Whether you’ve already seen Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie or haven’t yet, you might want to know how the cast compares to the real-life counterparts. You did realize that almost all of the characters in the film are based on real people, right? Just about everyone other than Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio was real-life characters.
The infamous Manson Family case hovers over the entire story that goes back to old school Hollywood on the evening of one of its most notorious crimes. So if you’re curious to know a little bit about the real people behind the actors AND if you want to see how much they look like the real person – this one’s for you.
And I gotta say – the casting is spot on…
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
The most famous victim of Charles Manson’s was Sharon Tate, a then up-and-coming actress. Had she not been taken before her time (on August 8, 1969), who knows where she could have gone. She had done many TV appearances, but her most recognizable role was in the film ‘Valley of the Dolls,’ for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination.
She also starred in ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers,’ directed by her future husband, Roman Polanski (who’s also a character in this movie). The young Hollywood star was played by none other than Hollywood’s current starlet Margot Robbie. This is the second movie, by the way, that she’s starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio (the two were in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’).
Samantha Robinson as Abigail Folger
On the night of August 8, 1969, the heiress to the Folger Coffee fortune, Abigail Folger, dined at the famous El Coyote restaurant in Los Angeles with Sharon Tate and her boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski. Folger used to be a social worker and a friend to the Polanskis.
Folger and Frykowski were housesitting while Polanski and Tate were in Europe, but continued to stay at the house once Tate returned. It turned out to be a bad decision because that was her last night. Folger is portrayed by lesser-known actress Samantha Robinson, who played in ‘The Love Witch’ and ‘Cam.’
Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring
One of the five victims at the Polanski-Tate home was Jay Sebring, a hairdresser who revolutionized the way men styled their hair, charging more than $50 (which would be around $350 today) for a men’s cut. Some of his clients included Frank Sinatra, Jim Morrison, Sammy Davis Jr, Steve McQueen, and Warren Beatty.
Tate and Sebring were romantically involved before she ever met Roman Polanski, but the pair kept a close friendship. Actor Emile Hirsch plays Sebring in the movie. He’s best known for his role in ‘Into the Wild’ and ‘Milk.’
Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder
Wayne Maunder was a TV actor who gained a reputation in 1967 for his starring role as Lieutenant Colonel George Custer in the western show ‘Custer,’ which aired for 17 episodes. He starred in a second western show ‘Lancer’ from 1968 to 1970.
Maunder was played by the late Luke Perry who was known to the world for his role as Dylan in ‘90210.’ Perry passed away on February 2019 of a stroke. Now, you wouldn’t expect Leonardo DiCaprio to get starry-eyed on set, but that’s what happened when he met Luke Perry. DiCaprio told Entertainment Weekly, “I felt this overwhelming feeling of being star-struck.” He spoke of the “kindness of his character; I don’t know; it really affected me.”
Dreama Walker as Connie Stevens
Connie Stevens starred in the detective series ‘Hawaiian Eye’ from 1959 to 1963 as a photographer and singer. She was a successful television and film actress, but she never got to superstardom status. She lived in Beverly Hills near the Polanski-Tate home.
She was quoted after the crime happened, saying that they “scared the daylights out of everyone,” causing an upsurge in weapon sales and security systems in the Los Angeles neighborhood. Stevens was played by Dreama Walker, most popular for her role in ‘Gossip Girl.’
Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen
Being one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1960s and 1970s, Steve McQueen didn’t go unnoticed by Manson, who was looking for celebrities to target to launch his apocalyptic masterplans. McQueen delivered the eulogy at his friend Sebring’s funeral.
British actor Damian Lewis played Steve McQueen. Lewis is best known for his roles in ‘Band of Brothers,’ ‘Homeland,’ and ‘Billions,’ which is going on its 5th season.
Mike Moh as Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee, the Hong Kong-American actor, is the most influential and internationally known martial artist due to the success of his action films in the 1970s. He worked as a stuntman, too, and he choreographed the fight scenes for the 1968 film ‘The Wrecking Crew,’ in which Sharon Tate had a main role.
Mike moh plays Bruce Lee, and although he’s an actor who actively works in Los Angeles, he actually lives with his family in Milwaukee. He runs his own studio called Moh’s Martial Arts. Moh played in ‘Empire’ and ‘True Blood’ among other things.
Damon Herriman as Charles Manson
As morbid as it is, Charles Manson has become a household name. He was the mastermind behind the ‘Manson Family’ murder, but believe it or not – he himself never murdered anyone. Before the crime spree he orchestrated in the summer of 1969, Manson was actually an aspiring singer-songwriter.
