Quentin Tarantino Praises Polanski, Refutes Notion That Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate Role Was Limited: ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ Cannes Conference

Anthony D'Alessandro

Quentin Tarantino was needled today at the Cannes Film Festival press conference for his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as the director fielded questions about Roman Polanski and the fact that Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate has few lines in the film.

On the subject of Polanski, who was recently brought back into the #MeToo conversation over his statutory rape case from the late ’70s, Tarantino was glib in his answers, saying “No” he “didn’t” share or meet with Polanski before making Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Polanksi is referred to in the movie by Brad Pitt’s Rick as being “the hottest filmmaker” in town.

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Tarantino informed another reporter, “I’ve met him [Polanski] a couple of times [in the past]…it’s unfathomable how much money Rosemary’s Baby made in its day. Back then, if a film made $8M, it was like ‘Oh, my, God.’ That made like $35M or something. I’m a fan of Roman Polanski’s work, but in particular Rosemary‘s Baby, I like that a lot.”

A New York Times reporter in the room asked Tarantino why Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate has so few lines in the movie. “I just reject your hypothesis,” Tarantino said. Robbie, in answering the question, reiterated her answer from earlier at the press conference about her portrayal of Polanski’s wife, who was murdered by followers of Charles Manson in August 1969 — the year Tarantino’s movie is set.

“I was trying to understand what purpose the character serves to the story. Why is this character in the story? Quentin said to me she’s the heartbeat of the story. I saw her as a ray of light. That was my job and role to serve in this story,” said Robbie, who watched “everything” about Tate in prepping for the role.

Manson is a supporting character in Tarantino’s love letter to 1969 Hollywood about a has-been star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) coming to grips with a changing industry.

One reporter asked Tarantino, “You’ve talked about Sharon Tate channeling the light in this movie. There are other women who are channeling a very profound darkness, the acolytes of Charlie. Can you talk about how you viewed those women, without giving anything away, they do become targets of extreme rage in the film, and in an age when violence against women is touchy ground, you’re treading on tricky territory.”

“I can’t really address that much without de facto talking about stuff,” said Tarantino, who launched into the women’s portrayal in the film’s Spahn Ranch scene which was the Manson cult’s homestead. Tarantino didn’t answer the reporter’s question about the violence of women in the film, but rather said, “They’re creepy, no two, three, four ways about it. Even though there’s a sinister-ness you see at the Spahn ranch scene, I was trying to show their day-to-day.” (He described the sequence of how the Manson members made their money by helping with the ranch’s horse-riding business.)

Said Brad Pitt, who plays Cliff Booth, the stuntman to DiCaprio’s Dalton, about the film’s spotlight on Manson and his massacres in relation to the era, “I don’t see it as a rage against individuals, but a rage against innocence. When the Manson murders occurred, three was a free love movement, there were new ideas out there, and cinema was being recalibrated. When that event happened – the tragic loss of Sharon and others – what scared many even so today, it was a sobering dark look at the dark side of human nature. That pivotal moment was a real loss of innocence, and that’s what the film addresses.”

Says Tarantino about the media and the general public’s longtime fascination with Manson: “How he was able to get these girls and young boys to submit to him, it seems unfathomable.”

“The more you learn, the more concrete it gets, it doesn’t make it clearer, it makes it more obscure the more you know.”

“The unknowingness of it,” said the two-time Oscar winning filmmaker, is “what causes frustration.”

At Tuesday night’s premiere, Cannes Film Festival scanned roughly 100 Balcony ticket holders, and then refused to let them into the Once Upon a Time event, overfilling the theater to the gripes of many.

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