Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, debuted to a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival this year. But Tarantino has faced some major backlash for his treatment of real-life Manson murder victim Sharon Tate–and Margot Robbie, the actress who plays Tate in his film.
Critics reportedly loved the film, but they had a few questions for the director. Most importantly, why Margot Robbie barely speaks in the film. As an answer, he snapped, “I just reject your hypothesis.”
Robbie’s answer, albeit a longer one, didn’t really shed any light on the situation. She said:
“I think the moments I was on screen gave a moment to honor Sharon. … To show the wonderful sides of her could be done without speaking. I did feel like I got a lot of time to explore the character without dialogue, which is an interesting thing. Rarely do I get an opportunity to spend so much time on my own as a character.”
What Robbie isn’t saying is that Sharon Tate seems to be a much smaller part of the movie than we originally thought. Considering that she’s a central part of the Manson story–not to mention a main feature in the movie’s advertising–it’s surprising that her character has so little dialogue. Critics who have seen the movie have praised Robbie for her work as Tate, so it seems that she makes the most of the role.
On average, women in movies get to speak only a small fraction of the dialogue compared to their male costars. This issue, along with the Bechdel Test, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, has led to directors getting asked tough questions, like the one Tarantino rejected.
Quentin Tarantino didn’t come through the #MeToo movement unscathed. Not only is he closely affiliated with Harvey Weinstein and Miramax, but he also allegedly put Uma Thurman in real danger during the filming of Kill Bill.
His latest film is also courting controversy because of the way it deals with Roman Polanski, a convicted rapist who fled to Europe after he abused a 13-year-old girl. Polanski was married to Sharon Tate at the time of her murder, and he appears as a character in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Wonder if he has more lines than Margot Robbie?
Initially, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was pitched as a movie about the Manson Family murders in 1969. Now that we’ve seen the official trailer, it appears to be a sprawling story that focuses on a washed-up actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a stuntman (Brad Pitt) who accidentally get caught up with the Manson cult as they pursue dreams of stardom.
Tarantino described it as “a modern fairy tale tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.” Some critics have wondered whether Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate would get the kind of revisionist history revenge fantasy that Tarantino’s other blondes got to act out.
With a spoiler embargo in place, we’ll have to wait until the movie premieres in American theaters to find out.