Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Quentin Tarantino cover Esquire’s Summer Issue photographed by Alexi Lubomirski.
Tarantino on what makes this movie special to him: “This film is the closest thing I’ve done to Pulp Fiction…[It’s] probably my most personal. I think of it like my memory piece. Alfonso [Cuarón] had Roma and Mexico City, 1970. I had L. A. and 1969. This is me. This is the year that formed me. I was six years old then. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L.A.”
Leonardo DiCaprio on what drew him to this film: “Well, first off, the chance to work with Mr. Tarantino. And certainly this time period was fascinating. It was this homage to Hollywood. I don’t think there’s been a Hollywood film like this—and by that I mean a film set in Hollywood and about Hollywood—which gets its nails dirty, getting into the everyday life of an actor and his stunt double. 1969 is a seminal time in cinema history as well as in the world. Rick and Cliff, they’re part of the old guard in Hollywood, but they’re also trying to navigate this new world of the hippie revolution and free love. I loved the idea of taking on this struggling actor who is trying to find his footing in this new world. And his pal who he’s been with through all these wars in Hollywood. Quentin so brilliantly combines what’s going on in the changing of America but also through these characters’ eyes how Hollywood was changing. It was captivating when I first read it. The characters had the imprint of Quentin’s immense knowledge of cinema history. You are in awe of the detail, and you know it’s fucking authentic.”
Brad Pitt on what drew them to this film: “Certainly the period is great fun. QT is the last purveyor of cool. If you land in one of his films, you know you’re in great hands. Quentin gives you these speeches, the kind that you wished you had said on the drive home, that you think of a day later. I felt the script was an evolution of Quentin’s voice. I mean, we know Quentin Tarantino as an auteur sending film in a singular, original direction. But I found this an evolution— and an amalgamation of what we loved about the eight films… And doing this with Leo was really cool and a rare opportunity. And then there was just the whole thing, where we all grew up with the lore of the lead actor and his stuntman. That relationship and craft. I mean, there are epic stories of these duos: Burt Reynolds had Hal Needham. Steve McQueen had Bud Ekins. Kurt Russell had his guy. Harrison Ford had his. These guys were partners for decades. And it’s something that is not the same in our generation, as the pieces became more movable.
Leonardo DiCaprio on the magic of a Tarantino set: “His sets are so magnetic. You don’t walk onto sets like this anymore, where everyone has respect for the process. There’s this celebration of a way of making movies that has slowly become an antiquity in this industry. Quentin puts a tremendous amount of thought into making these characters come to life, making the authenticity of the period come to life. There’s also this freedom—an energy—we feel on his set. It’s become a rarity to have a process the way he has it. And that is: taking the time to fucking Get. It. Right. At all costs.”
Leonardo DiCaprio on still having an appreciation for the struggle of finding your way in the industry: “My attitude is the same as when I started. When I talk to these two guys [BP and QT], it’s like, we know we were given that one shot and we do not want to disrespect that opportunity, which is why we’re just trying the damn best we can to make the best things we can. Because we understand that it is fleeting. Tastes change; culture changes. And I feel very blessed to have gotten that ticket to be able to do movies. So I feel very connected to that fifteen-year-old kid who got his first movie. And that hasn’t changed.”
Brad Pitt on his early days in Hollywood: “I remember back in the early days I hung out with Brandon Lee. He drove a hearse and lived in Echo Park. We went out one night and everyone else had peeled off, and we ended up back at his place and it was like six in the morning. A real, you know, drunk and stony night, and he proceeded that night to tell me how he thought he was going to die young like his dad. And I just chalked it up to, you know, stony 6:00 a.m. talk. And then he got The Crow the next year.”
