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Biggest Unanswered Questions In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is revisionist storytelling at its finest. The "happy" ending rewrites an infamous night in Hollywood history, when members of the Manson Family cult murdered up-and-coming actor Sharon Tate (who was eight months pregnant with director Roman Polanski's baby) and her house guests. In Tarantino's version, the killers break into the wrong house and pay the price.

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" creates an alternate universe in which Sharon Tate and her guests live on, one where, perhaps, the Manson Family never murders anybody. This presents us with numerous "what if?" questions. Tate's fate aside, there's the fictional characters Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) to consider.

The bromance between the fading actor and his loyal stunt double is central to the film. While some of their story (both past and future) is further explained in Tarantino's novelization of the film, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" leaves almost as many questions as it answers. These are the biggest of the bunch.

Will Sharon Tate's movie career blossom?

In the novelization of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," there's a brief bit about Sharon Tate's journey to Hollywood. The book explains that she hitchhiked her way to Tinseltown with nothing but some pluck and a dream. By the time of the events covered in the film, Tate had finally found her footing in the movie business. She performed admirably in the Dean Martin film "The Wrecking Crew," which followed her turn in "Valley of the Dolls." In Tarantino's film, Tate visits a movie theater to watch herself on the big screen. She beams with pride when her fellow audience members laugh out loud at her comedic entrance. In real life, she was murdered shortly after.

In "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," however, Cliff, his pit bull Brandy, and (to a lesser extent) Rick prevent that from happening, meaning Tate's journey in the film business would have likely continued. She's also about to give birth to her husband Roman Polanski's child. At the time, Polanski was one of the hottest directors in cinema, which would have no doubt helped establish Tate as an A-list name. Would she have made her mark on Hollywood history had her light not been snuffed out just as things were starting to heat up?

Did Cliff redeem himself?

In the novelization of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Cliff and Rick become well known for killing the hippies that invaded the latter's home. Yet, the book focuses more on Rick's future than it does on Cliff's. In the film, there's a big scene in which a stunt director doesn't want to work with Cliff because of the rumor that he murdered his wife and got away with it. In the book, it's confirmed that he did indeed kill his wife, shooting her with a shark gun as she berated him and claiming it was an accident. "It wasn't like anybody was gonna miss Billie Booth," Tarantino wrote (via IndieWire). Does he live in a trailer out in an oil field in the valley as a sort of atonement for what he did?

The film ends with Cliff thwarting the would-be murderers, getting a serious wound in the process. When Rick calls him a good friend as Cliff heads off in an ambulance, you can feel the love. The book touches on how this gains them some fame and is helpful to Rick's career. Does that transfer over to Cliff, though? Do the stunt directors who didn't like him because he killed his wife now give him a pass? Does he give himself a break, get a nice apartment in the city and eat meals of actual food?

Did the Manson Family think twice about murder?

The night after several of Manson's disciples killed Sharon Tate and company, Charles Manson himself joined them to capture the LaBiancas. Manson helped in subduing and tying them up, then left his followers to deal with the couple. While the LaBianca murders didn't garner as much national attention as the slaying of Sharon Tate and her glitterati pals, they still spread panic throughout the Los Angeles area. But what would have happened had the Tate murders not gone to plan?

If the killers were instead killed by the people they attacked, would their fellow cult members have gotten cold feet? Many of the Manson girls say they were there because they were attracted to their charismatic leader. They wanted to do drugs and experience life in a hippie commune. Murder was likely not part of the peace and love they were seeking. Would this failure have woken up Manson's followers, or at least made them — and possibly even Manson himself — rethink trying to commit murder?

Does Rick ever slow down his drinking?

No scene in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" hits every emotion like the one in which Rick Dalton berates himself in his trailer after forgetting his lines. In the book, Tarantino explains that Rick is blaming himself for downing so many whiskey sours the night before, which he actually mentions during his outburst. While Rick is often seen drinking (and drunk) in the film, it's the book that really delves into his alcohol problem.

In the novelization, Tarantino compares Rick to other alcoholic Hollywood legends, and even discusses how Rick is self-medicating an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. It's made clear that Rick's drinking is getting in the way of his success. Tarantino also mentions how booze has derailed many great Hollywood careers in years gone by. He managed to overcome the hippies that were trying to kill him, but can he conquer the demons that live inside him? He'll need more than a flamethrower to win that battle.

What is next for Trudi Fraser?

Trudi Fraser is arguably the best minor character in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." The precocious child star is the most intelligent, collected, and professional actor in the film, despite being just eight years old. The book delves into her future Hollywood career, even highlighting some of her acclaimed performances (she would eventually be nominated for three Oscars, Tarantino reveals) and how Rick remained a fan of hers for the rest of his life.

What are the next steps for Trudi after her unforgettable performance as Mirabella Lancer? Will she get her own spin-off series? It would be interesting to see this talented child actor transitioning into her career as an A-list star, as the novelization says she does. Julia Butters (the actor who played Trudi) also has a bright future according to Leonardo DiCaprio, who compared her to a young Meryl Streep.

Did Rick become friends with his neighbors?

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" ends with Sharon Tate inviting Rick Dalton up to her house for drinks. He finally gets to hang out with his next door neighbor after fighting off the people who, in real life, chose her house instead of his. That's the kind of thing that would open up neighborly relations. So where does he go from there?