He even had one of his songs recorded by the Beach Boys in 1968. Manson is played by actor Damon Herriman, and Hollywood must think he’s a perfect psychopath because he’s going to play a serial killer again in Netflix’s second season of ‘Mindhunter.’
Rafał Zawierucha as Roman Polanski
By 1969, Polanski was an acclaimed film director. It was on the set of his horror parody ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers,’ that he met and fell in love with Sharon Tate. Polanski was in London on the night of his wife’s murder.
He was portrayed in the film by Polish actor Rafal Zawierucha, who’s done most TV series in his acting career, including ‘Third Half.’ By the way, Polanski’s current wife criticized Quentin Tarantino for using him in his film, saying, “It doesn’t bother Hollywood to make a film which takes Roman and his tragic story, while at the same time they have made him a pariah. And all without consulting him of course.”
Dakota Fanning as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
Squeaky Fromme is the most famous of the Manson Family cult members, but she didn’t participate in the Tate murder. She did serve as a liaison between the Manson Family and the media during Manson’s criminal trial. She led a group their cult, who camped outside the courthouse every day.
Dakota Fanning plays Squeaky in the film, and she told Porter magazine that she probably would’ve played any role, but she was happy to win the role of Squeaky because “the fact that it was such a juicy and challenging one made it even more exciting.”
Lena Dunham as Catherine “Gypsy” Share
Another cult member was Catherine Share, who wasn’t there for the August 8 murder, but she did claim in the 1970 trial that Linda Kasabian (who was present at the murders, but testified that she didn’t participate) was the mastermind behind the crimes.
Share was charged with attempted murder but later reduced to conspiracy to dissuade a witness. Share was portrayed by ‘Girls’ creator and actress Lena Dunham, and her character is far from the one she played on the hit HBO show.
Rumer Willis as Joanna Pettet
Joanna Pettet was an English actor who was most recognized for her role as Mata Bond in ‘Casino Royale.’ Pettet was a good friend of Sharon Tate’s, and the two friends had lunch on August 8, 1969, hours before Tate was murdered.
Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, played Joanna Pettet. Both Rumor and Maya Hawke appear in the film. Maya is the daughter of Uma Thurman Ethan Hawke. Both Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman worked with Tarantino in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ So it looks like legends are being made.
Margaret Qualley as Pussycat
Pussycat does play a vital role in Tarantino’s film, but there wasn’t technically any real Manson follower who went by that name. Her character was inspired by some of the women in Manson’s cult.
And it’s fair to guess that they drew got the name from Kathryn “Kitty” Lutesinger, who was a notorious member of Manson’s cult. Margaret Qualley, playing the hippie cult follower, really did have to go as-natural and let her armpit hair grow throughout the course of filming.
Austin Butler as Charles “Tex” Watson
Another member of the Manson Family cult, Tex Watson, came to the West Coast to participate in the drug- and music-obsessed 1960s counterculture. And after he met some of the female followers, he joined the Family.
Tex was involved in the murders in August 1969. He fled the state but was ultimately convicted in a trial, and he remains in prison today. 27year-old Austin Butler got his first acting gig on ‘Hanna Montana’ with Miley Cyrus. He’s also going to play Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic.
Mikey Madison as Susan “Sadie” Atkins
In the Manson Family cult, Susan Atkins was known as either Sadie Mae Glutz or Sexy Sadie. Why Sadie? Because Manson had an obsession with the Beatles. Atkins was one of the murderers and went so far as to write “PIG” on the front door.
Mikey Madison is a lesser-known actress, as Tarantino likes sometimes, but you might recognize her if you’ve seen the show ‘Better Things.’ She’s also been in smaller independent films, like ‘Nostalgia,’ and ‘All Rise.’
Bruce Dern as George Spahn
Manson and his cult following lived on the Spahn Ranch, which was an hour drive from the Polanski-Tate home on Cielo Drive. That ranch was owned by George Spahn, and it served as a movie set for Western films.
Spahn was 80 years old and blind at the time and allowed the Manson Family to live there rent-free because they helped operate his horse rental business. Spahn is played by Bruce Dern, who stepped into for Burt Reynolds, who was originally cast in the role.
Victoria Pedretti as Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten
Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten spiraled into the world of drugs as a teenager and unfortunately found herself as part of the Manson Family. She was convicted for being involved in the Leno and Rosemary LaBianca’s murders (also in August 1969) and is still serving a life sentence.
Lulu is played by newly popular actress Victoria Pedretti, who is known for her part in ‘You’ and ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ She hasn’t done many projects other than those, but after this movie, she’s sure to get more roles.
Costa Ronin as Wojciech Frykowski
Wojciech was a longtime friend of Polanski’s, and an aspiring screenwriter who produced one of Polanski’s early short films. He also worked as a lifeguard on the set of ‘Knife on the Water.’ He was Abigail Folger’s lover.
