divided on its ending." ReelViews' James Berardinelli awarded the film 3.5 stars out of 4, saying it was "made by a movie-lover for movie-lovers. And even those who don't qualify may still enjoy the hell out of it." RogerEbert.com's Brian Tallerico gave it four out of four stars, calling it "layered and ambitious, the product of a confident filmmaker working with collaborators completely in tune with his vision". The Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper described it as "a brilliant and sometimes outrageously fantastic mash-up of real-life events and characters with pure fiction," giving it full marks. Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman called it a "heady engrossing collage of a film—but not, in the end, a masterpiece." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it five out of five stars, praising Pitt and DiCaprio's performances and calling it "Tarantino's dazzling LA redemption song." Steve Pond of TheWrap said: "Big, brash, ridiculous, too long, and in the end invigorating, the film is a grand playground for its director to fetishize old pop culture and bring his gleeful perversity to the craft of moviemaking." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film 4.5 out of 5 stars, remarking that "All the actors, in roles large and small, bring their A games to the film. Two hours and 40 minutes can feel long for some. I wouldn't change a frame."
When casting the leads, Tarantino invited Pitt, DiCaprio, and Robbie to his house to read the only copy of the full script, to prevent leaks. When Butler auditioned, he did not know which character it was for. Tarantino told him it was for a villain or a hero on Lancer, when in fact it was for "Tex" Watson. To prepare for her audition, Maya Hawke practiced with her father, Ethan Hawke. She said the process was unlike any other except maybe auditioning for drama school, and during it they worked on the scene in many different ways, with different combinations of people. Willis auditioned for two roles, neither of which she got, then was offered the part of Joanna Pettet. Sydney Sweeney said everyone she auditioned with did so for the same character, then were told they could do extra credit. Some did artwork, and she wrote a letter in character. Julia Butters says her sitcom American Housewife was on while Tarantino was writing her character, Trudi Fraser. He looked up and said, "Maybe she can try this."More Info
Announced in July 2017, it is the first Tarantino film not to involve Bob and Harvey Weinstein, as Tarantino ended his partnership with the brothers following the sexual abuse allegations against the latter. After a bidding war, the film was distributed by Sony Pictures, which met Tarantino's demands including final cut privilege. Pitt, DiCaprio, Robbie, Zoë Bell, Kurt Russell, and others joined the cast between January and June 2018. Principal photography lasted from June through November around Los Angeles. This was the final film to feature Luke Perry, who died on March 4, 2019.More Info
After the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations, Tarantino cut ties with Weinstein and sought a new distributor, after having worked with Weinstein for his entire career. At this point, Leonardo DiCaprio was revealed to be among a short list of actors Tarantino was considering for the film. A short time later, reports circulated that studios were bidding for the film set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, that Tom Cruise was in talks for one of the leads, and that David Heyman had joined as a producer, along with Tarantino and Shannon McIntosh. Tarantino later revealed the role Cruise was considered for to be that of Cliff Booth.More Info
Tarantino's directive was to turn Los Angeles of 2018 into Los Angeles of 1969 without CGI. For this, Tarantino tapped into previous collaborators for production: editor Fred Raskin, cinematographer Robert Richardson, sound editor Wylie Stateman and makeup artist Heba Thorisdottir. He also brought first-time collaborators, production designer Barbara Ling, based on her work in recreating historical settings in The Doors, and costume designer Arianne Phillips, who had a strong client list to her name including Tom Ford, James Mangold and Madonna.More Info
Music by Bernard Herrmann created for Torn Curtain is used in the Spahn Ranch scene. Herrman's music from that film included in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is "The Killing", and "The Radiogram". Other music of his used is "The Rocks", and "The Return" (from Have Gun Will Travel). Also used are the themes from Hell River by Vojislav Borisavljevic, Against a Crooked Sky by Alexis de Azevedo, Apocalypse Joe by Bruno Nicolai, and Mannix by Lalo Schifrin. Also, "Paxton Quigley's Had the Course" (from Three in the Attic), "The Bed" by Ennio Morricone (from Danger: Diabolik), "Ecce Homo" (from Sartana Does Not Forgive) and "Mexican Western" (from Any Gun Can Play) by Francesco De Masi, "Cooler" by Elmer Bernstein (from The Great Escape), "Freya Bangs", "Freya", "Karate Dance", and "TV Screen" (from The Wrecking Crew), "Theme from It's Happening" by Paul Revere & the Raiders, "Dalton Gang Ride Entrance" performed by Tom Slocum, John Bird, and the Cattle Annie Band (from Cattle Annie and Little Britches), the "Batman Theme" (from Batman), the "FBI Theme and Score Cues" (from The F.B.I.), and "Miss Lilly Langtry" and "Judge Roy Bean's Theme" by Maurice Jarre (from The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean).More Info
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