‘I thought what am I going to do [with Hitler], and I finally decided, just kill him,’ Tarantino has said of his controversial decision to radically step outside of legitimate history for the sake of art and entertainment.
‘So, I took a piece of paper, and I just wrote on it, “just f-ing kill him”. And I put it by my bedside table and I went to bed. The next morning I still thought it was a great idea, so I did it.’
The director has extensive form in inserting revenge fantasy endings into his pseudo-historical works, notably having Jamie Foxx’s title character in the slavery-era drama Django Unchained massacre a slave plantation owner and his cronies, even blowing up the plantation house.
But unlike the fictional Django, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood deals with famous people from recent history.
After the shock ending, the title of the film appears – for the very first time – on screen, hammering home that this is a fairy tale retelling of true events, which features a decidedly Hollywood conclusion.
It seems that much like the fictionalised killing of Hitler, the ending of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood constitutes a revenge fantasy, taking place in an imagined history, and is a commentary on the way Hollywood works to reshape reality.
The second explanation for the ending is more bizarre, but also strangely credible.
The hallucinogenic effects are shown kicking in prior to the Manson Family’s arrival – but were the massacre of the evil trio and the happy ending for Tate just a hallucination? Did the killers really continue on their path to kill the actress and her companions, while Booth fell into his hallucinatory alternate ending; something that only happened in his head?
It’s often said that the Manson killings were the definitive ending point of the 1960s. Did the acid trip change that - from Cliff's point of view at least - by offering another outcome where what really happened is blotted out by some very 1960s drug-fuelled delusion?
The fact the ending is seemingly shown from the perspectives of multiple characters, and continues after Booth is taken away to the hospital, casts doubt on this.
Whatever the explanation, it’s an ending that will have people talking for years to come.