Quentin Tarantino and His Stars Muse on Their Early California History

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will compete in 10 Oscar categories on Sunday.

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth and most recent film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood offers a cinematic love letter to the director’s youth in late ’60s Los Angeles. Iconic Hollywood locations, like Musso and Frank, El Coyote and the Cinerama Dome make appearances in the movie, as do famous actors of the time, most notably Sharon Tate and Bruce Lee. The soundtrack, laced with KJR radio advertisements, could be a mix tape recorded straight off the dial.

Like Tarantino, who grew up in Torrance, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, who portray a veteran actor and his best friend and stunt double respectively, also have longtime Los Angeles roots. DiCaprio was born here, and Pitt moved to the city before finishing college.

While all three men’s enviable careers bear little resemblance to the film’s struggling protagonists, they all share deep connections to Los Angeles past, when their lives were simpler and more modest … from Pitt sharing a two-bedroom apartment with multiple roommates, to DiCaprio getting shuttled by his parents from their Eastside home to Westside auditions, to Tarantino sleeping in his car behind a video store he worked at in Manhattan Beach.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Of all the lines in all the reviews written about Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, the one that Tarantino cherishes relates to the film’s verisimilitude in re-creating a Los Angeles with half a century in its rear-view mirror.

“It was, ‘When Cliff drives through L.A. it was like Brad Pitt driving through a documentary,’” Tarantino remembers, laughing. “And, frankly, if you do a movie like this, that’s the thing you want to nail and really be proud of that. It’s like [Werner] Herzog. ‘Yeah, we really nailed the Amazon in ‘Fitzcarraldo.’ Well, we nailed Los Angeles.”

You can read more stories about the trio’s early days in Los Angeles here.

More Stories