Did Brad Pitt’s stuntman really kill his wife? If you didn’t appreciate Quentin Tarantino’s film’s ambiguity, then read on.
Spoilers for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood lie ahead.
Despite weighing in at a whopping two hours and 41 minutes, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood still left some interesting plot threads on the cutting room floor. Perhaps the most tantalising of these was the possibility that Brad Pitt’s likeable stuntman character, Cliff Booth, had killed his wife on a boat some years before, a key reason why many figures in the movie industry were reluctant to hire him.
For reasons unknown, the film elected to play this story beat in an ambiguous fashion, giving the audience nothing to go on and therefore leaving us to make our own minds up. In fact, with an actor of Brad Pitt’s talent and charisma in the role (he would go on to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in fact,) we’d argue that the viewer would probably give Booth the benefit of the doubt.
Well, that would be a mistake. Tarantino himself has penned the novelisation of the film, and made plain what really happened on that boat. In typical Tarantino fashion, it’s pretty graphic, but if you want to know, read on…
“The minute Cliff shot his wife with the shark gun, he knew it was a bad idea.” The bloody detailed description of the poor woman’s death tells us the spear “hit her a little below the belly button, tearing her in half, both pieces hitting the deck of the boat with a splash.”
Cliff is deeply shocked by the event, as “the moment he saw her ripped in two…years of ill will and resentment evaporated in an instant.”
Whilst Cliff does try to save his wife by then holding the two halves of her body together for seven hours (allowing them to talk and apparently sort out all of their differences), by the time the emergency services arrive, it is too late.
Tarantino also explains how Cliff got away with the crime. In the novelisation, Tarantino states Cliff’s accident story ‘was plausible and it couldn’t be disproven. Cliff felt really bad about what he did to Billie. But as much regret and remorse, as he felt, it never occurred to him not to try to get away with murder.’
So there you go. Crikey.
Tarantino’s next film is still set to be his last, at which point he has often talked about becoming ‘a man of letters’. Perhaps we can look forward to him going back and adding key scenes to all of his films. Next up Quentin, why don’t you write us a new Pulp Fiction chapter telling us what’s in that flippin’ briefcase…?
Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:
Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.
Become a Patron here.