Well if you’re going to include Sharon Tate in a film set during the Summer of ’69, in retrospect you couldn’t avoid Roman Polanski… right?
That certainly appears to be the way things are headed for Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, which is edging more and more knowingly into controversial waters. While that’s just how Tarantino likes it, for his first film since the Harvey Weinstein split, it’s very curious just what subject matters he is taking on. For here is one enigmatic filmmaker now about to cast a fictional version of another legendary (and infamous) director in his next film, which appears to be at least vaguely related to the Charles Manson Family murders in August 1969.
As per Variety’s very reliable Justin Kroll, Roman Polanski will be a “key role” in what Tarantino is hailing as his ninth picture (he counts Kill Bill as one movie). Kroll further elaborates that Leonardo DiCaprio’s central character, who we’ve previously known to be a washed up and fading Western television actor, will also now be a next door neighbor to Polanski and Tate, who were happily married and expecting a child when followers of Charles Manson broke into their home and killed everyone inside, including a pleading and eight-and-a-half-month pregnant Tate.
Every Tarantino film is a cause for consideration and usually celebration by filmmakers, critics, and just regular movie lovers everywhere. But there is something very iconoclastic about Tarantino casting an actor to play the still-living Roman Polanski. The approach Tarantino is taking also seems to be reminiscent of how he plucked German actor Christoph Waltz out of obscurity and made him a household name (and two-time Oscar winner) with the one-two punch of Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012). It’s also an intriguing contrast, as he has apparently approached the newly minted Oscar nominee Margot Robbie for the role of Sharon Tate.
Be that as it may, even as a lifelong admirer of Tarantino’s work, I personally hope he treads with some trepidation—even if we don’t see it—on this film. While it has been described during its studio bidding war to be similar to Pulp Fiction while occurring during the same summer that Manson inspired his followers to prepare for a “Helter Skelter” race war, it is unclear how much of the actual real life murders will be incorporated into the film. Polanski too comes with his own demons.
An undeniable artist and filmmaking genius, Polanski produced a number of masterpieces in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and Chinatown (1974). Indeed, his relationship with his wife and blonde bombshell movie star, Sharon Tate (they collaborated on 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers), helped influence his creative brilliance on the Devil-themed Rosemary’s Baby. He also had to endure the nightmare of being out of town and on-location when he received the phone call of what happened to his wife and child in their own home. That and his background as a Holocaust survivor who lost his mother to the concentration camps—Roman escaped the Kraków Ghetto and spent years on the run, impersonating Roman Catholics—has leant him a lifetime of sympathy…
But he still was indicted in 1977 of raping a 13-year-old girl. He pled guilty to the lowest charge—unlawful sexual intercourse—before ultimately fleeing the United States prior to sentencing. He was also accused last year of alleged sexual assault by two more women, who would have been minors when the incidents took place also during the 1970s.
Given the separate and entwined tragedies of both Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, their inclusion in what is ostensibly a fictional Tarantino picture is curious. And perhaps worthy of some due caution.