The Pit Bull in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Deserves an Oscar (But Shame on Tarantino)
If you’ve seen “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” I’m going to bet that, like me, one of your favorite characters was Brandy, the Pit Bull belonging to Cliff Booth, the character played by Brad Pitt.
Without giving anything away, Brandy is truly a hero in the movie. She is played by Sayuri, who was snubbed for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination — probably only because dogs don’t get Academy Awards. They do, however, qualify for the Palm Dog award at the Cannes Film Festival. Sayuri deservedly won that prestigious honor this year.
“I’ve told everybody, I have no idea if we’re going to win the Palme d’Or. I feel no entitlement,” said Quentin Tarantino, writer and director of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” when he accepted the award on Sayuri’s behalf. “But I did feel that I was in good standing to win the Palm Dog. So I want to dedicate this to my wonderful actress Brandy. She has brought the Palm Dog home to America.”
Quentin Tarantino was presented the Wamiz Palm Dog award today in Cannes for Brandy’s performance in @OnceInHollywood! ? (Fun fact: she was played by three Pit Bulls in the film: Sayuri, Cerberus, and Siren) pic.twitter.com/YjHijlycfo
— Sony Pictures (@SonyPictures) May 24, 2019
As much as Sayuri deserves awards for her performance, Tarantino deserves no awards for casting this particular dog in his movie. Here’s why.
Instead of searching animal shelters and rescue organizations to find a Pit Bull perfect for the part of Brandy – and in the process probably finding that dog a forever home – Tarantino instead chose Sayuri from breeders Monique and Matt Klosowski of Wilmington, Del. Sayuri’s stunt double, Cerberus, was also obtained from these breeders.
According to USA TODAY, trainers flew to the Klosowskis’ home and offered them “thousands of dollars” for Sayuri and Cerberus. It’s heartbreaking to think about how all that money could have really helped an animal shelter or rescue instead. The trainers didn’t even have to leave Los Angeles — it’s a sad fact that the vast majority of dogs in all of the area’s shelters are Pit Bulls or mixes.
What’s also really disappointing is that Tarantino chose to cast a Pit Bull with cropped ears, like Sayuri’s. Okay, so mutilating the ears of Pit Bulls may have been commonplace back in 1969, but nowadays ear cropping is rightfully considered cruel and unnecessary. It is opposed by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and other veterinary organizations. Yet every Pit Bull on the About page of the Klosowskis’ Delaware Red Pitbulls website has cropped ears.
Even PETA — the only major U.S. animal organization that actually supports unfair and ineffective breed-specific legislation (BSL), including Pit Bull bans — has asked the USDA to investigate Delaware Red Pitbulls. PETA says the breeders are operating without a license, which is in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
To his credit, there are some things in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” that Tarantino does get right about Pit Bulls: specifically, just how compassionate and loyal these misunderstood dogs are. But it’s truly a shame that because of his unfortunate casting choice, unlike Brandy in his movie, no shelter dog had the opportunity to enjoy a fairy-tale ending.