Quentin Tarantino changed Sharon Tate’s ending to a happy one through his revisionist Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but how did Rick Dalton’s aging actor fare in the aftermath? Well, we know that the Leonardo DiCaprio-portrayed character ended the film with a drink at the home shared by Tate and Roman Polanski, and we can assume that some career-related talks were had, but Tarantino knows exactly where he thinks Dalton landed next. Actually, the situation could have played out favorably for the troubled actor, as he told Margaret Cho during a recent podcast episode.
Tarantino has already clarified how Dalton suffered from a secret affliction, undiagnosed bipolar disorder, which was what DiCaprio used to channel some of the actor’s mood swings. With that in mind, we can’t simply assume that DiCaprio used his newfound Polanski connection to ascend to greater heights than he previously knew. Tarantino appears to indicate to Cho, via IndieWire, that Dalton still struggled for more success before possibly settling into a seasoned-cop character on a procedural-type show:
“What could have easily have happened, even if he had a little bit more success in the 1970s than maybe I give him credit for, what I could really see happening, because it happened to a lot of these guys, is that by the late 1970s, early 1980s, a lot of these macho ’50s and ’60s television leading men they showed up on TV shows again but as the older cop who’s the boss of the younger cop that sends them out on the missions.”
The director sees Dalton adopting a career arc similar to Earl Holliman, Jack Kelly, or Vic Morrow, who all played law enforcement bosses after taking their turns as leading men. “I could definitely see Rick Dalton in 1978 being one of those guys,” Tarantino enthused. And that’s probably the best ending that Dalton could hope for and a respectable one to boot. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt is still not answering questions on whether Cliff Booth really did that very bad thing, and neither is Tarantino, so it appears that no one will ever receive the full answer to that important question. We can have nice things, just not every nice thing!