One of Damian’s 2019 Top Moments has got to be playing Steve McQueen in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. I mean, it was only mused about on this blog since 2015 here, here, here, and oh, here. And the cherry on top? The entire cast of OUATIH were nominated for a SAG Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.’ Find out how to watch the SAG Award ceremony live in 2020, here.
In this post I will walk you down memory lane with a review of the movie I saw no less than three times. Then I will share new information, from the UK premiere and photos to videos and interviews.
Here we go! Fasten your seatbelts, the movie has begun and it begins with opening credits.
I fumble for my phone and snap a picture of Damian’s orange name on the screen, which is superimposed on Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) as they drive from the airport to their home located at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon.
Other true life former residents of this homestead include Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher with Candice Bergen, in which Charles Manson visited the house during their occupancy, and Paul Revere & the Raiders. Throughout the movie Sharon Tate (Robbie) plays Paul Revere & the Raiders vinyl records in the home.
It’s February 8, 1969 as Polanski and Tate head out to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion party where, unbeknownst to us the audience, Steve McQueen and Jay Sebring await their arrival.
I recognize the large gated driveway that sweeps through a petite redwood grove before it circles up around a huge water fountain at the front of the mansion. The camera pan during the drive is brilliant in that Tarantino makes you feel like you’re in the backseat.
This is it. I know Damian’s scene is at the Playboy Mansion from social media – clue number one – and yet I am still surprised how quickly his scene is before my eyes, about 49 minutes in. I hurl my popcorn to the empty seat to my right, grab my phone and watch through my camera. I scan the partygoers for Damian and hone in on the back of this tall, slender-framed man in white jeans who is standing off in the distance with two others next to that famous circle drive. I’d recognize Damian anywhere in a crowd.
McQueen is flanked by Michelle Phillips and Jay Sebring. A black crew neck pullover under a black leather jacket complements McQueen’s white jeans. Polanski and Tate’s car approach the three, Tate bounces from the car over to McQueen, his arms open wide as he says:
“Heyyyyy, how you doin’ baby?”
They hug, he picks her up and twirls her around in the air.
“Hey, [giggles] how are you?”
After McQueen greets Sharon, she happy-hops over to the dance area as he lights up a marijuana cigarette and watches her dance carefree from afar.
McQueen and a female partygoer (Dreama Walker as Connie Stevens) continue to people watch together as he points and explains to her the sordid Hollywood relationships that are all within three feet distance from one another. Gossipy McQueen indeed.
“I’m gonna tell you a story. She is engaged to him. Then she flewwwwwww to the U.K. to make a film with him, and broke off her engagement with him. And married him. Then they moved to Los Angeles and the three of them have been inseparable.”
The “three” that McQueen refers to are Jay Sebring (McQueen’s hairstylist), Roman Polanski, and Sharon Tate pictured here back in 1968.
Dismayed she asks,
“Really? What’s up?”
“Jay loves Sharon. That’s what’s up.”
McQueen passes her the joint, she takes a puff…
“And he knows – as sure as God made little green apples – that one of these days that Polish prick’s gonna fuck things up and when he does…Jay’s gonna be there.”
The female partygoer states,
“Well one thing’s for sure….”
“Yea? What’s that?”
“Sharon absolutely has a type. Cute. Short. Talented guys who look like 12-year-old boys.”
McQueen quips back,
“Yeah, I never stood a chance.”
To watch the beginning scene where McQueen and Tate hug, view here:
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019) – Playboy Mansion Party pic.twitter.com/8Pff3q8ww9
— Films to Films (@FilmstoFilms_) November 22, 2019
To watch the rest of the McQueen scene in its entirety, view here:
I’m having a freak out moment in the movie theater. I’m not sure if McQueen’s little green apples reference is a nod to O.C. Smith’s Little Green Apples but OMG I have this song on my playlist – it’s one of my favorites! I couldn’t believe it was coming out of Damian’s mouth! Also, green apples, Charlie Crews, Life, Damian, whhhhhaaaaaaa????
And just as quick as Damian’s McQueen is on the screen to lament about Tate, he’s gone. But his presence lingers.
