The coincidence that gave Brad Pitt the role of Quentin Tarantino

The coincidence that gave Brad Pitt the role of Quentin Tarantino

(Photo: Far Out/Columbia Pictures)


When Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was released in 2019 and became the penultimate feature film in Quentin Tarantino’s career. It was also one of his best films to date and boasted stellar performances across the board, especially as Leonardo DiCaprio’s alcoholic and insecure actor Rick Dalton. However, the highlight was probably Cliff Booth, played sensationally by Brad Pitt. However, a certain moment allowed us to see it on our screens.

According to Tarantino himself, speaking at Podcast “Clean Cinema”He was eager to reunite with Pitt for a second film project following their successful partnership ten years earlier in Inglourious Basterds. In classic Tarantino style, in addition to the character’s many influences, he had a specific reference to the film in mind for Cliff Booth’s enigmatic stunt double, who will play an important supporting role in the director’s ode to Hollywood.



He wanted to introduce Pitt to the film, which he felt was the perfect reference point for Booth’s character: Billy Jack, released in 1971, starring Tom Laughlin. “I say, ‘Brad, I’ve got a 35mm copy of Billy Jack taped to the projector waiting for you to come,'” Tarantino explained. But, as he soon learned, he needn’t have worried.

Billy Jack follows the journey of a Vietnam veteran turned martial artist who goes on a quest for justice by protecting the vulnerable. Tarantino was especially drawn to elements of the iconic actor Tom Laughlin. Billy Jack this resonated with Cliff Booth’s complex personality. Notably, Loughlin’s character often punctuates his encounters with poignant “folk stories” before revealing his fighting prowess, a signature move that Tarantino found deeply inspiring.

To illustrate his vision for the character, Tarantino went all out, preparing the aforementioned 35mm print of the film, which was stretched onto a projector while eagerly awaiting Brad Pitt’s arrival. The intention was clear: to use the film as a visual reference, expressing the essence of Cliff Booth through the lens of another iconic cinematic figure.

However, when Pitt arrived for their meeting, he brought with him a copy of the same film on DVD, which pleasantly surprised both Tarantino and Pitt. It was a fortuitous sign, a convergence of creative sensibilities and a shared understanding of the character that defined their collaboration—it’s clear that before any initial negotiations took place, both Pitt and Tarantino were on the same page about Booth.

From there, with their creative juices aligned, their partnership embarked on a journey that would help create one of the most memorable characters in history. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Tarantino’s filmography in general.

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