Between his 2019 screen version of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and the much-expanded novel version he published last year, Quentin Tarantino clearly loves the world he created in that film – an alt-history 1969 with perpetual golden sunsets, packed with familiar faces from Hollywood’s Golden Age, rubbing shoulders with Leonardo DiCaprio’s actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s stuntman Cliff Booth. And the writer-director is not done with it yet. Speaking to the Empire Podcast in a major new interview, Tarantino opened up about a whole new book he’s written involving Rick Dalton. “I probably need to punch it up a little bit,” he says, “but the body of it completely exists.”

We’ve long known that Tarantino has worked out complete histories for his OUATIH characters, imagining where they go after the movie ends – and he’s written up Rick’s entire filmography into one epic tome titled The Films Of Rick Dalton, taking inspiration from real-life movie guides. “You know in the ‘70s, you could get those books like The Films Of Charles Bronson, The Films Of Anthony Quinn? Well, this is that,” he explains. “It gives you a little quickie biography of his life. And then it starts going through the career: ‘…and then there’s this episodic television show, and then this other television show, and then this movie, and that movie’, and starts with the small parts he has in this one, and it builds, with little reviews of each thing, little synopses of each of them. And it goes through the entire career until he retires in 1988.”

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

So far, so standard Tarantino movie-nerdery. Where it gets really wild is the story behind the book. The Films Of Rick Dalton – which Tarantino himself has written in real life – is, in-universe, also written by Quentin Tarantino. But not our present-day Tarantino – it’s written in the late ‘90s by the Tarantino that exists in the director’s own Hollywood alt-history. Ready to dive down the rabbit-hole? “That is written by me, by Quentin Tarantino, in 1999,” he says, elaborating on the full imagined backstory. “Because in this pretext, Rick retires and moves to Hawaii. And so I go, in 1998, to the Hawaii International Film Festival. I’m there, and Roger Ebert’s there, and I’m seeing films. And then one of the festival people goes, ‘Hey, so is there anybody in Hawaii that you’d like to meet?’ You go, ‘Well, who’s worth meeting here in Hawaii?’ ‘Well, Don Ho’s here, and this one is here, and that one’s here. Rick Dalton’s here…’ ‘Woah, woah, Rick Dalton? I wondered what the fuck happened to that guy!’ ‘Well, he retired in 1988, and him and his wife Francesca [Lorenza Izzo’s character, who Rick marries in the film], they moved to Hawaii…’

“So they arrange a lunch. He comes down to the hotel that I’m staying at, and there’s Rick! He’s about 40 pounds heavier, but there he is. So we have a ball, and he’s a really nice fellow, and my movie shows and he comes to the screening. He shows up usually every year for a couple of screenings, he’s long since retired – and I have such a good time with him that the next year, ’99, I arrange a Rick Dalton retrospective. We show some prints of his movies, have a nice little thing for him, and he likes that. And then that spurs me to write an appreciation of his career called ‘The Man Who Would Be McQueen: The Films Of Rick Dalton’. And so I write it, and it’s prefaced by this huge Q&A that I had with Rick at that time. It’s all written. It exists!”

This takes the alternative history of Hollywood all the way to the bitter end – Quentin Tarantino

So there you have it – one of the latest characters written by Tarantino is late-‘90s Tarantino, in a book all about Rick Dalton. By the sounds of it, The Films Of Rick Dalton should see the light of day eventually – though next up is his already-confirmed second book Cinema Speculation. “I think there’s a limited audience to it,” he admits of his Dalton filmography, “but everybody who likes Rick, and cares about Rick, and is interested in the trajectory of Rick and has now become invested in my alternative history of Hollywood… well, this takes the alternative history of Hollywood all the way to the bitter end.” You know what they say – when you absolutely, positively, have to know everything about the coolest Quentin Tarantino character in the room… accept no substitutes.

Listen to Empire’s full Quentin Tarantino interview now on the Empire Podcast – and listen to regular episodes arriving weekly on Fridays. The novel edition of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is available now from all good book shops.

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