Behind the Sounds: Mary Ramos on ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio star in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Photo credit: Andrew Cooper.

In our series called “Behind the Sounds,” we look at how music and audio were selected for some of 2019’s most memorable film and TV projects. Music supervisors are responsible for putting it all together, but not too many people really know what the job entails.

The first installment in our series: Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.” The film follows fictional actor Rick Dalton and his stuntman/personal assistant, Cliff Booth, as they navigate a changing industry and encounter Charles Manson’s Family. 

“With a director like Quentin Tarantino, music is absolutely essential. As a matter of fact, that's where he gets a lot of his inspiration to write his screenplays,” says Mary Ramos, Tarantino’s longtime music supervisor. “I've been working with him since before Shazam and before Google, so it's always been kind of a fun detective kind of thing working with him.” 

For the film, Ramos dug into the archives of the Los Angeles AM radio station KHJ, which hosted a popular top 40 format at the time. 

“There were hours and hours of footage that weren't like official. It was a fan who had literally just taped the footage on the air. We were so lucky to be able to find this,” she says. “Quentin would put it on and, you know, just go through it and mark stuff that he dug, like the Tonya Harding Butter Hawaiian.”