Everybody must know who Quentin Tarantino is. It’s not just Quentin Tarantino but it’s “The” Quentin Tarantino. He is definitely one of the greatest filmmaker in the movie industry of the 21st century. His films gain many cult followings over the year such as Pulp Fiction (1994), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Inglourious Basterds (2009), etc. With the release of his newest and 10th film entitled Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019), there is one interesting thing that connects all of his films, and yes, it’s a cigarette.
Red Apple is a fictional cigarette brand created by Quentin Tarantino. Smoked in Pulp Fiction, From Dusk Till Dawn, Four Rooms, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Planet Terror, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight and his newest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s after-credits scene is one of Tarantino’s best: it’s a fun flashback to Rick Dalton acting in a commercial for Red Apple cigarettes, one of the sponsors of his hit NBC series Bounty Law. Shot in black-and-white, the Red Apple cigarettes advertisement features Dalton in costume as his signature character Jake Cahill. Standing next to a cardboard cutout of Jake Cahill proudly displaying a pack of Red Apple cigarettes, Rick coolly extols the virtues of why Red Apple cigarettes are better than all of the rest: “Better drag, more flavor, less throat burn.” Hilariously, after the director calls cut, Rick immediately breaks character and goes on a temper tantrum, complaining that Red Apple cigarettes “tastes like sh*t!” before unleashing his ire on the photo chosen for his cardboard standee, which seems to highlight his double chin. The enraged star finally storms off the set.
Aside from being a very fun tag that sends the audience home happy, Rick’s Red Apple cigarettes commercial overtly connect Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to the greater Quentin Tarantino movie universe. Red Apple cigarettes are one of the director’s signature Easter eggs (like the Big Kahuna Burger chain) that he inserts into many of his films to connect them into a loose macro narrative. The fact that Rick Dalton hawks Red Apples means that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood takes place in the same timeline as films like The Hateful Eight and Pulp Fiction. In his commercial, Rick noted that the Red Apple cigarette company has been around since 1862, which explains how they appear in The Hateful Eight, which is set in 1877.
Movie fans are used to shared universes like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Quentin Tarantino has been linking his films together into a loosely shared universe since his career began in the early 1990s. As the director himself confirmed in 2016, Tarantino’s nine films are split up into two shared universes. First, there’s the main universe – what Tarantino calls “the realer than real universe” – wherein most of his movies exist; these include Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Also part of this universe are films Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct like True Romance.
Red Apple cigarettes pop up in many of Tarantino’s movies; in his main universe, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) referenced them in Pulp Fiction‘s 1994 and they’re smoked by the characters in The Hateful Eight‘s Haberdashery. In the special movie-in-a-movie universe, Kill Bill‘s Beatrix Kiddo/The Bride (Uma Thurman) walks by a Red Apple cigarettes billboard while the characters in From Dusk Till Dawn mention the Red Apple brand. Indeed, the Red Apple brand also pops up in films not directed by Tarantino but involving him in some way. The cult film Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion features a mural of Red Apple cigarettes, a reference to Tarantino, who was dating Romy and Michelle star Mira Sorvino at the time.