Tarantino Details DiCaprio’s Improvised Meltdown Scene From “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s films may already know that Leonardo DiCaprio’s trailer meltdown scene in 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was completely improvised, but Tarantino has now given us some insight into the thought process behind the scene. 

Speaking on the 2 Bears, 1 Cave podcast, Tarantino revealed that the whole scene was planned from the beginning to be heavily improvised. DiCaprio was nervous as the whole scene rested on his shoulders, but Tarantino helped with ideas and dialogue prompts. 

As Tarantino explained, “What happened there was, I knew I want 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. 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.

“Now, what I did 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 scene is very effective and perhaps one of the most memorable in the film. But is it really a shock to see DiCaprio and Tarantino produce good work?

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