At one point later in the film Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) mentions he was on the shortlist to play the breakout Steve McQueen role in the 1963 classic The Great Escape, then the film cuts to an imaginary version of what it would have been like to watch Dalton in the movie instead of McQueen. Then Dalton says he never stood a chance. The symmetry is ironic in that big movie star McQueen never stood a chance with THE girl and Dalton never stood a chance on THE big screen. It is this interlude that serves to connect McQueen and Dalton.
Time and place. This film, from start to finish, never lets you forget the bygone era of cutoff, frayed jean shorts, cigarettes, Carnation milk, Good Humor ice cream, Pan Am airlines, flower fabric suitcases, STP logo stickers, tv trays, hippies, acid, California Dreamin’ and Hollywood. Just like New York plays a big role in Billions, Hollywood is the largest character for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. It oozed nostalgia.
From the cameos of Ovaltine and Tang to the music, I was time-warped to a place in time. But nothing could prepare me for the wormhole of traveling instantaneously from 2019 to 1968 like seeing that old Taco Bell facade. I may not have been around in the 60’s, but I was in the 70’s and that’s exactly the way I remember Taco Bell – with it’s colorful block letters, clay-tile roof, stucco building with several arches, a metal bell displayed in an open cavity at the top, and that combination sombrero-bell sign.
Tarantino shows you the world of the movie industry through the eyes of the stars. He also weaved threads of commonality from his other films into OUATIH. His love of bare feet.
Sharon (Robbie) rests her feet on the back of a movie theater seat, dirty feet at that.
There are shots of her barefoot most of the time while inside her and Polanski’s home. Booth (Pitt) picks up a Manson girl hitchhiker who presses her bare feet against his windshield for the majority of the car ride, and yes, dirty feet.
The camera seems to focus on Dalton’s (DiCaprio) feet while he’s fully clothed and floating in a lounge chair in his pool.
All the hippy flower children at George Spahn’s Movie Ranch are running around barefoot in the dirt, at one point focusing on Squeaky Fromme’s (Dakota Fanning) feet in a recliner.
All these feet reminded me so much of Pulp Fiction – when Vincent Vega asks Mia if her husband Marcellus threw a man out of a window for giving her a foot massage and also when Vincent and Mia slip off their shoes, Mia barefoot, as they dance the twist at Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant.
Another familiar Tarantino attribute in OUATIH was the fictional Red Apple cigarette brand. They can also be seen in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Grindhouse’s Planet Terror, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Pulp Fiction, From Dusk Till Dawn, Four Rooms, and Inglourious Basterds. The Red Apple cigarettes remind me of Inglourious Basterds and my mind connects the following, ‘Inglourious Basterds. Billions. Bobby Axelrod. Damian.’
Bobby Axelrod can’t get enough of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. It’s mentioned in Billions season one, episode five when Bobby and Lara have a private moment while laying outside on the grass together after a bow chicka wow wow pool scene and also in season three, episode four here:
And who is responsible for those Inglourious Basterds references in Billions? Showrunner and co-creator Brian Koppelman is a known Tarantino fan:
Basterds is still the masterpiece. And Pulp Fiction the one that completely changed film for a generation (it did). But Hollywood is in that next tier along w Dogs and KB. What it lacks in laughs it gains in a subtle, sad profoundness.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) July 26, 2019
Koppelman even took the entire Billions Writers Room to see Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood:
Taking the whole Billions writers’ room to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood at the first screening tomorrow. If you’re there, I apologize in advance for laughing and clapping so loudly.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) July 25, 2019
Quentin is singular. OUATIH will stay w me a good while. Not at all what I expected. The saddest QT movie ever. And, again, not in ways you expect.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) July 25, 2019
This top three feels right to me. As do the bottom two. https://t.co/CzIMzISMlB
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) July 27, 2019
Moreover, during a Q&A on Twitter, Damianista had the chance to ask Brian Koppelman if he knew Damian would play Steve McQueen before the rest of the general public did, because the writers listed Axe as “Bullitt” in Krakow’s mobile phone contacts in Billions season three back in 2018. Sure enough, Koppelman responded that yes, he had some indication.
