Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino has edited more Margot Robbie scenes into the film following backlash.
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 victims of 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.”
The director has also faced backlash over not giving Robbie enough lines in his newest film.
Following this, Tarantino has now announced that he’s edited more scenes with Robbie into the final cut.
Speaking to Deadline, he said: “I extended a slight little bit of a scene with Sharon Tate, when she picks up a hitchhiker.”
Explaining his decision to do this, he added: “Unfortunately she’s a woman who has been defined by the tragedy of her death. While not making the Sharon Tate story, I wanted to explore who she was, the person. In doing research on her she sounds almost too good to be true from everybody who knew her. She knew a lot of people so there’s a whole lot of verbal historical accounts of her. She just seems to be one of those too sweet for this world kind of person.”
It’s an important move from Tarantino, after he refused to answer a question about failing Robbie and Tate during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival.
A female journalist pointed out to Tarantino that Robbie’s character doesn’t have many lines in the film.
“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 didn’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, and he should be prepared to answer questions about sexism in his films.
This is why the fact that he has finally actually taken action by adding in the Tate scenes is actually a meaningful move - it just shouldn’t have taken what happened at the press conference to get here.