There are three things that bother me about Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Rick Dalton, the former TV star whose career is slipping and downswirling in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
The first is his yokel twang, which I hate the sound of — he sounds like a blend of Jim Nabors, Buck Owens and Clem Kadiddlehopper. The second is the proven fact that he’s bone stupid. And the third is that moment on the western TV set when he throws a styrofoam coffee cup onto the dusty main street.
But let’s focus on the dumb. How else to describe a TV actor who’s played a starring role in a hit TV series (i.e., Bounty Law), and then, after the series has been cancelled, has segued into playing a series of bad guys on this and that TV show, and somehow doesn’t realize that he’s degrading his image by doing so?
Every ’60s-era TV star in the industry knew it was better to be the cool guy who wins fights and shoots bad guys than to play guys who lose fights and get shot by the hero…c’mon!
Steve McQueen might not have been Albert Einstein, but at the very least he knew that after playing Josh Randall on Wanted: Dead or Alive the worst thing he could have done was to play bad guys on The Fugitive, The FBI Story and such.
McQueen knew that, but somehow Dalton didn’t. Because Dalton’s brain-cell count was simply too low.
It was only when Dalton met his agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) for lunch at Musso and Frank in February ’69 that the clouds parted. Schwarz explained very calmly and logically that repeatedly getting beaten up and killed will condition the audience to think less of Dalton the ex-bounty hunter, and that it will be very tough to play a hero again.
Dalton has been playing TV bad guys for four or five years at that point, and yet somehow the reality hadn’t sunk in. It’s only when Schwarz says this isn’t the wisest career strategy that Dalton finally realizes “holy shit…things aren’t going so well!”
This, to me, is one dumb-as-a-fencepost actor. Especially one who can’t stop drinking or smoking or littering. Which is why I found Dalton a bit of a pain to hang with. Brad Pitt‘s Cliff Booth, on the other hand, is eternally cool.