Quentin Tarantino working on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood novelisation

Already imagining a summer 2021 villa or beach holiday with plenty of books to hand? Then good news: Deadline reports writer-director Quentin Tarantino is planning a novelisation of his most recent film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, due for release in the middle of next year. Tarantino is working in conjunction with publisher HarperCollins, and the novel is said to be a "departure" from the structure of the movie.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a hazy and controversial fantasia of fact and fiction, mixing up fictional characters with real-life incidents in and around the Los Angeles of 1969. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (in an Oscar-winning performance) were enthralling as washed-up actor Rick Dalton and stuntman Cliff Booth, two of the make-believe players in the ensemble. Margot Robbie played real-life actress Sharon Tate, in the movie depicted as Rick's next-door neighbour and someone with Hollywood at her feet.

In a characteristic move, Tarantino rewrote Tate's appalling real-life fate in which she was murdered by the followers of Charles Manson. The wish-fulfilment fantasy of Tarantino's film allows Tate to live, with Dalton and Booth gruesomely seeing off the psychotic Manson hippies before Dalton is ultimately welcomed into Tate's home. It proved to be a poignant conclusion, although one that largely depended on a viewer's knowledge of the real-life events. 

Tarantino is now planning a literary expansion of the central Dalton/Booth bromance, allowing the novelisation to stand apart from the movie. This seemingly anticipates his departure from filmmaking (Tarantino's next movie, his tenth, is said to be his last) and his embracing of novel writing.

Tarantino said that movie novelisations were the first adult books he read back in the 1970s. “To this day I have a tremendous amount of affection for the genre,” he explained. “So as a movie-novelisation aficionado, I’m proud to announce Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as my contribution to this often marginalised, yet beloved sub-genre in literature. I’m also thrilled to further explore my characters and their world in a literary endeavour that can (hopefully) sit alongside its cinematic counterpart.”

HarperCollins vice-president and executive editor Noah Eaker, who acquired North American rights to the books, told Deadline: “Quentin Tarantino’s literary talents have been in plain sight since his first scripts, but to see how skillfully he endows his characters with life on the page and how he constantly takes a reader by surprise, even one who knows the movie by heart, is to see a master storyteller trying on a new form and making it his own.”

Here on the blog we've often focused on books adapted into movies, but this is the other way around. Tarantino has in fact cut a two-book deal with the publisher. His second is called 'Cinema Speculation', a non-fiction text inspired by film critic Pauline Kael, and described by HarperCollins as a "deep dive into the movies of the 1970’s, a rich mix of essays, reviews, personal writing, and tantalizing 'what if’s' from one of cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers, and its most devoted fan".

Will you be reading Tarantino's novelisation during your summer holiday next year? If so, tweet us @Cineworld.