Quentin Tarantino’s pure love of film is all over his work. The stories he creates and technique he employs come from an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium, as he is able to distill thousands of hours of movie watching into his own personal style – and beyond that his work is generally overflowing with pop culture references embedded in the dialogue and production design. Even the writer/director’s approach to continuity has its own special connection to the influence of cinema, as his projects each tend to take place in one of two distinct universes: the Realer Than Real Universe, which is a reality of Tarantino’s own creation and sports its own alternative history; and the Movie Movie Universe, which consists of interconnected titles that are movies that exist as movies within the Realer Than Real Universe (in addition to our own, obviously)
For Tarantino fans, it can be fun to sort out these continuities within the filmmaker’s filmography, noting that projects like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs (respectively featuring John Travolta and Michael Madsen as Vega brothers Vincent and Vic) are connected as part of the former universe, while Kill Bill and Death Proof clearly co-exist as part of the latter because of the presence of Michael Parks’ Sheriff Earl McGraw. Tarantino’s attention to certain details makes this an enjoyable exercise, though as recently pointed out by a user on Reddit, there is one particular trick that the filmmaker has not yet pulled off, which is the idea of linking an actor character from the Realer Than Real Universe directly to a “role” being played in the Movie Movie Universe.
The subject was recently broached by a poster on the Fan Theories message board, suggesting a potential link between Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and his 2012 “southern” Django Unchained. Recognizing that both titles feature Leonardo DiCaprio in extremely different roles, the post posits that they are connected because DiCaprio’s slave-owning villain Calvin Candie in Django Unchained is actually a character that is being played by DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton.
Ultimately it’s a theory that doesn’t actually hold water, as the user makes the mistake of identifying Django as a Movie Movie Universe title instead of the Realer Than Real Universe title that it is, but it’s such an interesting notion that it deserves special highlight.
As cool as this idea is, it’s not actually something that we’ve seen come to full fruition yet in Quentin Tarantino’s work. That being said, the door is certainly open for it, and one could even make the argument that the setup already exists in a much looser way between Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Death Proof. Unlike the Leonardo DiCaprio-centric theory, the two titles are actually set in separate universes, and they are linked by both featuring Kurt Russell and Zoe Bell. In the 2019 movie, the two actors play stunt coordinator Randy Miller and his wife Janet, and it’s been speculated that they may be the parents/relatives of the “actors” who play the characters Stuntman Mike and Zoe Bell in Death Proof. There doesn’t specifically exist any evidence that makes that specific connection yet between the two films, but that’s the fun of theorizing and speculation.
What currently only exists as theory and speculation could be made canon in the future, however, and it would be amazing to see Quentin Tarantino make those moves. While we presently have no idea what the filmmaker is going to make as his next project, how cool would it be if it’s a film set in the Movie Movie Universe starring Leonardo DiCaprio and is made with the specific aesthetic suggesting it was shot at some point in the 1970s? Not only would the project exist as the 10th Tarantino feature and a potentially cool DiCaprio flick, fans would always be able to view it through the lens of being a movie that Rick Dalton had the chance to make after successfully fending off Manson Family cultists and seeing his career rejuvenated. Taking things even further, Margot Robbie could co-star and invite audiences to imagine the work as a project made by Sharon Tate had she not been killed in our own reality.
Quentin Tarantino has been known to make these kinds of weird leaps from time to time, such as having Tim Roth’s The Hateful Eight character be a direct decedent of Michael Fassbender’s Inglourious Basterds part, so it definitely feels like an idea with potential to become reality. Whether or not it actually will remains unclear, but you can be sure that it is something that we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the future.