My Favorite Supporting Actors of the Ensemble In Addition To Damian
OUATIH was such a large ensemble cast that it would behoove me to mention other noteworthy performances. In addition to Damian’s McQueen, I greatly enjoyed Bruce Dern’s role as George Spahn. Dern is one of my favorite actors of all time. I’ll admit, I was worried I would crave the late Burt Reynolds as Spahn, but I cannot fathom Spahn being played by anyone other than Dern. He played a perfect senile old man. While the camera spanned Spahn’s trashy home at the Movie Ranch, I am almost certain I recognized a Remington statue similar to that of Axe’s in Billions season two from the Sandicot asset seizure. Wonder if Damian borrowed the prop. 😉
Media outlets seem to be Camp DiCaprio, but I have say this is Brad Pitt’s movie (IMHO). The Oklahoma-born really shines with that typical ‘Brad Pitt’ swag, from his countless Bloody Mary’s and rugged speed racing, to each scene he shares with his dog Brandy, who, in my opinion, stole the show regardless that she prefers raccoon or rat flavored ‘Wolf Tooth’ brand dog food…yanno, the good dog food for mean dogs.
Turns out my hunch was right in the eyes of the National Board of Review, as they awarded Brad Pitt for Best Supporting Actor 2019 for his OUATIH performance. More over, Brad is nominated for a Golden Globe 2020 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture. And that’s not all. Brad is also nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
UPDATE: On January 5, 2020 Brad won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture. Knew it. Called it. UPDATE: Brad won the Oscar!
So there you have it. One scene for Damian as Steve McQueen at the Playboy Mansion. Now it makes perfect sense why Damian gave an interview to Playboy Magazine about playing McQueen for Quentin Tarantino back in April of this year – clue number two. Full circle! As Charlie Crews would preach, “Everything is connected!”
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say Tarantino shows his love of Sharon Tate by flipping the Manson Murders on it’s head. It’s a fairytale ending for a fairytale story that begins with Once Upon a Time…
Now that you’ve fully digested the review, let’s talk about the fact that Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood had three major premieres: 1) Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2019, 2) Los Angeles, California at the TCL Chinese Theatre on July 22, 2019, and 3) London at Leicester Square on July 30, 2019. And guess who was in attendance at the UK premiere? That’s right, Damian and of course, Helen!
Damian, along with Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino, Daniela Tarantino, Lena Dunham, Costa Ronin (*ahem* Homeland) and David Heyman reunited on the white carpet.
It seems Damian’s favorite pal of the UK Premiere bunch was none other than Quentin Tarantino himself. During his guest appearance on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show, Damian spoke favorably of Quentin:
“Quentin’s fantastic, larger than life, eccentric character who is just a super aficionado, uber fan of film. He will talk to you endlessly. He just loves talking about film.”
In a recent December, 2019 interview with Michael Roffman of Consequence of Sound, Quentin had this to say about Damian,
There was this aspect of working with Damian [Lewis] where it was like, “Wow, he’s doing a really good Steve McQueen.” I go, “This is about as close as I’m ever going to get to working with Steve McQueen.” I was like, “I wonder if I could talk Damian into doing Steve McQueen in another movie where he’s not Steve McQueen. He’s probably gonna say no, but I would really like to direct him as that guy in something else.”
It seems there is a real camaraderie between Quentin and Damian, as well as other OUATIH co-stars. Pictured here with pal Margot Robbie, Damian is really making her laugh! What did Damian say to Margot at the UK premiere to make her laugh so much? Oh to be a fly…
Visit our Gallery here to view all the photos from the UK Premiere of OUATIH.
In the meantime, here is one of the many white carpet interviews from the UK premiere. Be sure to watch the full 1:12, despite the pauses from pesky adverts. Enjoy several more videos of Damian on the white carpet here.
You can watch Damian discuss that wig he wore for the Steve McQueen role, as well as explain the Hollywood tradition of The Martini vs. Quentin’s Bloody Mary below:
Finally, here is a vignette of Arianne Phillips’ iconic costume design for the movie. You can catch a glimpse of Damian as Steve McQueen at about 4:08.
Last but not least, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy on January 5, 2020. Congrats!
— Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 6, 2020