Things got a bit tense on Wednesday at a press conference for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Following a wave of praise for the black comedy, which premiered the night before to a seven-minute standing ovation, director Quentin Tarantino was joined by stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie to answer journalists’ questions at the Cannes Film Festival.
When a reporter questioned Tarantino on why Robbie, who plays tragically murdered actress Sharon Tate, has noticeably limited dialogue in the film, Tarantino only scowled and said “I reject your hypothesis.”
Relieving everyone in the room from an excruciatingly awkward silence, Margot attempted to offer a more detailed and nuanced response to the question.
“I think the moments that I got onscreen gave an opportunity to honor Sharon and the lightness,” the Australian actress said.
“The tragedy, ultimately, was the loss of innocence, and to really show those wonderful sides of her, I think, could be adequately done without speaking,” she noted.
“I did feel like I got a lot of time to explore the character, even without dialogue specifically, which is an interesting thing.
“Rarely do I get an opportunity to spend so much time on my own as a character, going through a day-to-day existence … [I] actually really appreciated the exercise and felt that I could deliver what I wanted to onscreen.”
According to critics who attended the Cannes screening of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Robbie does have noticeably few lines, and is often in a scene without speaking. It was clearly an intentional choice on Tarantino’s part – if not, it’s a disturbing oversight with troubling sexist implications – the question is why?
Is it a comment on how female actors like Tate and women in general were treated in Hollywood at the time, seen and admired for their looks but not given much of a voice?
Unfortunately, due to Tarantino’s strangely curt answer, we may never know.