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Quentin Tarantino is one of those filmmakers that, after writing and directing a number of great films over a period of nearly 30 years, would seem to likely be able to make basically any movie he wanted. And yet, it seems the accomplished filmmaker was never entirely sure that Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood would ever actually get made. It seems shocking considering the film is a strong Oscar contender this year, but the idea was a sort of side project that Tarantino had been working on for sometime before he ever shopped it around to studios. It turns out, he even had a much smaller version of the movie prepared if he couldn't get the financing to make the larger project.
Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood creates a Hollywood that no longer exists. We see it as it was in the late 1960s. but the most interesting thing about the film is that it doesn't use digital effects to create the classic locales. Instead, it's a lot of classic special effects, like model building, which is actually much more expensive to produce. Quentin Tarantino tells The Wrap that if he'd had to, he could have made the movie using fewer locations and more digital effects...
We got to make it the full-on way.There’s a different version of this movie where we don’t have this much money, and we’re having to cut corners. We’re having to do more CGI, we’re having to build less and just build it around one building that still exists from that time period. And look — that movie would be good, too. But to actually be able to do it old-school style was wonderful, That’s a luxury in today’s Hollywood.
Doing it "old school style" is certainly fitting considering that the entire movie feels very old school. There's an authentic feel to everything in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood largely because it's not using modern techniques like CGI. Still, Quentin Tarantino is confident that the movie still would have turned out good, even if he'd had to put it together on a smaller budget.
Sometimes, smaller budget movies turn out to be even more impressive than their big budget counterparts, simply because filmmakers have to get creative on how to spend the money they have. Figuring out how to get more out of less can lead to some real breakthrough ideas. At the same time, Tarantino is glad he got the budget he wanted and got to make the movie he wanted to make. When asked if he was committed enough to the project that he would have still made the lower budget version if that had been the only choice, he's not entirely convincing...
God, that’s an interesting question. I’m glad I don’t have to answer it. It literally was not my situation, because we had a couple of different studios that were interested in it at this budget. So to ask me that is like saying, ‘If your career was vastly different, how would you feel?’ I don’t know. I imagine that of course I would make it — I would probably put it together that way if that was the only recourse that I had.
So maybe we would have seen this movie regardless of how much a studio was willing to provide, but maybe not. The fact was that multiple studios were apparently interested. Not too surprising considering, again, this is Quentin Tarantino we're talking about.
Just what kind of movie Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood would have been without $100 million we'll never know. Quentin Tarantino and movie fans got to see the movie the way he wanted to make it, and that movie turned out pretty damn good. It's been nominated for several Oscars, and would seem to have a high likelihood of winning some of them. We'll find out on Sunday evening.