Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is something of a Russian doll of a film.
It touches on real events but decentres them. It stars Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate and in one scene she reacts to footage of the real-life Sharon Tate on screen. There are true historical figures peppered through the movie, like Bruce Lee and Charles Manson, but they’re not as important as the fictional main characters Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) or Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
The movie is a love letter to Hollywood, a movie about movies, a cinematic experience about how wonderful the cinematic experience is. And film buff Tarantino is expertly placed to helm such a project.
In one of the film’s other Russian doll moments, the late Luke Perry stars as real-life television actor Wayne Maunder, who played the eponymous Scotty Lancer on a popular 60s Western series called Lancer.
Perry’s daughter Sophie has spoken about how seeing the movie for the first time was an unbelievably emotional experience. “It both breaks my heart and fills it with pride at the same time,” she wrote on Instagram. “My dad has never been more excited in his life than he was to be part of this. He was like a kid faced with a banana split the size of his head, or a trip to Disneyland, or I don’t even know what.”
Sophie added: “While I wish so greatly that my dad had a million more roles, and projects and moments of childlike excitement, I am so proud and thankful that this got to be his last. He was proud. He is proud.”
Perry’s co-stars have also spoken about the actor’s generosity on the set of the film. “I was immediately struck by his kindness,” DiCaprio told Entertainment Weekly. “And talking about being a native of Los Angeles, being around this industry my entire life, and really having it in a lot of ways shape who I am, there was this immediate excitement in seeing Luke Perry on set. I remember being in my teens and he was the manifestation of the new [James] Dean on television and everyone was crazy about him… I felt this overwhelming feeling of being star-struck.”
For Julia Butters, the 10-year-old actor who carries the movie’s most emotional scene – a moment in which she inspires DiCaprio’s Rick when he is at his lowest – in her hands, Perry’s kindness also stood out.
Butters recalled to The Hollywood Reporter that she used to spend her downtime on set writing scripts like the Marsai Martin-esque mini mogul she is. While working on one of them a gust of wind rose up and scattered her pages across the backlot.
“Luke Perry just ran all over that set, catching the pages and collecting them,” Butters said. “He put them in order and he stacked them up nicely.”
And for Pitt, who held Perry up as an “icon of coolness” thanks to his time on Beverly Hills 90210, seeing Perry on set was a pinch-me moment. “That’s Luke fucking Perry! We were like kids in the candy shop,” Pitt told Esquire. It was this strange burst of excitement that I had to be able to act with him. Man, he was so incredibly humble and amazing and absolutely committed.”
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is in cinemas in the US now and in the UK on 15 August.
Images: Getty, Sony