Quentin Tarantino has made his debut as a novelist with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, a new vision of his latest film set in the golden years of the film mecca at the end of the 1960s, which goes on sale today simultaneously in sixteen countries.
The novel alters the structure of the story starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt – who won his first Oscar – and delves deeper into both the characters and the reconstruction of the atmosphere of the era.
The director of cult films such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” has confessed on some occasions his fondness for the film industry’s old custom of publishing novels in parallel to the release of its blockbuster movies, which he used to buy as a child as soon as he came out of the cinema.
The plot of the novel, a mixture of fact and fiction, is similar to that of the film, which garnered a total of ten Oscar nominations in 2020. A Hollywood actor, Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) is living his low hours, after a decade on the crest of the wave.
By his side is always Cliff Booth (Pitt), a war veteran who used to work as his stunt double, but now, given the scarcity of work, has become his gofer.
Unlike the film, in the novel both appear continuously in flashbacks, revealing new aspects of their personalities, such as Dalton’s possible bipolarity – a disease that was hardly known at the time – and details of Booth’s military past and the deaths he carries behind him.
Parallel to the story of these two anti-heroes, Tarantino delves into the “Manson family” and the transformation that the hippie movement underwent in the death throes of the 1960s.
The author recounts the origins of Charles Manson -something he omits from the film- and the formation of the sect he led, paying special attention to the ranch where his acolytes settled and where they planned what was to become the most famous crime in the history of cinema.
Tarantino also delves into the relationship of the couple formed by director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate, shows the importance that the Pole had in the Hollywood of the time and, about Tate, daughter of a military family, reveals her hitchhiking trip from her hometown to Los Angeles to become an actress.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is packed with information and names from film history, the production companies of the time (NBS, Universal, Columbia), directors (William Witney, John English, George Cukor) and actors (Paul Newman, Rock Hudson, Bruce Lee).
It also includes some pages dedicated to the ‘spaghetti westerns’ filmed in Almeria (southeastern Spain) and more specifically to those starring Aldo Ray.