The Importance of Margot Robbie’s Bookstore Scene in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

A brief scene is filled with meaning

Margot Robbie Sharon Tate Manson Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
CTMG, Inc. (2019)

(Spoiler warning: This addresses a minor plot point involving Sharon Tate in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.)

In 1979, 10 years after the murders of Sharon Tate and four others at her and Roman Polanski’s home, the infamous director released the film “Tess.”

The film, starring “Cat People” actress Nastassja Kinski, garnered six Oscar nominations, including for best picture, and won three. The film follows the harrowing and tragic life of the beautiful Tess, born into poverty and raped after being sent to live and work with what are believed to be wealthy relatives. At the time of the film’s release, Polanski had fled to France after pleading guilty to statutory rape in 1977.

“Tess” was deemed Polanski’s masterpiece up to that point, but the film’s origins began a decade earlier when Tate, Polanski’s wife, introduced him to the classic 1891 Thomas Hardy novel it’s based on, with hopes of starring in the film version herself.

There’s a scene in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth and newest film “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood,” woven into a quiet, reflective sequence in which Margot Robbie, portraying Tate, stops into a bookstore in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles to buy a copy of Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented” for Polanski (played by Rafal Zawierucha).

Tate inspired Polanski to write and direct “Tess.” While Tarantino’s film shows her buying the book in L.A., Tate actually bought Polanski a copy of the book in Europe, before going back to the U.S. Polanski stayed behind to finish working on a film.

That was the last time Polanski saw Tate alive. He was still overseas when she was murdered in August of 1969. Polanski dedicated “Tess” “to Sharon” at the beginning of the film.