Quentin Tarantino’s as-of-yet-untitled ninth movie is moving forward, with three Hollywood studios locked in a bidding war and a handful of superstars on its casting shortlist, as well as new details about its plot, which concerns the infamous Manson Family murders.
Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. are engaged in what Variety calls a “heated courtship” of Tarantino, one that has included a rare degree of “ardent ego stroking.” These three studios are the finalists to land the film’s distribution rights, though it’s possible that a dark horse candidate could still emerge. Other suitors are said to have balked at Tarantino’s production budget (an awfully hefty $100 million).
And on the casting front, Tom Cruise has joined Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio on the shortlist of candidates Tarantino has approached about playing one of the film’s two male lead roles. Per Deadline, “it is entirely unclear if all three will be in the movie, or two of them, or any of them, because much of that comes down to making a deal and scheduling.” Jennifer Lawrence and Margot Robbie have both been associated with the role of Manson Family victim Sharon Tate.
Tarantino revealed he had finished the film’s script earlier this month, around which time he also severed ties with his longtime collaborators at Miramax and The Weinstein Company (now near bankruptcy) in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal—hence, his search for a new studio.
It’s been said since this summer that Tarantino’s new film would focus on the infamous murders orchestrated by cult leader Charles Manson in 1969—however, the director has since clarified that the Manson murders are more of a backdrop than a main attraction. “It’s not Charles Manson, it’s 1969,” Tarantino told IndieWire on Monday. As Deadline puts it, calling the period project a Charles Manson movie is “akin to calling Inglourious Basterds a movie about Adolf Hitler, when the Nazi leader was only in a scene or two.”
2015’s The Hateful Eight, a talky slow-burner starring many of Tarantino’s usual suspects, was his eighth film. Though the snowy Western was a critical success, it didn’t do so hot at the box office, making only $155.8 million worldwide against a budget of $55 million.
Tarantino reaffirmed last fall that he plans to call it a career after 10 films, which would only leave room for one more after his untitled Manson murders—ahem, 1969—project.
Production on Tarantino’s ninth film is expected to begin in mid-2018 ahead of a 2019 release. Per Deadline, the project’s distributor will be decided by Thanksgiving.