Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie or any of the other marquee names cast in Quentin Tarantino’s new homage to the ’60s, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” might get primo screen time — but in one particular scene, two San Diego musicians steal the spotlight.
The scene in question (don’t worry, no spoilers ahead) might be brief but it’s definitely memorable: DiCaprio’s actor/entertainer character, Rick Dalton, sings and dances along to “Green Door,” a No. 1 pop song originally recorded in 1956 by Jim Lowe, on the short-lived ’60s NBC variety show “Hullabaloo.”
However, it isn’t Lowe’s rendition featured in the Tarantino film but rather an authentically reworked version recorded specifically for the scene by two local luminaries — pianist/saxophonist/vocalist Archie Thompson and bassist Jason Littlefield — at the former’s downtown studio.
The pair, long-time studio session players and bandmates who’ve worked together in the ArchTones (Thompson’s trio) since 2007, are no strangers to the world of licensing music for film or television use.
“It actually happens fairly frequently, but this is probably the biggest production we’ve been included on,” Littlefield told SoundDiego. “The ArchTones have played every Saturday night for the last 9 years at the US Grant Hotel Grill. During Comic-Con, lots of Hollywood creatives come and go through the Grill. Four years ago, Adam Reed [creator of ‘Archer,’ ‘Frisky Dingo,’ ‘Sealab 2021,’ ‘Space Ghost,’ etc.] sat and listened to us all night and struck up a conversation with Archie. Next thing you know, we’re recording the theme music for ‘Archer’ seasons eight, nine and 10. I love that show, so it’s pretty special to watch an episode and hear myself.”
As with most music licensed for use in the visual media, placements are typically a hush-hush operation — and “Green Door” was no different. When word came down the line that it had been picked up for a new, then-unknown Tarantino vehicle, well, they were just as surprised as anyone.
“We had to sign non-disclosure agreements when we found out what it was being placed in,” the bassist continued. “I told no one but my wife and had to keep quiet for the last four months!”
Not knowing how or why it’d be used, Littlefield (who also plays in a majority of the Redwoods Music groups and recently landed on our list of 10 great bassists in San Diego) was more than pleased when he went to a screening of the film and experienced it for himself.
“The scene that ‘Green Door’ is placed in made me giggle,” he said, “and though it’s only about a 15-second clip, it wasn’t treated like background music. It was the focus of the scene.”
In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, even DiCaprio raved when asked specifically about the “Hullabaloo” scene (also shown momentarily in the film’s official trailer above).
“Well, thank God I wasn’t hired for my voice for this movie,” the actor said. “We had a couple different songs that we tried. One of them was ‘Green Door’ and the other one was ‘Don’t Fence Me In.’ We ended up using ‘Green Door,’ but, you know, it was great. It was a lot of fun.”
Song placement aside, Littlefield said he would’ve been thrilled about “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” anyway and urged any cinephile to head to the theater for it.
“I don’t go to as many films as I used to, but this is one of those films that would have gotten me out of the house, regardless of whether or not I had music in it. It’s a great film, and I love how it does a good job of transporting you to a different era in Hollywood. Plus, what a crazy awesome cast. Highly recommended!”