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A Brief History of Quentin Tarantino and the Small Screen

The ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ director is turning the movie’s fictional show ‘Bounty Law’ into a miniseries. But he is no stranger to television.
Bounty Law
By  · Published on January 22nd, 2020

The small screen is where all of the most interesting stories are being told at the moment. Furthermore, networks and streaming services are willing to open up their checkbooks to fund shows that attract A-list talent in front of and behind the camera. In recent years, several notable Hollywood directors, including David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh, have embraced television more, and now Quentin Tarantino appears to be interested in his own series.

As reported by Deadline, the director plans on expanding the Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood universe by turning its fictional show Bounty Law into a limited series. After completing the screenplay for the movie, he wrote five episodes worth of material, and now he wants to bring them to life. Should the project go ahead, Tarantino will direct all of the episodes himself, and they will be shot on film and in black-and-white.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, Bounty Law is a Western TV series  within the film that stars Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton character. In the show, Dalton plays a bounty hunter that fights injustices in the wild frontier, similar to Steve McQueen’s character in Wanted Dead or Alive. Tarantino was inspired by that show when he created Bounty Law, along with The Rifleman and Tales of Wells Fargo, and those are the types of classic series that this one will hang out with.

Most big-time Hollywood directors who have turned their attention to television have been interested in complex storytelling. Bounty Law, on the other hand, will be a throwback to the days of simplicity. Each episode is a new adventure that presents a fresh hurdle for the protagonist to overcome within a short running time. According to Tarantino, the succinct nature of those shows is what makes them so appealing to him.

“The idea that you could write something like 24 minutes, where there was so much story crammed in those half hour shows, with a real beginning and a middle and an end. Also it was kind of fun because you can’t just keep doubling down and exploring. At some point, you’ve got to wrap it up. I really liked that idea.”

Unfortunately, Tarantino doesn’t expect DiCaprio to be interested in reprising the role. The good news, however, is that plenty of other excellent actors will probably jump at the opportunity to be involved. Timothy Olyphant, who portrayed Lancer‘s James Stacy in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, would be a perfect choice. Just saying. Or how about Walton Goggins? One can dream.

The news of Tarantino jumping to the small screen is quite surprising, but it shouldn’t be. He’s flirted with the idea of making a TV show more than once throughout his career. He even directed an episode of ER back in 1995 (starring his future From Dusk Till Dawn co-star George Clooney), followed by a two-part installment of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2005. Tarantino has never been averse to working in that medium, but he hasn’t sunk his teeth into any of the ideas that he’s toyed with in the past.

For instance, while Tarantino was writing Inglourious Basterds, he considered turning it into a 12-hour miniseries. In an interview with The Root in 2012, he revealed that the original story was much different to the one that took place in the finished film version, as it featured a subplot that included a squadron of Black troops who go on the warpath, killing every white soldier they encounter on the road to Switzerland. After it was cut from the film, the story almost became a movie called Killer Crow.

Bounty Law isn’t Tarantino’s first planned Western miniseries either. Back in 2015, he told Premiere about his plan to adapt Elmore Leonard’s Forty Lashes Less One and turn it into a six-hour series. The book follows two prison inmates, a white man and a Black man, who start out as enemies and become allies in the pursuit of freedom. Thematically, Forty Lashes Less One is similar to Django Unchained, making it a perfect project for Tarantino’s sensibilities. Of course, Tarantino is no stranger to Leonard’s work either, as the author’s book Rum Punch served as the main inspiration for Jackie Brown. Perhaps we’ll see this one materialize at a later date, but it’s unlikely at this point.

If Tarantino’s history of developing shows proves anything, it’s that he has a tendency to change his mind. Therefore, it’s entirely possible that Bounty Law might never actually happen. At the same time, Tarantino plans on retiring after his next movie because he wants to bow out on a high note. He’ll be keen on ticking some items off his bucket list before then, and a TV Western is clearly one of them.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.