Supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman explains that Quentin Tarantino‘s process “is really about working with music, and allowing that to inform” his filmmaking. That’s especially true of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which the director imagined as being “set to music” throughout. Watch our exclusive video interview with Stateman above.
Set in 1969 Hollywood, the Sony release follows the adventures of a TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stunt double (Brad Pitt) whose lives fatefully intersect with the Manson Family. “The music really sets a voice for the film that’s critical in setting the period,” says Stateman of the immersive soundtrack. “We worked around that and gave design elements a chance to bring in music, bring out music, or just fill the gaps where a song wouldn’t have been appropriate.”
One particular scene in which sound played a crucial role was Pitt’s arrival at Spahn Ranch, the hideout for Charles Manson and his cult. “Quentin didn’t want to have a song describe the evil of that place,” Stateman remembers. “So he basically said, let’s do it with sound effects, sound design and tortured organic elements.”
This is the seventh consecutive collaboration between Stateman and Tarantino. The veteran sound man describes the director’s films as “a pastiche of audio design, and a very interesting canvas to work on.” He’s particularly proud of his work on this film, whose soundscape was “very much coordinated. It’s hard to tell where the sound design begins and where the music enters or exits. It all becomes one cohesive sonic fabric that tells the story that he’s after.”
Two of their previous films together (2009’s “Inglourious Basterds” and 2012’s “Django Unchained”) earned Stateman Oscar nominations for Best Sound Editing. He earned additional Oscar bids for “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989), “Cliffhanger” (1993), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), “Wanted” (2008), “Lone Survivor” (2013) and “Deepwater Horizon” (2016). And he’s also a past Emmy contender for “Space” (1985) and “Godless” (2017).
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