In addition to the icon from the New Hollywood era, the usual Tarantino suspects are also due to appear in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.’
Quentin Tarantino has always been able to put together a good cast. His movies may be a pastiche of a variety of influences, but a lot of them work due to the merits of the many actors involved in bringing his characters to life. There are no forgettable roles in Tarantino movies, and his actors absolutely cannot miss a beat of his busy, wordy scripts.
Casting remains paramount when it comes to Tarantino’s highly-anticipated — if also highly-controversial — ninth feature. The director has brought together some older established greats with relatively newer talent to form one of his most eye-catching line-ups to date. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie were initially announced to star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Now, per Deadline, Tarantino has continued to bulk up the film’s cast with Burt Reynolds, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, and Michael Madsen.
The film will focus on a shifting Hollywood landscape in the late 1960s, as the industry was starting to forget about its classic mainstays. A fictional aging TV Western star named Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) attempts to come to grips with these changes alongside his equally fictitious stunt double (Pitt). However, everything in Dalton’s life seems to link back to his Hollywood roots: he is the neighbor of actress and model Sharon Tate (Robbie), who ends up falling victim to the Manson Family during their horrendous killing spree in August 1969.
According to Deadline’s report, Reynolds is circling the role of real-life rancher George Spahn, who used to rent out his LA ranch for the production of Hollywood Westerns. The nearly-blind 80-year-old comes into the picture due to his involvement with Charles Manson’s cult, letting them live on his ranch in the lead-up to the Tate murders. In lieu of paying rent, Manson ordered the women in the group to sleep with Spahn as well as act as his seeing-eye guides.
The casting of Reynolds to play a man who had such a conflicted, pivotal role in the perversion of industry myths is a self-referential move on Tarantino’s part. As a former regular of TV Westerns himself who became a star in the New Hollywood era with his breakout performance in the 1972 film Deliverance, Reynolds epitomized the kinds of movies that the industry was moving towards at the time.
The acclaim of Reynolds’ career allowed him to briefly encapsulate the scope of a bona fide Hollywood star. He was the biggest box office draw in America from 1978 to 1982. Yet he failed to maintain that brand and had a terrible habit of turning down roles that would turn out to become iconic. His later career continues to suffer when even well-received roles — such as Reynolds’ work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights — were shrouded by on-set issues and disagreements, and there was no real comeback in sight.
However, when asked by the New York Times why he remains in the acting business, Reynolds states that “maybe I’ve got my best work ahead.” Could that come in the form of a Tarantino film? The director’s penchant for making lasting impressions would absolutely work in Reynolds’ favor, even in a film shackled by debate and contention.
I’ve already written about my general distaste for the deeply salacious nature of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood when sharing news of Robbie’s involvement in March. Those feelings still remain throughout the course of these casting announcements, especially as more potentially unsavory male characters appear.
But having Reynolds play George Spahn at least makes sense in the metatextual way that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood could very well operate in. That coupled with the fact that Tarantino is reuniting with some really good actors who’ve featured in his films in the past — Roth in particular — generates interest too. In putting together a stellar crew of actors, Tarantino covers his bases