Quentin Tarantino reveals real-life inspiration for Brad Pitt’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood character

In Quentin Tarantino’s new, 1969-set film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (out Friday), Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fading TV star named Rick Dalton while Brad Pitt portrays his stuntman-turned-gopher Cliff Booth. Back in the late ’60s, Los Angeles was home to plenty of down-on-their-luck actors and underemployed stuntmen, and film fiend Tarantino could probably name most of them. But the director tells EW that one stuntman in particular inspired Pitt’s character.

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“Yeah, there’s a guy — I can’t say his name, I won’t say his name — he was a ‘60s-era guy, into the ‘70s,” says the writer-director. “I had a couple of actors tell me about this guy and I found him a very fascinating character. Then, I’d meet old stunt guys, and I’d bring him up, and they all knew that guy. He was just this dangerous dude. You know big tough actor cowboy-types, who don’t show weakness in front of other men, he scared even them. There was just something scary about the guy and he was kind of indestructible. He could do stunts that nobody could. He had this killer aspect to him and that’s why he ultimately scared people.”

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood costars Margot Robbie as the real-life actress, Sharon Tate. The film’s cast also includes Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley, Luke Perry, Timothy Olyphant, and Dakota Fanning, among others.