Excitement has been building for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie for months. While initial rumors pointed to the Manson Family murders as a potential point of focus for Tarantino's film, he later clarified, “It’s not Charles Manson, It’s 1969.”
Recently, Vanity Fair got a source to go on record to add further clarify to the project, stating that the film is a Los Angeles-centric tale that, "focuses on a male TV actor who’s had one hit series and his looking for a way to get into the film business. His sidekick—who’s also his stunt double—is looking for the same thing."
This got us thinking about the various moments from that tumultuous year that the director might tackle in what will be his ninth movie. Though Charles Manson’s exploits certainly feel like a natural subject for Tarantino to cover - with Margot Robbie rumored to be in the running to play Sharon Tate - there are plenty of other events from that year that might be a good fit for his lens (both from an LA perspective and more broadly). After all, Tarantino is prone to expansive worlds and multiple narratives, so his take on the late '60s could contain multitudes.
Here are 10 elements from 1969 we think would spark Quentin Tarantino's creative spirit.
The Vietnam War
The twenty year long conflict in Vietnam looms like a spectre over so much art and culture from this era. By 1969, the anti-war movement was had reached its full force, and much of youth culture came to be defined by opposition to the war.
Tarantino himself was six-years-old and certainly mature enough to understand what was happening around him. Fans of his films will also remember that Christopher Walken played a Vietnam veteran who delivered a colorful monologue in Pulp Fiction.
From a creative perspective, many Vietnam War veterans felt out of place upon returning home - some of the only combat veterans not to be lauded for their bravery.
We can definitely imagine a character who has returned home to Los Angeles who has to reckon with a world in which hippiedom is officially coming to an end - spawned not only by the conflict in Asia - but the murder of Sharon Tate.
One of the most compelling subplots of the Vietnam War at home was the draft. The United States introduced a draft lottery to provide soldiers for the war in Vietnam in December of 1969. It may sound crazy today, but the first draft lottery was conducted by drawing blue capsules representing each day of the year (366 to make sure leap year babies didn’t get off the hook) on live TV. The draft resulted in many young men who opposed the war fleeing to Canada and inflicting injury on themselves rather than be subjected to the brutality in Vietnam. Needless to say, many of these stories are intensely cinematic.
Some who were drafted, like boxer Muhammed Ali, chose to serve jail time as conscientious objectors rather than serve in a war they didn’t believe in.
Tarantino is no stranger to building scenes where characters desperately attempt to escape bad situations.
As seen in The Hateful 8 and in Pulp Fiction’s famous diner scene, Tarantino loves it when starkly different characters cross paths and are forced to reckon with one another. In August of 1969, 400,000 people converged upon a dairy farm in upstate New York for a rock festival that would become the stuff of legend. The unexpected masses, the drugs, the rain, and the music created an atmosphere of beautiful chaos that many who were there say they never saw anything quite like ever again.
Though in reality, there were only two deaths at Woodstock (one from an overdose and another from a farm equipment accident), we imagine Tarantino’s version would involve at least a few more.
There was a much more violent concert in 1969 that resulted in a scene that might fit a little bit better into Tarantino’s bloody cinematic style. This concert, held at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California, ended with dozens injured and a handful of deaths. The most infamous death that occurred that day was the stabbing of Meredith Hunter. Hell’s Angels gang members were hired to run security at the concert, and after an altercation with Hunter, a Black man, one of the Angels stabbed him to death. The Angels, reportedly drunk and armed with improvised weapons, created a vicious, angry atmosphere at the venue that ultimately erupted in chaos.
The deaths and violence of that day have been viewed by rock historians as a metaphor for the death of the broader hippie movement, and the vision of a more peaceful world promoted at events like Woodstock.
Intense burst of violence have been a trademark of Tarantino’s filmmaking for his entire career.
In July of 1969, men landed on the Moon (save your conspiracy theories for another website). While Quentin Tarantino hasn’t been drawn to science fiction in the past, we could see the “one giant leap for mankind” finding metaphorical or creative significance in the film. If this movie were to seek some of the magical feelings of Kill Bill, we see no reason the moon landing can’t be incorporated into his late sixties odyssey. Whatever form that might take, we imagine if would look pretty cool.
Scandinavian Airlines System Flight 933
ON January 13, 1969: Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) Flight 933 crashed six miles offshore in Santa Monica Bay - killing fifteen passengers and crew members - but miraculously allowing 30 people to survive. Five days later, United Airlines Flight 266 — a Boeing 727 — crashed into the ocean on takeoff from LAX. All 38 on board were killed.
In Tarantino's hands, dual plane crashes, loss of life, and surviving characters in a strange land all seem like elements he could latch onto.
Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter was a founding member of the Southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party. On January 17, 1969, he and fellow Black Panther member, John Huggins, were on UCLA's campus. A shootout ensued and both men were killed in cold blood. Many have speculated that their deaths were the result of infighting and jealously amongst the Black Panther Party - potential initiated by FBI's COINTELPRO who wanted to break up the Panthers using insular methods.
Following their deaths, the LAPD went on a rampage - resulting in 75 arrests of key members and a renewed focus to ostracize the political group across Southern California.
In recent years, Tarantino has become interested in how marginalized people fight back with violence. Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful 8 all feature characters seeking revenge against their oppressors. It feels natural, then, that Tarantino might want to focus on elements which bring in violence and race.
Richard Nixon Inaugurated
One of American history’s most interesting and complicated villains took office in January of 1969. Richard Nixon was paranoid, gruff, and savagely intelligent. Though he is often played for laughs in films these days, he was infamously dastardly and vindictive. Just ask anyone unfortunate enough to make it onto his enemies list. After watching him create villains like Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds) and Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs), we know that Tarantino has a good eye for a great villain.
Project Blue Book Ends
Even though Tarantino isn’t a science fiction director, it might be hard for him to resist the dark comedy present in the shuttering of Project Blue Book.
Project Blue Book was an US Air Force led study into the existence of UFO. In late 1969, the project was terminated when it was concluded that there were no UFOs. An odd project ending in such an strange pronouncement offers just the kind of dark humor that Tarantino enjoys. By the time that Project Blue Book ended, over 12,000 reports of UFOs had been collected. The majority of them were simply incidents of people misunderstanding natural phenomena they were observing, such as clouds and stars.
As this video demonstrates, Tarantino is no stranger to finding comedy in the strangest places.
1969 was a great year for film. It marked a big step forward in what we would come to view as American independent cinema. Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy were just two of the classics released that year. It wouldn’t surprised us if motorcycle riding hippies or street savvy New York City hustlers appeared in Tarantino’s next film. Tarantino actually once produced a film about bikers and his New Beverly Theater in Los Angeles has hosted numerous screenings of the film. It might only be a matter of time before we see his personal Dennis Hopper homage on the big screen.