Is Quentin Tarantino a ‘Justified’ Superfan? A Wildly Speculative Exploration Inspired by ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’
I will state this clearly to get us going: Justified was a delightful show with a perfect episodic structure and a glorious dynamic between Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins and if I forget about the horrendous season five arc with Noted Bad Take Guy Michael Rapaport, the series is flawless! I don’t know why we don’t talk about Justified more!
Is it because FX shows just don’t get their due? (Ahem, The Americans, The Shield, Terriers, Damages, etc.) Is it because people continue sleeping on Olyphant’s hotness and Goggins’s excellent comedic timing? I’m not sure! But I feel like these are questions I should ask Quentin Tarantino, because after watching Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, I’m low-key convinced the man is a fan of our little show in the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky. (Before you say, “Clearly, Roxana, Justified was a modern Western and OUATIH is playing in the Western genre sandbox, and there would obviously be overlap,” HOW DARE YOU RAIN ON MY PARADE OF TIMOTHY OLYPHANT GIFS. HOW DARE YOU.)
Let me elaborate upon this wildly speculative theory! Come with me on this journey! Ahem, as I said, there are Timothy Olyphant gifs for us all! AND SOME ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD SPOILERS, FYI!
OUATIH focuses on the waning screen career of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), who for years was the star of NBC’s Western series Bounty Law. What happened on Bounty Law, you may ask? Well, each episode focused on Dalton’s character, Jake Cahill, tracking down outlaws and turning them in for a bounty. Sounds a bit like Raylan Givens, no? Timothy Olyphant’s character on Justified was a U.S. Marshal who operated by his own set of rules, who set out to catch the bad guys who were on the run from the law and who required his special set of skills. Jake’s outfit in Bounty Law looked like a pair of slim-fitting denim or khaki pants and a button-down shirt and a shiny star badge. JUST LIKE RAYLAN. COINCIDENCE THAT THESE MEN HAPPEN TO DRESS ALIKE? OR PURPOSEFUL HOMAGE????
Let’s pivot now to Olyphant’s role in the film: Aside from playing Jake Cahill, DiCaprio’s Dalton also pops up on other network series, often as one-off villains—or “the heavy,” as he likes to say—to show his acting range. But he never stays on the series for more than an episode or two, and as Al Pacino’s agent Marvin Schwarzs points out, it’s probably because the series creators know that people will tune in to see Dalton, but they’ll subconsciously associate his failed villainy with an untrustworthiness that will discourage them from watching Bounty Law. It’s all very manipulative and underhanded! Just like we know, for example, CBS can still be!
But it is in fact CBS where Dalton books a guest gig on another cowboy show called Lancer, which stars up-and-coming actor James Stacy, played by Olyphant. It’s funny to me that Olyphant, who is 51, is portrayed as a young rival to DiCaprio, who is 44, but that is probably because Olyphant has excellent skin and swims a lot and is kind of a stoner and oh yeah, he has that
Rockefeller Vanderbilt inherited wealth connection. All that shit keeps you young!
I digress: On Lancer (which was a real show that aired from 1968 to 1970), Olyphant’s Stacy plays a one-time baddie who has since reformed his ways and returned to the town the show is named after. My man could play a cowboy in any time and any place and I hope he’s still doing this thing in space one day. As Stacy, Olyphant is still quick on the trigger—ahem, just like Raylan—but he finds a worthy adversary in DiCaprio’s villain, a kidnapper with a hippie-style mustache and fringed jacket who is described as an “evil Hamlet.” He’s prone to long, Shakespearean monologues about the nature of goodness, and he’s casually racist, and if he reminds you a bit of Walton Goggins’s Boyd Crowder on Justified, you are not alone.
Come on! These two dudes’ vibes are totally in conversation with each other! And did you notice how DiCaprio’s Lancer looks a bit, well, like Charles Manson? Who is played in OUATIH by Damon Herriman? You know! Dewey Crowe! With the four kidneys!
We only see Herriman’s Manson in one scene in the film, when he confidently walks up to the house where Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is living and attempts to scope it out. He doesn’t have much dialogue, but I think in those brief moments, Herriman nails the maniacal confidence of this man, his sureness of menace. Dewey Crowe was certainly goofier than this—Herriman reminds me more of Quarles here, honestly—but another link to Justified? Come on! How much more must I prove to you to sell you this theory?
The only flaw I see in my logic is that Goggins himself doesn’t show up, which is disappointing given that a. I don’t know how you watch Justified without loving Boyd and b. Goggins has been in the previous Tarantino films Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. Maybe Goggins was busy with his extremely regular TV schedule—Six or Deep State or The Righteous Gemstones or The Unicorn—but I’m still slightly bummed he couldn’t appear in some capacity in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, clearly Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to Graham Yost’s show. While you all fan-cast what legendary Hollywood figure Goggins could have played, I leave you with this:
Someone hand me a tissue and a glass of bourbon, dammit!
Image sources (in order of posting): YouTube/Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, Epk.tv/Sony
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