Taking you to the past is a likely feat for Quentin Tarantino, and no green screen and computer-generated effects are required. All it took for the writer-director to create a 1969 setting were vivid recollections of the era, arduous consideration for period detail, and having Barbara Ling by his side.
Tarantino was intent on achieving the desired era for his film “Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood” without the use of modern-day digital effects. Ling successfully resurrected the Hollywood scenes of that era by recreating the establishments and landmarks such as the storefronts along Hollywood Boulevard, the movie theaters in Westwood Village, the El Coyote restaurant, and the ranch inhabited by the Manson family.
Ling, who has worked on “Batman Forever,” describes Tarantino as someone who is not very fond of digital effects and seeing actors perform in front of a green screen. The production designer and filmmaker agree that the best way to achieve the film’s required setting is by traditionally recreating it, which Ling admits is also the hardest. The real deal entails dealing with the real world – real people, real streets, real everything – something that Tarantino enjoys.
Harley Quinn Smith, who plays the role of a Manson girl in the film, said she felt she was living in a different era during filming. She also revealed that there were times she felt weird and off every time she went home after a shoot.
Historian Alison Martino, founder and curator of the Facebook Page Vintage Los Angeles, visited the film’s set and was overwhelmed with the accuracy of Ling’s work. Martino, who was born in 1970, felt nostalgic upon seeing Hollywood Boulevard transformed into its old look saying that it’s precisely the Hollywood she remembers.
Ling and Tarantino also hail from Los Angeles. In 1966 when the filmmaker was only three years old, his family moved to the coastal city of Torrance. He spent his growing up years navigating every corner of Hollywood Boulevard.
One highlight of the film that didn’t require much recreation was Hollywood Boulevard’s Musso & Frank Grill, an eatery that served Charlie Chaplin, Steve McQueen, and Tarantino himself. Despite the change that occurred in its surrounding establishments, the 100-year-old eatery retained most of its original look not only on the façade but also on the interiors. In fact, they still have the same glass they used in 1969 kept in their backroom.
In the film, the characters of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio meets Al Pacino’s character in Musso & Frank. Mark Echeverria, who owns and manages the eatery at present, applauds Tarantino and Ling’s quality of work. According to Echeverria, he felt comfortable cooperating with Ling and Tarantino because of the duo’s keen eye for detail.