Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino refused to answer a female journalist’s question about Margot Robbie’s lack of lines in the film.
Set in 1969 Los Angeles, the Charles Manson murders are the backdrop to a story about an aging actor (DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Pitt). Sharon Tate (Robbie) is their Hollywood neighbour, and one of the seven people who killed in the Manson killings. Although the newest trailer shows that the murders aren’t the primary focus of the film, using the real-life deaths of innocent people for what looks to be a very cool and glamorous film has been a controversial move for some critics.
Another issue is that DiCaprio’s character idolises director Roman Polanski. This is particularly uncomfortable because a recording of Tarantino defending Polanski’s 1977 rape charge surfaced in 2003, saying: “It was statutory rape… he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape.”
Now, after a Q&A with Tarantino and the film’s stars, the director has raised eyebrows once more.
A female journalist pointed out to Tarantino that Robbie’s character doesn’t have many lines in the film, suggesting that this fails both the actor and Tate.
“You have put Margot Robbie, a very talented actor in your film… yet you haven’t really given her a lot of lines in the movie,” she said. “I guess that was a deliberate choice on your part?” She also asked Robbie if she had any comment on it.
Tarantino’s answer? He simply responded: “I just reject your hypotheses.”
The actor answered the question saying: “I always look at the character and what the character is supposed to serve to the story. I think the moments that I got on screen gave an opportunity to honour Sharon and her lightness.
“I don’t think it was intended to delve deeper. I think the tragedy, ultimately, was the loss of innocence. To show those wonderful sides of her could be adequately done without speaking.
“I did get a lot of time to explore the character even without dialogue specifically, which is an interesting thing because I often look to the interaction with other characters to inform me on the character.
“Rarely do I get to spend so much time on my own as a character. That was actually an interesting thing for me to do as an actor. I actually really appreciated the exercise.”
Some could argue that this still doesn’t adequately address the fact that the Oscar-nominated female lead actor was given fewer lines than the two male leads. But, with Tate’s story being the backdrop to the film, Robbie’s answer is fair enough.
However, Tarantino’s refusal to answer the question is the bigger problem here. This is his first film release since the #MeToo movement started, when Uma Thurman spoke out about working with Tarantino on Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill.
Speaking to the New York Times in 2018, Thurman said that, among other incidents, Tarantino once bullied her during filming into driving an unsafe car that then crashed.
Tarantino has since apologised for his comments on Polanski and said he “regretted” the crash that Thurman was involved in on his set.
Undeniably, the director has created some incredible feminist characters in his career: Kill Bill’s The Bride, Jackie Brown’s titular role and Inglorious Basterds’ Shosanna are just a few to mention.
But, his actions and words can’t go ignored. Perhaps these so-called apologies would be more meaningful if he was prepared to answer questions about sexism in his films, instead of letting his female stars do the explaining on his behalf.