Rick Dalton, a fictional character from a film and later a novelization, is “dead.” He was 90, which is perhaps incredible given his drinking and smoking habits. Quentin Tarantino, who created him in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (and who was played by Leonardo DiCaprio), made the announcement over the weekend, then vowed to devote the next episode of Video Archives, the podcast he runs with his Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary, to further exploring his life and career. Well, guess what? In this the alternate reality that is Hollywood, Dalton almost worked with John Carpenter.
As per IndieWire, Dalton delved further into Dalton’s (again, fictitious) career post-Hollywood, which continued to be hills-and-valley. On the plus side, he got himself another beloved screen character to go along with his Bounty Law antihero Jake Cahill. He wound up playing Eddie Karpinski, a vigilante who wields a flamethrower (with which Dalton was already very adept) across three films: The Fireman, The Fireman 2, and The Fireman 3: CIA Crackdown. He even directed the third after 48 Hrs. legend Walter Hill turned it down.
On the negative side, he lost out John Carpenter’s The Thing. He would have played Garry, the stuffy station commander ultimately played by Donald Moffat.
Tarantino said Dalton’s life immediately after the events depicted in Hollywood took a strange turn. Torching a hippie Manson clan members (alongside two taken out by his buddy/stunt double Cliff Booth) inevitably turned him into a conservative hero…despite not being a conservative.
“So he got invited to, like, the Republican Convention, alright, because it became this thing for, like, Nixon’s Silent Majority,” Tarantino explained. “And he’s a lifelong Democrat but he went and they fucking dug him. Rick was very happy being dug. But they put him on Johnny Carson after that and he was a big hit on the Johnny Carson show, and then all of a sudden, because of the notoriety, he started doing better TV shows. He went from, like, doing Land of the Giants and Green Hornet to doing Mission: Impossible.”
Back in 2021, Tarantino flirted with chronicling Dalton’s entire (fake) career in a book, called The Films of Rick Dalton.
“It’s written as if Rick is real. You know, they have The Films of Charles Bronson and The Films of Anthony Quinn. Well, it’s done like that, with synopsis and then some critical quotes from the time,” Tarantino said. “And the book goes through every one of Rick’s movies that he did, leading to the end of his career in 1988, I believe, and every one of his episodic television shows.”
That obviously hasn’t happened yet. What’s more, Tarantino has a history of announcing projects that never materialize.
But since his wacky-sounding next film could be his last — and since he’s already published two books since the release of Hollywood, one a collection of film criticism — maybe he’ll actually get around to it.