Leonardo DiCaprio on working with Brad: “In a weird way, when we were doing the movie, my relationship with Brad clicked. It was very early on where he improvised a line and it changed everything. In the scene, as it was written, I’m coming to set hungover. And I am basically getting my fate handed to me, discovering what my future is going to be in this industry. And I’m really down. And in the scene, Brad ad-libs; he just comes out with this line, he looks at me and says, ‘Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget that.’” Brad Pitt on where that ad-lib came from: “True story, this was probably early nineties. I was on set and I was whining about something and lamenting something. I was pretty low. And this guy said to me, he was basically saying, ‘Get your head up, hold your head up. Quit your whining. You’re Brad fucking Pitt. I would like to be Brad fucking Pitt.’ It did me a favor. I needed to hear it. That day, I flashed on that. The way Quentin’s scene was constructed, it reminded me of it.”
Leonardo DiCaprio on almost meeting his idol, River Phoenix, the night he died: “I grew up revering River Phoenix as the great actor of my generation, and all I ever wanted was to have just an opportunity to shake his hand. And one night, at a party in Silver Lake, I saw him walk up a flight of stairs. It was almost like something you would see in Vertigo, because I saw there was something in his face, and I’d never met him—always wanted to meet him, always wanted to just have an encounter with him—and he was walking toward me and I kind of froze. And then the crowd got in my way, and I looked back and he was gone. I walked back up the stairs and back down, and I was like, “Where did he go?” And he was . . . on his way to the Viper Room. And it was almost as if—I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s this existential thing where I felt like . . . he disappeared in front of my very eyes, and the tragedy that I felt afterward of having lost this great influence for me and all of my friends. The actor we all talked about. Just to be able to have that, always wanting to just—and I remember extending my hand out, and then . . . Two people came in front and then I looked back, and then he wasn’t there…I actually flew later to New Orleans to meet about Interview with the Vampire to play the part Christian Slater ended up playing. [Phoenix had been cast in the role.]”
Brad Pitt on the best part of filming this movie: “I’ll tell you one of the greatest moments I’ve had in these however many years we’ve been at it in this town: getting to spend two days with Burt Reynolds on this film… It was a fucking pleasure.”
Quentin Tarantino on the homage Kurt Cobain once paid him: “Grunge bands loved Reservoir Dogs. I think it was just a good tour-bus movie. Kurt Cobain was this huge fan to such a degree that I’m thanked on the third album. And I’d never met him. His people called me up and said, ‘Hey, would you like to get together with him?’ And I go, ‘I’d love to, but I’m in preproduction on Pulp Fiction, so maybe at some point afterward.’ But he never made it.”
On their co-star Luke Perry and his passing [Perry plays Scott Lancer, also a fictitious TV actor, in the film]:
Leonardo DiCaprio: “I remember my friend Vinny, who is in the film as well, we walked in and we both had this butterfly moment of like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Luke Perry over there!’”
Brad Pitt: “‘That’s Luke fucking Perry!’ We were like kids in the candy shop because I remember going to the studios and [Beverly Hills, 90210] was going on and he was that icon of coolness for us, as teenagers. It was this strange burst of excitement that I had, to be able to act with him. Man, he was so incredibly humble and amazing and absolutely committed. He couldn’t have been a more friendly, wonderful guy to spend time with. I got to sit down and have some wonderful conversations with him. It was really special.”
Quentin Tarantino: “I went to the memorial, and three days earlier I had finished cutting together Luke’s last scene.
On how one role or audition or movie can change your life:
Quentin Tarantino: “The thing is, you get one audition and now your life is different. I’m always curious when I talk to actors about the one role that started everything. Brad, I remember I asked you, ‘What was it like when you auditioned for Thelma & Louise?’ And you said, ‘Actually, another guy had the part.’’
Brad Pitt: “Two. The first left to do another film because he got offered a lead, and then the second guy fell out. I think it had something to do with chemistry. But I don’t know for sure.”
Quentin Tarantino: “But I am always curious about: Okay, this moment is going to change your life, but you don’t know it. It’s just one of four auditions you’re doing that week.”
[Photo Credit: Alexi Lubomirski/Esquire Magazine]