In the film, Rick is proud of the fact that he owns his house in the hills as opposed to being a renter, making him a true resident of Tinseltown. He boasts about living next door to Roman Polanski, one of the top directors of the time. In the book, he even rubs shoulders with Steve McQueen at the Tate-Polanski house. Will he get invited to their parties in the future? Does he become Uncle Rick to Tate and Polanski's child? We like to think so.

What happened to the Manson Family after the failed attack?

While we already asked the question of whether the Manson Family would commit their next murders after the botched murder in the film, one has to wonder what would happen to the Manson Family in general? Before Cliff turned the tables on the people who intended to murder him and Rick, he recognized them as residents of Spahn Ranch. There's no doubt that he would have told the police where he had seen Tex and the other hippie attackers before.

Obviously, the police would go to Spahn Ranch and assess the situation. The Manson commune would present a scenario no authority could ignore. For starters, there were underage girls on the ranch. There were a lot of drugs, and an incapacitated landowner, George Spahn. The police would clearly have a lot of questions. And perhaps the questioning would have been the reality check that many of the disciples needed to disperse. Maybe that would have been the end of the Manson Family.

Will Cliff get into drugs?

Throughout "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Cliff is the sober sidekick to Rick, the boozy star. In part that's due to Cliff's "job" as Rick's driver. But he also doesn't seem to be that much into the drinking life. He is never drunk in the movie or the book. In fact, there's never a moment when he seems intoxicated at all. At least, not from alcohol. There is, of course, one memorable scene in which the open-minded Cliff decides to do drugs, smoking a cigarette that has been dipped in acid.

Cliff's trip is kicking in big time when the Manson Family members show up, intent on murdering everybody in the house. He appears completely unaware of the gravity of the situation, but the second he realizes he's in real danger, he snaps out of it. He even manages to throw a can of dog food with pinpoint accuracy, something he probably wouldn't have been able to do had he been drunk. We can't help but wonder if Cliff became a regular dabbler after the events of the movie, though, considering what he went through, chances are he never touched the stuff again.

Does Rick ever become the great actor he could be?

This question goes hand in hand with the drinking one. It's heartbreaking to see Rick fluff his lines, but (as shown in the scene where Trudi Fraser tells Rick that he's just delivered the best acting she's ever seen) he certainly has talent when he's on his game. One of Rick's big issues from the start is that he feels like he's lost "it." It doesn't help that his agent basically tells him that he's done being a leading man in Hollywood.

Sure, he lost the role of Virgil Hilts (the coolest character in the classic WWII flick "The Great Escape") to Steve McQueen, but Rick has the talent to be a great, lauded actor (no doubt in part because he's played by an Oscar-winning actor). His career during the film is on a downswing due to a combination of bad luck and his drinking. So with both of those gone, will he finally become the actor he aspires to be?

Will Jay Sebring and Sharon Tate get back together?

In "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Steve McQueen explains to Connie Stevens how Jay Sebring (described as "a larger-than-life character who helped birth the rise of the celebrity hairstylist" by Vogue) was with Sharon Tate before she got with Roman Polanski. Now, Sebring basically lives at her house, hanging out with Tate as her famous husband travels the world. So what's the deal? Is the famous hairdresser still in love with Tate?

In real life, Sebring and Tate were an item until the latter met her future husband while working on 1966's "The Fearless Vampire Killers." Sebring got kicked to the curb, but the former lovers apparently remained good friends. In fact, Sebring reportedly died as he tried to shield Tate from harm on that dreadful night in the Hollywood Hills. Tarantino's film implies that Sebring still had romantic feelings for Tate despite her marriage to Polanski (and her carrying his unborn child), and we have to wonder if the two would have ended up back together in the future, had they both survived.

Does Squeaky actually love George Spahn?

Squeaky Fromme is portrayed as a sort of queen of the Manson Family in Tarantino's film. She's the person responsible for keeping property-owner George Spahn happy enough to allow a bunch of hippies to run free on his ranch. When Cliff decides to check on his old friend (he used to shoot "Bounty Law" at the ranch), Squeaky tries to turn him away. She says she doesn't want Cliff to wake the old man up because she enjoys her time watching TV with him in the evening, so he needs his nap.

Of course, Cliff tells her that he's coming in whether she likes it or not. George informs the concerned stuntman that they do indeed watch TV together in the evening, and that Squeaky loves him. To Cliff, it's pretty clear that Squeaky is only being nice to George so he will allow her friends to stay on the ranch, but is it possible that she does actually care about him? She seems to have a soft spot for the much older man, but how much of that comes from Charles Manson's brainwashing versus her own feelings?

Does Brandy get the appreciation she deserves?

Cliff gets the credit for dealing with the murderous intruders at the end of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," but could he have taken down the gun-toting Tex without the help of his loyal dog? When Cliff sends Brandy into attack mode, she's every bit as savage as Cliff. The book explains how this comes from her history in dog fights, which was how she came to be Cliff's companion. After she does her bit with the attackers, she heads into the bedroom with Francesca, protecting Rick's Italian wife.

According to the novelization, Rick and Cliff become well known after the events of that evening ("All in all, those goddamn hippies did me a favor," Rick said), but does the latter's dog go down in history, too? Her unquestioning obedience to her owner in a moment of mortal danger is truly heartwarming. Does she at least get something better than cut rate canned dog food? One can only hope so.