Thoughts on “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”

Steven Barnes
4 min readJul 24, 2019

Tomorrow I’ll see “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.” Other than carefully self-censored reviews, I know nothing other than it is good Tarantino, with what that means for those of us who are fans. I’m a fan.

But now, for the record, I thought I’d offer some speculations on it. If I’m wrong, I’ll be clearly marked as such, but if I’m right…heh heh. What fun I’m about to have. So…is a guess a spoiler? Maybe. If so…

SPOILERS!

SPOILERS!

SPOILERS!

Got that out of our system? Good. Well, here are my thoughts. When I first heard that QT was doing a movie about 60’s Hollywood, I thought it sounded like a hoot. So Leonardo DiCaprio is playing fading star Rick Dalton, and Brad Pitt his loyal stunt-double Cliff Booth? Bring it on.

They also said that the Manson family would be involved. Wow. THAT is some delicate dancing. Then discussions of Sharon Tate, of course. Mention of Steve McQueen at a party. The Dean Martin film “The Wrecking Crew” and then a casting mention of someone named Mike Moh playing Bruce Lee.

And I remembered “Django Unchained,” “Inglorious Basterds” and something I’d said a long long time ago. You see…Bruce Lee was either doing Green Hornet or just off that job and choreographing fight scenes for “Wrecking Crew,” the fourth (and final) “Matt Helm” romp. He trained Steve McQueen, and Sharon Tate, and recruited some of his karate champion friends to play thugs (Chuck Norris made his screen debut here) in “Wrecking Crew.”

Maybe thirty years ago, I first wondered what might have happened if Lee had been at Sharon Tate’s house that night. After all, it isn’t like the Manson clan were trained soldiers. They were loons on a mission. And Bruce Lee, separate from his screen image, was a genuinely deadly and innovative no-bullshit fighter. He would HAVE to have made a difference that night, as any injection of a new factor changes an outcome. Enough of one? Well maybe you think I’m saying kung-fu beats guns. Has anyone ever overcome a gun? Sure. Especially if you are smart enough not to ever confront it directly, or understand how to throw something from cover? Use psychology to get to disarm range? Its happened.

But wait, there’s more. In “Django” and “Basterds” QT clearly demonstrated that he likes cinema to revise history. In “Django” it was the question: what if a 70’s Blaxploitation hero was born into slavery

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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.