Costa Ronin has quite a bit of acting work on his resume. Where do you know him from? Probably from his recurring role on ‘Homeland,’ as well as his role in ‘The Americans.’
Maya Hawke as Linda Kasabian
Linda Kasabian joined the Manson Family a few weeks before Tate’s murder. She was at Tate’s house on the night of the murder, but as a lookout. Kasabian was also a young mom, but the Manson cult promised her peace and love.
Due to her unique case, Kasabian was granted immunity. She was played by Maya Hawke, the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. If you’re a fan of ‘Stranger Things,’ then you know that Maya plays the role of Robin Buckley.
Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy
James Stacy was a TV actor best known for his role as the young gunslinger on the western show ‘Lancer,’ the brother to Wayne Maunder’s character. Following a motorcycle accident in 1973, Stacy lost both his left arm and leg.
Timothy Olyphant worked with Damon Herriman (who played Charles Manson) on the show ‘Justified’ in 2010. And one of their co-stars, Jeremy Davies, played Charles Manson in a 2004 TV movie called ‘Helter Skelter.’
Sydney Sweeney as Dianne “Snake” Lake
Dianne was the youngest member of the Manson Family cult. She met Manson when she was only 14 years old. And by the time of the murders, she was 16. And no, she didn’t participate. In an interview with People, Lake claimed that when she learned of the August 1969 murders, she was “shocked” and “horrified.”
Sydney Sweeney has done some popular roles, including playing the character of Cassie on ‘Euphoria,’ Eden on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ and Alice in ‘Sharp Objects.’ She’s also on Netflix’s ‘Everything Sucks!’
Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wanamaker
Sam Wanamaker was a trained theater actor who made a move to Hollywood in the late ’40s. He was in both TV and film as both an actor and a director. His biggest contribution was leading the restoration of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.
You might recognize Hammond from his role as Friedrich in ‘The Sound of Music.’ Hammon had a long career, and other than his role as Friedrich, he’s also known for being in ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ and ‘Lord of the Flies.’
Madisen Beaty as Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel
Patricia went by many names when she was part of the Manson clan – Big Patty, Yellow, Marnie Reeves, Mary Ann Scott, and Katie. One of Manson’s most devoted followers, she actively participated in the murders.
Here’s a “fun” fact: she is the longest incarcerated female inmate in the California prison system. Madisen Beaty, by the way, played the same role on the TV series ‘Aquarius’ in 2015.
Rachel Redleaf as Mama Cass
Mama Cass was a key member of the group the Mamas and the Papas, as well as a friend of Tate and Sebring. When Manson was an aspiring rock star, he attended a party at her house. Cass died in 1974 of heart failure at the age of 32.
Redleaf shot most of her scenes with Margot Robbie, which was “a privilege” for her. “I hope to be like her one day,” she said. “It was very humbling.”
Fun Fact: Dan Akroyd lives in the mansion that used to belong to Mama Cass.
Rebecca Rittenhouse as Michelle Phillips
Phillips was also in the Mamas and the Papas. But she moved on to acting, making her debut in Dennis Hopper’s ‘The Last Movie’ and getting a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the 1973 gangster drama ‘Dillinger.’ She is now 75 years old.
Like Sydney Sweeney, Rebecca Rittenhouse also had a role in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ as Odette. Rittenhouse is also known for her roles in the shows ‘Blood and Oil’ and ‘The Mindy Project.’
Our Dear Brad and Leo
Although Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Rick Dalton) play fictional characters, they nonetheless are the bread and butter of the film. And Quentin Tarantino described them as “the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman.”
According to IMDb, DiCaprio & Pitt got along so well during the production that at the film’s Cannes premiere, they confirmed that they would love to get together again for another film. No, surprise there!
Margot Robbie wore some of Sharon Tate’s real jewelry. Debra, Tate’s sister, gave Robbie the jewelry to wear after she gave Tarantino the blessing to portray her sister in the film. She was thanked in the film credits.
Tarantino also gave Debra Tate a script to read early on. But on the contrary, he never approached Roman Polanski about portraying Tate in the movie, as he admitted at a press conference in Cannes.
Pitt at First Turned it Down
Brad Pitt was in talks for an unspecified role in the movie, which was rumored to be a detective investigating the Manson murders, but it was eventually turned down by Pitt. The negotiations even stopped for a couple of months as they assumed that Pitt wasn’t interested.
Tarantino went back to Pitt months later to offer him another role, but this time, the role was confirmed as the stuntman character, Cliff Booth which Pitt did want to do. Tarantino apparently also considered Tom Cruise for a role (but it’s not clear for which role).
