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“I need to f**k it up”: Leonardo DiCaprio’s One Major Change to Quentin Tarantino Movie Turned a Normal Scene into Cinema’s Most Legendary Moment

Reviewed By: Swagata Das

Leonardo DiCaprio's One Major Change to Quentin Tarantino Movie Turned a Normal Scene into Cinema's Most Legendary Moment

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most talented and recognized stars of the generation and for good reason. The actor has carefully crafted his filmography to feature not just a showreel of his great performances, but also films that contribute to pop culture.

One of his most beloved collaborations is with director Quentin Tarantino. DiCaprio led an ensemble cast in Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. The director revealed that one of the film’s best moments was not planned by him and was completely improvised by DiCaprio.

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio has collaborated with Quentin Tarantino twice to date. The first was in the revisionist Western Django Unchained, which was set in the pre-abolition era. The Jamie Foxx starrer saw DiCaprio as the antagonist Calvin J. Candie, the owner of the Candyland estate, who also owns the titular Django’s wife as a slave. DiCaprio was lauded for his performance as the detestable slave owner and his character gained a lot of popularity as a meme.

DiCaprio and Tarantino reunited with the latter’s ninth film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. The actor played an aging star in the Golden Age Of Hollywood named Rick Dalton, who happens to be neighbors with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski at the ill-fated Cielo Drive. The film was set during the Manson murders and even features Charles Manson as a character. 

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton

Leonardo DiCaprio was immediately drawn to the role of Rick Dalton when Tarantino offered it to him. The actor said that he was intrigued by the type of actor Dalton was, the era he belonged to, and what were his aspirations. He spoke to Deadline,

“They’re watching as…this crystal castle next door exists and they don’t belong to it, and then Sharon Tate and all of the Hollywood elite are rolling through those gates. That’s the Hollywood they want to belong to, or at least Rick is desperately hoping to be a part of.”

The actor lauded Tarantino’s knowledge of television and said that the duo watched a lot of early TV and Westerns to craft the character. DiCaprio mentioned how Dalton represented actors who were talented but did not make it into Hollywood and the film was a celebration of such personalities.

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Leonardo DiCaprio Improvised Rick Dalton’s Epic Meltdown

Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood features many parallel running storylines that converge at the climatic Manson Family murders. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is shooting for a TV pilot of a Western named Lancer, where he plays the heavy. While filming for the pilot, Dalton starts forgetting his lines and before the next set-up, goes back to his trailer and breaks down. The scene was apparently suggested by DiCaprio himself and was not in the script. 

Quentin Tarantino mentioned that he had just written the scene so he could do another Western indirectly but DiCaprio came in with the idea of Dalton messing up his scenes. While Tarantino agreed to do both ways, hoping to do what he wanted in the editing room, he kept it in the film after seeing his performance. The director spoke to Deadline,

“Leo said, ‘I think I need to f*ck it up and forget the lines…He said, ‘I know I’m kind of f*cking up your scene, but I think that would be good for the character’…As soon as we did that second version, the take that is in the movie, I was like, ‘OK, OK, we’re obviously doing this now.’ He was right. It was terrific and it gave the whole thing an arc that worked wonderfully.”

DiCaprio said that while he did come up with the scene, Tarantino brought more ideas and then did his magic in the editing room. The scene acts as a perfect jumping-off point for Rick Dalton’s resurgence as he goes on to perform the climactic scene of the Western perfectly. DiCaprio earned another Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is available for streaming on Starz.

Also read: “It is so very special to me”: Both of Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Cinematic Heroes’ are in Killers of the Flower Moon – Who Could They Be?

Source: Deadline

Written by Nishanth A

A big time Nolan and DC fanboy, Nishanth is a Media, English and Psychology graduate from Bangalore. When he's not fixating on the entire filmography of a director, he tries to write and direct films.