Quentin Tarantino details Leonardo DiCaprio's big improvised scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Quentin Tarantino has detailed how he helped Leonardo DiCaprio prepare for a big improvised scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the director's most recent movie. 

In the movie, DiCaprio plays TV actor Rick Dalton who's struggling to find his place in Hollywood in the late '60s as his career begins to fade. After being cast as the villain in a TV Western pilot, Rick forgets his lines on set and has a meltdown in his trailer – a scene that was set to be improvised from its inception, according to Tarantino.

"What happened there was, I knew I wanted to have that scene but I didn’t want to write it out. I didn’t want it to have to be dialogue he remembered," Tarantino told the 2 Bears 1 Cave podcast (via ScreenRant). "So I got Leo and I was saying, 'So look, here’s what I want to do: I want you to come in having fucked up on set not knowing your lines and I want you to come in the trailer and have a whole mad anger at yourself, detest fest, a complete temper tantrum against yourself. Just a gigantic pity party where you just lose your shit, but against yourself, nobody else. And I want it to have the randomness of an improv, it just comes out of you.'

Tarantino continued: "Now, what I did do though, is I gave him different subjects he could rant about. 'Here’s a subject, here’s a subject, here’s something you could say.' And he goes, 'Great.' He was a little nervous. It was actually very cute that he was nervous that day because it’s on him and he knows that. So we’re shooting this scene and I’m right by the camera and we just do a few different takes and it was great. And then, from time to time, if I thought he ran out of something I could throw something his way."

The 2019 movie was hugely successful and did well at awards season, receiving nominations for 10 Academy Awards and winning Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. That's not where things ended for that particular story, either – last year, Tarantino published a novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which follows Rick and Cliff both forward and backward in time. Another novel, The Films of Rick Dalton, is set to follow.

If you've already seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, fill out your watch list with our picks of the best upcoming movies.

Entertainment Writer

I’m an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections. I help bring you all the latest news and also the occasional feature too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.