The announcement of a new Quentin Tarantino film is always a major cinephile event, but it’s a bigger deal now that he openly discusses retiring or at least shifting focus after just 10 features. For Tarantino, the idea is to make 10 of the best films of his era and then bow out gracefully. Now news of his ninth and apparently penultimate film is out there. If he nails this one, it could be among his most important.
Tarantino is working on finalizing a script for a new film that would focus on the notorious murders carried out by followers of Charles Manson in the late 1960s, The Hollywood Reporter announced late Tuesday. Details are scarce, but apparently Tarantino and producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein are preparing a deal to shop around to studios ahead of a 2018 shoot.
The Manson murders are one of the 20th century’s most notorious true crime sagas, shattering the free love and peace of the ‘60s and sent shockwaves through California and beyond. The story has been told and retold through books, films and television for decades (most recently in the NBC drama Aquarius), but never through Tarantino’s unique cinematic eye. If this report is true, the film would be Tarantino’s first project based on a true story, which certainly says something about his level of fascination with the case and its impact.
It’s also noteworthy that the true story Tarantino picked is one that’s been combed over countless times already, rather than something less ubiquitous. We all know this story, so what could he possibly bring to the table other than some gorgeous cinematography, snappy dialogue and a kickass soundtrack? Well, the report also notes that Tarantino intends to focus a major chunk of the film on the Manson Family’s most famous victim, the actress Sharon Tate. Very often new adaptations of this story gravitate toward Manson himself, exploring how and why he was able to captivate his followers and drive them to kill. Turning the lens on Tate – an iconic movie star even before her tragic death – could be a powerful way to reshape how we view this narrative. With Kill Bill, Tarantino made a powerful epic about a woman essentially (and at one point literally) rising from the grave to take her power back. Tate didn’t survive her ordeal, but that won’t necessarily stop Tarantino from staging a powerful meditation on her life beyond the murder. Throw in reports that he’s eyeing Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie—who’s reportedly in consideration for the role of Sharon tate—for key roles in the film and an intriguing picture starts to take shape.
The film would, of course, also present a new way for Tarantino to frame his endless exploration of cinematic violence. He’s given us comical (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained), righteous (Kill Bill) and absolutely depraved (The Hateful Eight) but never anything derived from an actual event. Tarantino has a knack for making us remember the brutality of his films so we can only imagine how memorable this one will be when he’s depicting one of the most infamous acts of violence in American history. It couldn’t be his hardest film to watch ever, and that’s saying something when the man came out of the gate with a severed ear scene that still lives in infamy.
At this point it’s not even entirely clear if this really will be Tarantino’s next film. He certainly hasn’t confirmed it, and he’s also backed out of projects (then backed into them again) before. If we must have yet another depiction of these terrifying events and the personalities that drove them, though, it’s hard to imagine a better director for the job.