How ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ Turned Back the Clock on L.A.’s Streets

Quentin Tarantino and production designer Barbara Ling shut down Los Angeles’ busiest streets to restore them to their ’60s neon glory

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” as its name suggests, is a fantasy rooted not in a faraway land in time, but in a city millions live in at a time still within living memory. It depicts a piece of Hollywood history as Quentin Tarantino would have liked it to be. All the good stuff from the real ’60s is there — KHJ radio, 75-cent movie theaters, margaritas at Casa Vega — and all the ugly realities are pushed to the background or erased entirely, replaced with more good stuff forged from nostalgia.

That fond, almost elegiac depiction of a time gone by extends to how Tarantino and his production designer, Barbara Ling, went about portraying the 1969 Los Angeles that Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) inhabit. There’s no smog, you’re more likely to see a pretty girl in denim shorts than a homeless man, and all the movie theaters along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards crackle with neon signs promising pleasures from artistic elegance to grindhouse grit. And Tarantino, true to his roots, wanted to bring it all back without any computer effects.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • • Twitter: @jeremyfuster