It’s Been a While
It’s been a while, four years to be exact since we’ve seen Leonardo DiCaprio in a film. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ was his first film since winning his first Academy Award for ‘The Revenant’ (from 2015).
And while you may think that Leonardo has already made movies with the best of the best, this was actually his first collaboration with Al Pacino. Apparently, it took Leo some convincing to sign on to the role.
His Most Personal
Tarantino stated that he considers the screenplay of ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ as “probably his most personal.” He spent five years writing it as a novel before realizing that a film script would better suit the material.
Tarantino also stated that the story of this film consists of multiple parallel stories, and it’s the closest thing to his earlier film ‘Pulp Fiction.’ The title, by the way, is an homage to Sergio Leone, who directed both ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (1968) and ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984). Tarantino has cited Leone as one of his favorite filmmakers.
Kevin Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith also stars in this film. As the daughter of a notorious comic book fanatic, she was named after Harley Quinn from the DC Comic universe.
And to keep things intertwined, Margot Robbie played Harley Quinn in the DC comic movie ‘Suicide Squad’ (2016) and ‘Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ which is set to come out in 2020.
It Could Have Been Jennifer Lawrence
Rumors circulated that Jennifer Lawrence was considered for the role of Susan Atkins. In 2014, Tarantino also considered Lawrence for the role of Daisy Domergue in ‘The Hateful Eight,’ which ultimately went to Jennifer Jason Leigh.
In interviews, Tarantino described Daisy as “a Manson girl out West, like Susan Atkins or something,” which suggests that he has imagined Jennifer Lawrence for a part like this for quite a while.
The Cannes Premiere
The Cannes premiere made such a splash that tons of people, including film execs, weren’t even able to get in. Journalists waited for two hours before the 4:30 p.m. press screening. When the attendants came at about 3:50 p.m., a round of applause went up from some in the crowd.
The rush to get in became such a mess of sharp elbows that the staff had to caution people not to push their way into the theater. So basically, the Cannes premiere was a lot like Walmart on Black Friday.
The Controversial Bruce Lee Scene
A scene in a movie featuring Bruce Lee was changed after Brad Pitt expressed some concerns about it. Bruce Lee was played by Mike Moh, and according to Lee’s daughter, his portrayal in the movie recently was upsetting.
She said that she didn’t like how her father came across as “an arrogant a$$hole which was full of hot air,” because it was “not how he was.” Fair enough, but let’s remember that this is a Hollywood movie.
Tarantino Had a No Cellphone Rule
Tarantino not only created a no cellphone rule, but he also said he would fire anyone who used it to text or call while filming. Timothy Olyphant told Rich Eisen’s radio show, “Quentin’s got no cellphones allowed on set. None. You’re fired. Cellphone out? Done. No warning, nothing, you’re going home.”
Olyphant also shared that there were phone booths outside on the street for cast and crew members to make phone calls if needed. “If you needed to make a phone call, you go out onto the street, and you make a phone call,” Olyphant said.
DiCaprio’s ‘No Eye Contact’ Rule Was False
Rumors went around after an article from the Hollywood Reporter said that certain members of the film crew were instructed not to make eye contact with Leonardo DiCaprio on set. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?
That’s because it is. According to the film’s production designer Barbara Ling, it simply wasn’t true. “[DiCaprio is] the sweetest,” Ling told Huffington Post.
Brad Pitt Had a Pitbull Lick Baby Food Off His Neck
One of the undisputed stars of the film is Cliff Booth’s pit bull, Brandy. During an interview, Pitt revealed that he put baby food on his neck in order to get the dog to lick him during one scene.
“I equated it to, Tom Cruise chained himself to the side of a plane, and it took off and landed, and then I put baby food on my neck and let a pitbull have at it,” he joked around saying after he was asked if he “suffered” for his art.
Tarantino Created the Brand of Dog Food
Much like Tarantino’s “ad placement” like Red Apple cigarettes and Big Kahuna burgers, the brand of dog food that Cliff gives Brandy in the film was created by Tarantino.
In one scene, Cliff returns home to his trailer and feeds Brandy some “Wolf’s Tooth” dog food, a made-up brand that includes exotic flavors like rat, raccoon, and lizard. The slogan for the fake brand is “Good Food for Mean Dogs.”
Brandy was Played by Three Pit Bulls
All of whom bonded with Pitt every day before filming. Even though only one of the dogs (named Sayuri) was credited with playing Brandy, the Huffington Post revealed that two females and a “more aggressive” male dog played in the film’s graphically violent finale.
Handlers brought the Pitbulls to set early so that Pitt would get a chance to play and cuddle with them. “He would always go up to them and feed them or touch them so he could keep that bond going knowing that the scene was about to play,” cinematographer Robert Richardson said to Huffington Post.