Decades before the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Quentin Tarantino was putting together his own interconnected world on the big screen. By leaving little hints and clues in his movies, the writer/director established not only that many of his films are set in the same world, but even in some cases feature related characters. The list of titles confirmed to exist on the same timeline includes Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight, and in 2019 Once Upon A Time In Hollywood became the seventh entry in the loose continuity.
So how exactly does the wild adventure of Rick Dalton, Cliff Booth, and Sharon Tate line up with Quentin Tarantino’s body of work? Allow us to spell it out…
*(Spoilers ahead!) *
“What If?” Historical Fiction
While the majority of the entries on this list focus on practical things like characters and items, this one is focusing a bit more spiritual connection that exists between the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and the larger Tarantinoverse. While it’s not universal, one of the common traits among some of the titles listed above is a predilection towards historical fiction, and an approach to real events that veer off from reality. Django Unchained saw the rise of a legend in the years before the American Civil War; Inglourious Basterds changed the ending of World War II; and Quentin Tarantino’s latest found a way to save the life of Sharon Tate.
Chaos theory tells us that the actions of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth against the Manson Family murderers must have changed at least something in the universe, though it’s possible that the ripple effect didn’t extend too far. At the very least we can imagine that Sharon Tate had the opportunity to make a bunch more movies and become a massive star in the wake of the events that transpire in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
The 14 Fists Of McCluskey And The Death Of Adolf Hitler
As alluded to earlier, one of the key differences between the world of the Tarantinoverse and our own is the way in which the Nazi reign of terror came to an end – specifically with the key leaders of the party being shot/incinerated in a trap set in a movie theater (as seen in Inglourious Basterds). Given the significance of cinema in the plot, one could make the argument that it inspires people decades later to love movies just a little bit more – explaining the hyper real banter in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and the like), but it’s also easy to imagine that Shosanna Dreyfus’ design also provided terrific inspiration for storytellers. As seen in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the Rick Dalton feature The 14 Fists Of McCluskey could be a perfect example.
We don’t exactly see a lot of the fake film in the 2019 release, as there’s simply a brief clip shown from it in the first scene, but it’s not a stretch to see how the events that unfold are reflective of those in the finale of Inglourious Basterds. While it’s not a movie theater, Dalton’s McClusky finds himself behind a curtain at a Nazi meeting, and after getting the jump on the group fries them all with a flamethrower. It’s hard to ignore the base similarities.
Director Antonio Margheriti
Set only about 24 years apart, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Inglourious Basterds are relatively close together on the Tarantinoverse, so it makes sense that the former’s connection to the big picture is primarily through the latter. This one is easy to miss, however, so don’t feel bad if you missed it. In the World War II film, Lt. Aldo Raine (more on him in a minute) and a pair of his crew work to personally infiltrate the special Nation’s Pride screening by pretending to be a group of Italian filmmakers. The guise used by Eli Roth's Sgt. Donny Donowitz is Antonio Margheriti, and while its highlighted moment in the movie stems from Roth’s funny pronunciation and Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa making him repeat it, the identity now exists as an Easter egg on two levels.
For starters, Antonio Margheriti is a real director, having helmed features from 1958 up until his death in 2002. In the Tarantinoverse, however, he also has the distinction of being one of the three directors to make a film starring Rick Dalton while the actor was living in Italy. As noted by narrator Kurt Russell, Margheriti is credited with directing Operazione Dyn-O-Mite, a Euro action comedy.
Cliff Booth and Lt. Aldo Raine
In our world, Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood share not only a writer/director in common, but also a star, as both films feature Brad Pitt in key supporting roles. It’s a minor piece of trivia, but where it has larger consequences is within the confines of the Tarantinoverse. While it’s obviously not unheard of that two unrelated people can share similar looks, the nature of Quentin Tarantino’s world makes us wonder if there might be some shared blood between Lt. Aldo Raine and stuntman Cliff Booth.
Presumably born in the mid-1920s, Cliff Booth is actually a World War II veteran himself, operating during the conflict as a Green Beret, and one can’t write off the idea that he possibly comes from a military family, with multiple generations fighting Hitler. The last name difference could be explained by something as simple as Raine being a relative on his mother’s side. Likewise, one can’t rule out some blood shared between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Django Unchained’s Calvin Candie, but that would be a much more distant familial relationship.
Randy And Stuntman Mike & Janet Miller and Zoe Bell
Going back to the list at the top of this feature, you may have noticed that not all of Tarantino’s features are listed. This is because while the majority of his stories are set in the main Tarantinoverse, there also exists the Movie Tarantinoverse – which is essentially the idea that films like Kill Bill and Jackie Brown are actually films that exist not only in our reality, but are released in the main Tarantinoverse. Both titles in the double feature Grindhouse are included in this separate group, but that in turn makes one wonder about Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell’s characters in Death Proof and their possible connection to their respective roles in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
If Death Proof is a movie in the Tarantino-verse, is it possible that the actors playing Stuntman Mike and “Zoe Bell” are actually the children of Randy and Janet Miller from Once Upon A Time In Hollywood? Clearly this would mean that the parents have crazy strong genes, but the timelines could match up – Death Proof clearly being a modern film based on the technology used. The 27 year age difference between Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell makes this a bit tricky, but maybe Janet is actually way younger than she looks in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and when her son is grown up she has a daughter with Randy in the late 1970s who looks just like her and grows up to follow in her stunt coordinator father’s footsteps.
Red Apple Cigarettes
Wrapping this whole thing up is Red Apple Cigarettes – a brand of smokes found it not only the main Tarantinoverse, but also in the Movie Tarantinoverse. A part of the filmmaker’s work since Pulp Fiction, sometimes it’s merely represented through advertising in the production design, and occasionally it’s referenced in dialogue, but what’s most significant is that it’s the preferred tobacco of pretty much all Quentin Tarantino characters. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the latest big screen adventure to feature the cigarettes, and it does so in a rather special way.
Most Quentin Tarantino fans probably caught that Red Apple is the brand that is smoked by Cliff Booth throughout the 2019 film (though potentially not including the acid-dipped cigarette he gets off a hippy), but those who watch the end credits of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood are treated to a bit with Rick Dalton literally hocking for the company. That being said, he apparently isn’t a big fan, as the commercial ends with him talking about how disgusting they are.
Have you spotted any other Once Upon A Time In Hollywood connections to the Tarantinoverse? (Note: the LAX hallway in Jackie Brown doesn’t count because A) that film is a Movie Tarantinoverse title, and B) it’s simply a real world location). Hit the comments section with your observations, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend as we wait for the next addition to Quentin Tarantino’s awesome body of work.