Quentin Tarantino, the legendary but mercurial American auteur, is all set to make Once Upon A Time In Hollywood with two of America's best known stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, and on a subject as emotionally distressing as the Sharon Tate murder in 1969.
An actress who had hit the headlines with movies like Eye of the Devil and Valley of the Dolls, Sharon was married then to Roman Polanski and carrying his child -- when members of the Manson Family, a crazy cult, murdered her and others in her Los Angeles villa. Their leader, Charles Manson, firmly believed that he was Jesus Christ and had cajoled and coerced his followers into believing this as well.
Not very different from some of the notorious godmen in India who also mesmerise their men. They begin to think that the godmen are god's own gift to mankind and have the right to commit the most brutal of crimes.
Manson did exactly this, and if reports are to be believed, Sharon begged the killers to be left alive, but Mr Mason would have none of it. It was a wanton, merciless murder with no rhyme or reason, and in the late 1960s when this heinous deed was done, the world was a far more innocent place than it is today. And obviously, Sharon's murder shocked all of us. She was only 26, beautiful and eight-and-half-months pregnant. The killing could not have been more devilish.
When Tarantino will release his film in 2019, 50 long years would have gone by since that fateful day when Manson murdered Sharon and others in Los Angeles. It may not exactly be a cakewalk for Tarantino to recreate a story that happened so long ago, and a story that had the entire nation seething in anger and angst. It was senseless butchery by a man, who was nothing short of a retard. He died last November in jail.
Tarantino's ninth film, it has been in the works for years, and it was only two days ago on Wednesday that the writer-director clinched two of the biggest stars, DiCaprio and Pitt.
This will be only the second time that both DiCaprio and Pitt would be working with Tarantino. Brad starred in the 2009 Inglorious Basterds as the Nazi-killing American Lieutenant Aldo Raine, and Leonardo as the slave-owning villain, Calvin Candie, in 2012's Django Unchained. Both movies retold history, and gorily so – and I am sure Once Upon A Time In Hollywood would be be no less bloody. And highly controversial too, as many of Tarantino's works (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, etc) were.
The casting of Sharon Tate will no less contentious, and one of the names being thrown around is Margot Robbie. No matter who will play the poor Sharon, her sister, Debra Tate, is not going to be pleased. She has condemned earlier attempts to make a film on her sister. Debra feels that such representation will be “classless and exploitative”.
What a paradox that we have Karni Senas' even in the highly progressive and liberal country like the US!
But I would suppose Tarantino is no Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Quentin is bold to the point of being brash. He cares little what others may think of him.
The first time I came face to face with Mr Tarantino, was at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, when he chaired the prestigious jury there and veered (or bullied?) his team's decision towards honouring Michael Moore's controversial documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 – a ruthless bashing of President George Bush, whose tenure from 2001 to 2009 marked an uneasy phase in the life and politics of the country.
The documentary takes a hard look at the Bush presidency, the war on terror and the way the media played up to it. Moore contends that the American corporate media were cheerleaders for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and did not provide an accurate or objective analysis of the rationale for the war or the resulting casualties there.
If the documentary ruffled feathers, the Tarantino jury's decision to award it Cannes' top prize, Palm dÓr, was also greeted with dismay. There were far better titles that year: Wong Kar-wai's 2046, The Ladykillers by Joel and Ethan Coen, Life is a Miracle by Emir Kusturica and The Motorcycle Diaries by Walter Salles. But the Palm went to Moore, and many years later, a top Festival official told me that they were also unhappy with the Tarantino verdict. But Cannes being Cannes, and not India, the Festival Director or his deputies will never interfere with a jury's decision.
And it this Mr Controversy who is all set to take us into yet another controversy, the killing of Sharon. It may well be a painful walk down memory lane.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic, who has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 28 years, and may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org )