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The Quentin Tarantino scene improvised by Leonardo DiCaprio


(Credit: Columbia Pictures)

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Back in 2019, director Quentin Tarantino transported audiences to the 1960s with his masterful movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. A tragedy that depicts the change in Hollywood culture as it entered the 1970s and transitioned from the golden age of the past, Tarantino’s film is a mature and methodical analysis that ditches his crutch of provocative violence to tell a definitive story of personal and cultural change.

Rick Dalton, the film’s protagonist, is a fragile product of the ’70s L.A. showbiz economy, desperately struggling to reach the top of his craft and shake off countless frivolous TV roles. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who received an Oscar nomination for his remarkable performance, Dalton is one of Tarantino’s finest-ever characters, being the perfect individual to carry his barbed tale about the nature of American culture at the turn of the 1970s.

One of the character’s best scenes comes when he retreats to his trailer after repeatedly forgetting his lines on the set of a film. Freaking out in his boxed trailer apartment, he berates himself for drinking too much the night before, smashes a window and erratically paces. It’s an iconic moment from the movie that perfectly encapsulates the nature of the protagonist and DiCaprio’s acting ability, with the actor improvising the whole thing. 

Speaking at a post-screening Q&A at his New Beverly Cinema, director Quentin Tarantino revealed that DiCaprio helped him develop the idea for the scene that wasn’t in the original script. 

As reported by IndieWire, Tarantino stated: “It wasn’t in the script actually, so we never rehearsed it or anything…Leo had a whole thing. At some point, it was like, ‘Look, I need I need to fuck up during the ‘Lancer’ sequence, all right? And when I fuck up during the ‘Lancer’ sequence, I need to have a real crisis of conscience about it and that I have to come back from that’”. 

Inspired by Robert DeNiro’s influential performance in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 movie Taxi DriverTarantino recalls describing the idea to DiCaprio, stating, “I think I described it exactly this way, I think we shot it exactly this way — It’s gotta be like Travis Bickle when he’s in his apartment by himself”. 

Aside from this, the only other pointer Tarantino gave to the actor was to provide him with a list of possible things he could be freaking out about, with the director noting,…



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