3 Real people who inspired DiCaprio’s fictional macho-man role in ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’
In Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” audiences will get the chance to immerse themselves in the real era of 1960s Hollywood, including the abrupt shift from hippies and peace-signs to terror and paranoia. What caused this break? Charles Manson and his cult, the Manson Family, who murdered numerous stars, performers, and other innocent individuals in California during a wild, two-night killing spree. While the film draws attention to the murderers and their victims, such as Charles Manson and Sharon Tate, you might be surprised to learn that the two main characters are completely fictional. However, one main role, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is inspired by a handful of real actors and performers who struggled to cope with the shifting scene of Hollywood in the late 1960s. These are the real-life inspirations behind one of Tarantino’s most fascinating characters yet.
Burt Reynolds: His epic bromance
In “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” DiCaprio’s character is extremely close with his stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Their fictional friendship seems to have roots in the real-life bromance between actor Burt Reynolds and his stuntman, Hal Needham. In real life, Reynold’s and Needham had an incredible friendship, both being lovers of adrenaline, having hilariously stiff senses of humor, and encompassing the swagger of 1970s style. In the film, DiCaprio’s Dalton is a television actor who is trying to find his place in the film industry. His role draws striking parallels with Reynold’s life and career, who used to star in made-for-television Western films/series and eventually weaseled his way into the world of film. While Dalton is already similar to Reynold’s in many ways, there’s no doubt that the close-knit relationship between Reynold’s and Needham played a major part in the construction of DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters.
Steve McQueen: Struggling to find his place
One of the primary features of DiCaprio’s dynamic character is that he is facing the anxiety of trying to transition from television to film, and, realistically, knowing that not every T.V. star would be able to make it to the other side. Of Dalton, Tarantino said, “the culture has changed underneath him. Like the entire earth has gone topsy turvy as far as he’s concerned, and for a whole era of leading men, and so there’s an aspect of Rick Dalton that’s made up of a bunch of these guys.” One of the men that Tarantino is referring to is Steve McQueen, whose relationship with film, television, and his own Hollywood stuntman are spookily alike to the fictional life of Rick Dalton. Like Dalton, McQueen worked on a number of television productions for years before trying to transition to starring in movies. Although he eventually accomplished this goal, taking the leap to the film industry wasn’t necessarily smooth. Fortunately, McQueen managed to pull it off, especially with the help of his devoted stuntman, Bud Etkins. Their friendship went hand-in-hand with that of Reynold and Needham’s, as both bromances helped the DiCaprio-esque characters find their places in Hollywood.
Ty Hardin: The murder of masculinity
Rick Dalton’s tough-guy acting persona was a unique challenge to market during a time when fewer masculine actors were finding their starring place in the film scene. The likes of Peter Fonda and Christopher Jones began to steal leading roles from masculine men with their fresh, shaggy-haired, sexually-free auras. However, Tarantino wanted to Dalton to be true to what the pre-androgynous television industry thrived on: hardcore, macho, handsome, and manly-man male actors. One such actor who, like Dalton, struggled to keep his name relevant in the late 1960s was Ty Hardin. Hardin was a long-established rugged actor with a stoney expression and manly swagger. He starred in a number of late 50s and early 60s Westerns, including the rough-and-tumble cowboy television show, “Bronco.” Unfortunately, his efforts to cling to his masculine reputation didn’t help his case in finding roles in newer, more liberal films, and the stud stopped receiving the roles that he once claimed with ease. Much like Hardin, DiCaprio’s character also struggled to confront his desire to hold onto his masculinity while fighting for an essential spot as a starring actor in the film industry.