PTA Explains the Humanity of Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood'

Two master filmmakers talk about the craft. 

It's been a year since we all saw Once Upon a Hollywood and since then Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson broke onto the scene parallel to one another and defined much of independent cinema in the 1990s. Since then, their careers have continued to grow and expand. So has the scope of their dreaming and of the stories they execute. 

One of the coolest things about these guys is that they never feel in competition. Both root for the other and seem to delight in watching the work presented by the other. Check out them chatting on this podcast from The Film Stage and let's look at some of PTA's comments below. 

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I would give my left arm to get insight from either of these guys on my ideas, so hearing them gush about Tarantino's latest 

PTA start with this gem, "This is the most magnificent film. I have seen it four and half times now… one of the things I love about this movie is how much joy there is in it. Just pure joy and your movies always have the joy of making the movie and that they are always filled with that, but there’s something else going on here in this movie that you haven’t had before. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s like the world’s expert made a movie about the thing he knows most about, which is the movies, this city, and the humanity of it." 

I think that humanness at the center of this movie is Tarantino at his most emotional. It's fitting that it's a movie about movies, because we know Tarantino really cares about the stories and actors who never got their second shot. Not just the bit Western players but the Sharon Tate's of the world. 

People whose voices were snuffed by the inhumanity of the world. 

Tarantino says that he took extra care while crafting Sharon Tate. He was conscious she was a real person, but he also wanted to make sure she was a presence. "I tried to not turn Sharon into a Quentin Tarantino character. Rick’s a Quentin Tarantino character. Cliff’s a Quentin Tarantino character. Even McQueen is a bit of Quentin Tarantino character.

In a way, I didn’t want Sharon to be a character. I wanted her to be the person that she is. Now, it’s only my interpretation of the person from what I’ve learned about and I’ve definitely been leaning into the bride in the light stuff, but that really seems to be who she is. If there are other aspects of her out there, I couldn’t find it. But the thing is, was not about her being a character, but the real person. She was almost supposed to represent normalcy in the thing. She doesn’t have any plot to do. We’re watching her live her life because that’s what was robbed from her.

The fact that she is a person cosigned to history for the most part defined completely and utterly by her tragic death. And in these last four weeks people have watched Margot [Robbie] play this person and they saw that she was more that. She was a lovely person and they get a sense of her spirit and they get a sense of her life and you actually watch her doing things people do in a life–watching errands, driving a car, just doing life stuff, and you even got to see the real Sharon juxtaposed into that. And now I actually think that people will think about her differently than they thought before.

It’s not the beginning and end-all of Sharon. There’s still more to learn about her and everything, but I think saving her from her tombstone, the movie has done that to a small degree, but I think a significant degree."

They both admire Di Caprio, one of the stars at the center of the movie. He's also rumored to be in OTA's new movie too. PTA says, "Leo is consistently–when he decides to be–the f*cking funniest actor in Hollywood. Right? When he flips that switch…."

Tarantino answered, But truly, what’s so funny about him is that he’s not playing it funny. He’s playing it so f*cking serious. And that’s what so ridiculous."

PTA followed up with, "Absolutely. His full commitment to that 'sexy Hamlet'."

This kind of stuff is so much fun. Two of our greatest working directors talking about stories and character development. 

And they also nerded out on making the movie. PTA's favorite sequence was the montage. He really dug the way it changed his view of Los Angeles, "F*cking Quentin took care of the neon signs in LA. Like you stopped a minute to even take care of that, which living in the city… it’s such a beautiful moment when that happens, when the sun’s just going down and the lights come on and [The Rolling] Stones’ “Out of Time” is playing. I leaned over to you [and said], It breaks my heart. It absolutely breaks my f*cking heart because you feel that inevitability coming as that song is coming."

What were your favorite parts of the movie? Of the conversation between these two great filmmakers? Let us know in the comments.      

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Inherent Vice and OUATIH are both awful movies. Far too long, boring, decadent, indulgent, aimless, pointless. To boot, OUATIH is outright misogynistic and disdainful of the audience. It's impossible to watch or appreciate either of them non-ironically even if you're a total film nerd. PTA and Tarantino made them as exercises in testing how much they can punish an audience with nostalgia for a time and place that no one cares about except themselves. Would love for anyone to try to explain why either movie is more entertaining than an episode of Spongebob.

August 3, 2020 at 1:14PM, Edited August 3, 1:14PM


"Richard"/Jason, it sounds like you think a movie that has a long dolly shot, or an ironic snap zoom is automatically a masterpiece. Maybe the next time you feel the need to explain to your mom why Phantom Thread is a masterpiece, just spare her the torture and clean the dishes instead.

August 4, 2020 at 12:36AM


PTA is dead on accurate about the humanity in this film. What's most amazing might be the pacing. QT gave us 2:40 of film that never felt long, yet had interstitial scenes and long (Sharon Tate) sequences that were not "on story," to use a little development speak. So ... Favorite Scene is a tough one. Bruce Lee, Pacino, Angry Hamlet. But to get back to the humanity, I'd choose the ending, when the murder victims welcome the fictional cowboy over for a drink. Check out that moment when the gates open, and the music that follows, so perfect, such a great cap on the relief and joy we felt when we saw the bad guys get it, and the innocents live.

August 6, 2020 at 10:47AM, Edited August 6, 10:47AM

John C Richards

Jason Hellerman, the writer of this article... are you high? I've listened to the entire podcast you linked, neither QT or PTA appear at all. Did you just link the wrong episode? Also, the entire article is FULL of grammatical errors, not to mention a sentence that just ends halfway and doesn't go anywhere. What the hell? Are you just trolling?

August 17, 2020 at 1:36AM, Edited August 17, 1:36AM


Woild have loved to hear the actual podcast instead of this shitty clickbate re-telling.

August 29, 2020 at 12:18PM

Joe Sand
Actor, Writer, Director, Editor