Quentin Tarantino calls Once Upon A Time In Hollywood his love letter to Los Angeles of 1969, but it is more than that for the veteran director. The film is a way to reconnect with his own past, by revisting the town he grew up in and the places he used to hang out.
It is just like leafing through the pages of an old personal family album, says Rick Schuler, supervising location manager of the Hollywood movie, which is set in 1969 and revolves around aging star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
"Bringing Tarantino's vision of Hollywood circa 1969 back to life was essentially to get to know the man himself and the town where he was raised. The experience was like leafing through the pages of an old personal family album. A number of the locations were restaurants that Quentin frequented while growing up in Hollywood (he still eats at them periodically to this day) as well as areas of the city that he remembered seeing from the back seat of his parents' car as they drove around," Schuler told IANS in an exclusive interview.
"Specific locations were written into the script like Musso and Frank's, Casa Vega, El Coyote, The Bruin and Westwood Village Theatres, and Hollywood Boulevard, but the rest was left up to the location department to bring to the table. For these scripted locations it was a matter of convincing the owners to allow us to shoot there. Not an easy feat when you are talking about Hollywood Boulevard or a very busy intersection in Westwood, but that is what made the experience so rewarding," he added.
Opening up about getting approval to shot at the iconic Playboy Mansion, Schuler said, "After a telephone conversation with the new billionaire owner of the Playboy Mansion and a later in-person meeting between Daren Metropoulos and Quentin we were given permission to shoot at this iconic location as well. Quentin was thrilled and gracious in letting us know how grateful he was to be shooting at the location."
Though Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a fictional story of fading stardom, Tarantino has woven real life stories into the plot with the infamous Charles Manson murders, including actress Sharon Tate, as a backdrop to make it more intriguing.
Recalling one anecdote from scouting for the movie locations, Schuler said: "On one occasion while we were driving around scouting potential locations, Quentin got all excited and gave specific directions to follow to this particular street corner."
"When we arrived and pulled over to the curb, he immediately jumped out of the van and walked back to the southwest corner of Riverside Drive and Forman Ave. Full of enthusiasm and delight he recounted how he used to come here as a kid and that the bar across the street used to be a restaurant called The Money Tree where he dined with his family. And as is often with Quentin, the conversation segued to a scene from an old TV show that was shot at this very corner," added Schuler, who has also acted as the location manager for movies like A Star is Born, Fight Club, Gone Girl, The Social Network, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Schuler continued: "He thought it would be a perfect location for the scene where Brad Pitt's character has another encounter with a hitchhiking Manson girl. The producer turned to me and commented that this did not seem like a good location to shoot. While it would definitely be a challenge, I was learning very quickly that if he showed specific interest in an area, it wasn't just a walk down memory lane.
He was really thinking of shooting here. Sure enough we did, although the sequence did not make it in the final version of the movie. Not an easy location so close to the studios and located on a major thoroughfare nonetheless, but we stripped the facades and storefronts of their modern touches, removed and reconstructed signs, re-striped the crosswalks, redressed everything, parked some vintage cars, and with some fifty extras walking back and forth on the sidewalks, brought the block back to circa 1969 just as he remembered it."
Just like the movie is a love letter to Hollywood for Tarantino, it is also for Schuler. "I also share the same love of all things 1960s and 1970s. It has only been recently that Hollywood has begun tearing down older buildings to make way for newer ones. I would love to see all the theatre marquees returned to their former glory and see more stand-alone buildings surrounded by acres of parking lots whether around the Mann Chinese or the Hollywood Arclight theatre. I am nostalgic for the Hollywood of old where open space and fewer people and cars were the norm," he said.
The location manager also revealed that lots of shots didn't make it to the final cut. "In my opinion, the movie is not long enough! We shot quite a bit that did not end up in the final version of the movie…maybe some of that footage will make its way to the DVD or to the big screen again," he added.
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