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Theory: Kurt Russell's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Character Is Stuntman Mike

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood could possibly feature a character from another Quentin Tarantino film: Kurt Russell's Stuntman Mike from Death Proof.

Death Proof and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

There's a very real possibility that Kurt Russell's character in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Stuntman Mike from Death Proof. In the age of multiverses and shared cinematic universes, it's hardly unprecedented for characters to cross over into other films - something Tarantino's been doing since Reservoir Dogs.

In 2007, Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released a double feature throwback to grindhouse pictures of the 1970s aptly titled Grindhouse. Rodriguez's no holds-barred zombie film Planet Terror opens up the twofer, and after a series of fake movie trailers from directors like Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright, Tarantino's Death Proof is the second and final film. It centers around a Hollywood stuntman-turned-killer named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) whose weapons of choice are a 1971 Chevy Nova and a 1969 Dodge Charger. Giving new meaning to road rage, Stuntman Mike proves his talent behind the wheel of a car in Death Proof, but his Hollywood connections make it very possible he might have some kind of role to play in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

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Related: The Best Character In Each Quentin Tarantino Movie, Ranked

Given Tarantino's shared universe, as well as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood being a love letter to Hollywood during the height Charles Manson's reign of terror, Stuntman Mike's inclusion seems all the more fitting. That said, it'll help to know how and why he'd show up in the first place.

Quentin Tarantino's Shared Universe

Kill Bill Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction

Tarantino's filmography is split into two separate universes: the "Realer than Real Universe" and the "Movie Movie Universe," while Jackie Brown exists within its own universe, having been adapted from Elmore Leonard's novel. Tarantino explained this in an interview with The Project, an Australian talk show, confirming that Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, and presumably Once Upon a Time in Hollywood all exist within the "Realer than Real Universe." Even films he wrote, but didn't direct, exist within this universe, including True Romance and Natural Born Killers

This leaves films like Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 and From Dusk Til Dawn - and one would assume his planned Star Trek film - in the "Movie Movie Universe." They're films-within-films for characters to watch in the "Realer than Real Universe." And to make things a little more complicated, Tarantino has a couple of characters who transcend these universes: Sheriff Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) shows up in both Death Proof and From Dusk Till Dawn.

Apart from fictional brands like Red Apple cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burger showing up throughout his films, Tarantino's "Realer than Real Universe" links a number of characters together. For example, the former partner of Reservoir Dogs' Mr. White/Larry (Keitel) is True Romance's Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette); Pulp Fiction's Vince Vega (John Travolta) and Reservoir Dogs' Mr. Blonde/Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) are brothers; and Inglourious Basterds' Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) is the father of True Romance's Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). In Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) even discusses a TV show she worked on that more or less describes the Kill Bill films, in which she also starred.

Related: Quentin Tarantino's Favorite Movies Of All Time, Ranked

Stuntman Mike Explained

Death Proof Stuntman Mike

Making his first and only appearance in Death Proof - one half of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's double feature Grindhouse - Stuntman Mike isn't your average serial killer. He's a seasoned Hollywood stuntman (as his name implies) residing in Texas who spends his time hanging out at dive bars, driving, and killing. Death Proof introduces Stuntman Mike alongside his first slew of victims, exuding a kind of oddball charm that ultimately paints him as a generally decent person. He graces a stranger at the bar with his backstory as a stunt driver for films and is clearly smitten by the young women at the bar. However, little do they realize, he's scoping out his next victims.

In the film, he shows the full, gory extent of how he can use his car as a weapon, utilizing it from the inside out, and it's not until the halfway mark of film that he unexpectedly meets his match (in the form of three would-be victims). However, aside from a few anecdotes about his life as a Hollywood stuntman, exposition isn't really something Death Proof bothers exploring. This is meant to be a sleazy grindhouse movie after all.

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