the Once upon a time in hollywood novel, written by Quentin Tarantino itself, is hitting the shelves today – and it’s not just a movie novelization. Instead, Tarantino wrote a book that expands on pretty much everything we’ve seen in the movie – and some things we haven’t seen, too. It’s a completely new and distinct experience from the movie.
In addition to all of this, the book also provides answers to some lingering questions. The biggest example could be the true story of what really happened to stuntman Cliff Booth’s wife (played in the film by an Oscar winner Brad pitt). The film reveals that Cliff’s wife died after Cliff shot her with a harpoon gun on the couple’s boat. But the shoot takes place offscreen, and you never really know what really come. Was it a tragic accident? Or did Cliff get away with murder?
In Once upon a time in hollywood, Cliff Booth is actor Rick Dalton’s stuntman and best buddy (Leonardo DiCaprio). Rick and Cliff are constantly working together, but in a flashback sequence we see Randy Miller (Kurt russel), the stunt coordinator for The green hornet, telling Rick he doesn’t want to work with Cliff. Why? Because Cliff has a reputation – his wife Billie (Rebecca gayheart) is dead, and everyone thinks Cliff murdered her and got away with it.
In another flashback, we see drunken Cliff and a belligerent Billie at sea on a boat. Billie berates Cliff, who sits in a chair and holds a harpoon gun. The boat tilts against the current, and just as it looks like the cannon is about to set off, the scene cuts out. We know Billie is dead, but we don’t really know How? ‘Or’ What she died. Rick insists the death was an accident and that all of this talk about the murder is just gossip.
But is it? Did Cliff deliberately shoot Billie? Did the movement of the ocean accidentally detonate the cannon? It’s an ambiguous moment, and the way you read it greatly contributes to how you read Cliff Booth as a character. Sure, he’s a nice guy in the movie – but he could also be a guy who murdered his wife and got away with it. If you’re completely okay with letting this scene remain ambiguous, you should probably stop reading right away. But if you want to know what really happened – at least according to the Once upon a time in hollywood novel – you are about to find out.
What really happened to Cliff Booth’s wife
So was it an accident or a murder? While Tarantino insists Cliff regrets what happened, he also makes it very clear that it wasn’t an accident – Cliff Booth murdered his wife. In the book, Tarantino writes, “The minute Cliff shot his wife with the shark gun, he knew it was a bad idea.
The book goes on to explain that the impact “hit her a little below the navel, tearing her in half, both pieces hitting the deck of the boat with a splash.” Tarantino goes on to explain that Cliff “had despised this woman for what seemed like years to him,” but “the moment he saw her torn in two … years of ill will and resentment evaporated in an instant. “.
Cliff rushes to his wife’s side and tries to hold her body together. Truly gruesome, Billie is still alive despite being cut in half, and she stays alive for seven hours. Cliff is afraid to rush off to call for help, so he continues to hold on to Billie and the two have a long conversation about their relationship. “During those seven hours, they told their whole life together,” Tarantino writes.
Eventually the Coast Guard arrives, but when they try to transfer Billie to their boat, her body collapses and she eventually dies. Cliff tells everyone it was an accident – “tragic mishandling of diving equipment”. And while people may not fully believe him, he still gets away with the crime. “How did Cliff get away with it?” Tarantino writes. “Easy. His story was plausible and couldn’t be refuted. Cliff felt really bad about what he had done to Billie. But as much regret and remorse as he felt, it never occurred to him. in mind do not to try to get away with murder.
Personally, I prefer the ambiguous version of this story that the film presents, as it keeps Cliff a bit of a conundrum – you never really get what his deal is. But if you take the novel as the definitive tale of what really happened, it can’t be denied anymore: Cliff Booth toppled his wife and then got away with a murder.
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