Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Novel Will Explore Cliff Booth’s Past, Tarantino Says


Though Quentin Tarantino is planning to retire from filmmaking soon, the director is about to make his first foray into literature with his upcoming novelization of his own film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In a recent appearance on the Pure Cinema Podcast (via Entertainment Weekly), Tarantino discussed how his upcoming book will expand the world seen in the 2019 movie, including a dive into the past of Brad Pitt’s stuntman Cliff Booth.

“In the movie, Cliff is a real enigma. You’re kind of like, ‘What this guy’s deal?'” said Tarantino. “There’s these isolated chapters that tell you, like, this whole chapter will be about Cliff’s past. It goes back in time to tell you about Cliff at this point in time. And then you go further on with the normal run of the story and there’s another chapter that goes back in time and tells you about Cliff’s past. And every isolated chapter that’s just about Cliff’s past is like a weird little pulp novel unto itself starring Cliff.”


Brad Pitt won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Cliff Booth in 2019. Though Tarantino’s upcoming novel will offer a deeper look at the character’s history, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also featured flashbacks to Booth’s past, offering a glimpse at a suspicious boat trip between him and his wife and a fight with Bruce Lee on a studio backlot.

“I’m really proud of [the book],” Tarantino said. “It’s not just me taking the screenplay and then breaking it down in a novelistic form. I retold the story as a novel… It was a complete rethinking of the entire story and not just a rethinking as far as throwing some scenes that were left out of the editing room. But I did so much research.”

“I was writing [the movie] for five years, so there was so much stuff that I wrote and I explored that I never even typed up, because there was no way it was going to make the movie,” Tarantino continued. “If the book existed first, then the movie would be me making a movie out of that material. You know how you take an unwieldy novel and try to turn it into a movie? Well, to me, the movie is that. This is the unwieldy version of the movie.”


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: A Novel is set to release as a paperback and e-book on June 29. A hardcover edition will follow in the fall. Additionally, the novel will also be available in audiobook narrated by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who starred in Tarantino’s 2015 western The Hateful Eight.

In our review of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, IGN gave the film a 7.8, calling it “a languid but interesting exploration of a particular time and place.”

J. Kim Murphy is a freelance entertainment writer.


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