There are untold questions for which we may never have answers: Why is the sky blue? What happens after we die? Is there a god? Did Cliff Booth kill his wife? The latter has surely been on the minds of anyone who’s seen Quentin Tarantino’s hotly debated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Cliff, of course, is the aging (but still dreamy) stuntman played by Brad Pitt, a charming, laidback, occasionally shirtless rogue with at least one possible demerit to his character: He may have killed his wife (Rebecca Gayheart) with a flare gun while they were bickering on a boat.
The scene cuts out before we see what definitively happened, and though Cliff was acquitted, it’s clear most people in Hollywood think he did it. (One notable exception is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton.) We’ll never know for sure if Cliff is guilty or not, because it’s a movie and, unlike Sharon Tate, et al., Cliff is not a real person. But there is someone who knows the real fake truth: Brad Pitt.
In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times (picked up by The Hollywood Reporter), the Oscar-nominated superstar was asked if the movie’s writer, Quentin Tarantino, ever hipped him to what really happened.
“That, I will never tell,” Pitt replied. He added that he’d prefer if viewers make up their own minds, as that makes the experience of watching it more interesting. “So why spoil that?”
Tarantino himself has revealed a bit more about Cliff than was presented, or simply only alluded to, in the movie. While defending the controversial scene between Cliff and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), the filmmaker delved into his backstory.
“The reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret,” Tarantino revealed. “He has killed many men in World War II in hand-to-hand combat. What Bruce Lee is talking about in the whole thing is that he admires warriors. He admires combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport. Cliff is not part of the sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person.”
There’s already been talk about a longer version of OUATIH, much like the extended TV version of The Hateful Eight Tarantino recently made for Netflix. Perhaps that will feature more about Cliff’s history. Hopefully we won’t see what really happened on that boat. As they say, embrace the mystery!