It’s a sad day for “Bounty Law” fans. Rick Dalton, the actor who rose to prominence for playing Jake Cahill on the popular Western series, died at the age of 90 today. If you believe Quentin Tarantino, that is.
The official Twitter account for Tarantino and Roger Avary’s Video Archives Podcast announced the news that the fictional actor, who was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” is no longer alive in the universe of Tarantino films.
“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” covered a transitional period in Dalton’s career, when he was no longer a viable movie star in America and had been reduced to doing regular TV guest spots as a “heavy” that the heroic main characters could defeat. He spent most of his time with his best friend and longtime stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who loyally stuck by his side even after the stunt opportunities dried up. He eventually hit rock bottom and was forced to move to Rome for six months to make Spaghetti Westerns and spy movies — which, as Cliff pointed out, was not the “fate worse than death” that he seemed to think it was. With the help of his agent Marvin Schwarz, he was able to work with the likes of Sergio Corbucci and establish himself as a major Italian movie star in films such as “Kill Me Quick, Ringo, Said the Gringo” and “Operazione Dyn-O-Mite!” He met his wife Francesca on the trip, and the two of them eventually moved back to Los Angeles together.
Upon returning, he memorably got into a fight with members of the Manson family when they inadvertently broke into his house while pursuing his neighbors, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. He eventually saved the day by busting out a flamethrower that he used as a prop on an old movie and torching several of them to death.
Tarantino has always gone out of his way to share details of Dalton’s intricate backstory, so it’s not particularly surprising that he knew exactly when the character would die. He expanded on Dalton’s story in his novelization of the film, revealing that the Manson incident revived Dalton’s celebrity status. The character became a regular on “The Tonight Show” and began booking bigger acting jobs on shows like “Mission: Impossible” before retiring to Hawaii in 1988. Tarantino even closed his own meta storytelling loop by revealing that he himself met Dalton at the 1996 Hawaii International Film Festival.
Dalton is survived by his wife, Francesca. There is no word on the status of Cliff Booth.