After eight feature-length directing credits and more than 20 years atop the Hollywood hierarchy, director Quentin Tarantino has earned a reputation that makes any project he’s working on a big deal. The famed auteur’s next film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, uses the infamous Manson Family murders of 1969 as its backdrop, and recently cast the actor who will portray notorious cult leader Charles Manson.
The all-star cast of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is said to be separated into thematic chapters (à la Pulp Fiction), currently includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie, among other well-known Hollywood actors. Filming is currently underway on the movie.
Here’s everything we know about the film so far.
- Title: Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
- Release date: July 26, 2019
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, James Marsden, Kurt Russell, Damian Lewis, Burt Reynolds, Emile Hirsch, Luke Perry
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
Making a movie Manson
After months of speculation about who Tarantino would cast as Charles Manson, the cult leader who inspired the horrific murders that serve as a backdrop for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the actor has finally been identified.
According to The Wrap, Justified actor Damon Herriman (pictured) will portray Manson in the film. Best known for his role on the aforementioned FX series, Herriman also earned praise for his performances in the Australian films The Little Death and Down Under.
The news of Herriman’s casting was accompanied by several other casting announcements, with Empire actress Rumer Willis playing British actress Joanna Pettet, Dreama Walker playing actress and singer Connie Stevens, and Costa Ronin (The Americans) playing Polish actor Voytek Frykowski. Margaret Qualley, Victoria Pedretti, and Madisen Beaty were also cast in the film.
A controversial character
A flurry of casting additions in late August added actors Rafal Zawierucha, Danny Strong (Billions), and Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale) to the cast, with only one of the three characters they will play identified — but it’s an important one.
Zawierucha will portray real-world filmmaker Roman Polanski, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The controversial, Oscar-winning director of The Pianist and Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski was married to Sharon Tate when she was murdered by Manson’s cult of followers. Years later, Polanski charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl, and eventually fled the U.S. after pleading guilty to a lesser offense that would have sent him to prison.
Enter the Dragon
In August, Tarantino made another high-profile addition to the cast of real-world characters portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. According to The Wrap, martial artist and actor Bruce Lee will be played by Mike Moh in the film.
The casting of Moh is fitting, as the Inhumans and Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist actor has paid tribute to Lee in several YouTube videos.
As for Lee’s connection to the Manson Family Murders, the famed martial artist served as a trainer for many of Hollywood’s actors and actresses during the late ’60s, including Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate. After the murders, Lee was briefly investigated as a potential suspect in the killings.
The first look
A little more than a month earlier, DiCaprio shared the very first photo from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on his own Instagram account, offering a preview of himself and Pitt portraying their ’60s-era characters.
One thing DiCaprio’s image makes certain is that there will no shortage of suede and denim in Tarantino’s upcoming film.
A new premiere
Initially scheduled to arrive in theaters August 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Manson Family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had its release date moved up two weeks by studio Sony Pictures.
The studio announced the scheduling change in July 2018, along with several other shifts in Sony’s calendar, and indicated that the film will now premiere July 26, 2019.
From the West to the ‘Wood
Well, it looks like Tarantino is going to do his damnedest to squeeze as many A-list stars into this movie. James Marsden — best known for his roles as Cyclops in the early X-Men films and as Teddy in HBO’s Westworld — has joined the cast in an undisclosed role, per Variety. Young actress Julia Butters (American Housewife) has also been added.
The rich get richer
If the film’s cast wasn’t already stacked enough (it was), Deadline announced several new additions in June 2018, further bolstering the star power of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
First and foremost among the casting announcements, Academy Award winner Al Pacino was cast in the role of Marvin Shwarz, the agent of DiCaprio’s character in the film.
Damian Lewis (Billions), Dakota Fanning (Please Stand By), Luke Perry (Riverdale), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), and Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld) also signed on, joining an absurd lineup that already included DiCaprio, Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Timothy Olyphant, among others.
Lewis will play actor Steve McQueen, while Hirsch will portray hairstylist Jay Sebring, one of the Manson murder victims. Fanning is to play a Manson disciple who later attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford, and the other actors’ characters are either fictional or lesser-known players in the story. Keith Jefferson and Nicholas Hammond also joined the cast.
From assault accomplice to murder victim
Following a lengthy negotiation process, Robbie was officially confirmed (via an interview with IndieWire) to be playing Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in May 2018. Robbie most recently earned acclaim with her performance as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, and she previously worked with DiCaprio on The Wolf of Wall Street. (Robbie also had a brief role in The Big Short, which cast Pitt in one of its featured roles.)
The boys are back in town
Following the castings of DiCaprio (in January) and Pitt (in February), several veteran stars — and some former collaborators — were added to the cast.
According to Deadline, Burt Reynolds, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen were all in talks to join the film’s cast. Reynolds, 82, would be taking on the role of George Spahn, a Manson sympathizer and the owner of a ranch where the murders were reportedly planned. Russell, Roth, and Madsen all appeared in 2015’s The Hateful Eight, and all three have worked with Tarantino on past projects.
Brad Pitt will reunite with his Inglourious Basterds director, Quentin Tarantino, for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Tarantino describes the film as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippie Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), former star of a Western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor … Sharon Tate.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pitt’s attachment gave the film some momentum after a contentious development period in which DiCaprio came close to leaving the film.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will reunite both Pitt and DiCaprio with Tarantino, but will be the first time the two leading men have co-starred in a film together. Their only other feature collaboration was on 2006’s The Departed, which Pitt produced and DiCaprio starred in. Pitt’s collaboration with Tarantino on Inglorious Basterds resulted in eight Academy Award nominations, with Waltz also taking home the film’s only Oscar for his supporting role.
Leonardo DiCaprio was confirmed for the cast of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in January 2018.
In the film, DiCaprio will play the role of aging actor Rick Dalton on what Deadline describes as a “Pulp Fiction-esque movie set” during the summer of 1969. The Titanic actor’s casting as an older actor carries a bit of irony. Before Tarantino cast DiCaprio as racist plantation owner Calvin Candie in 2012’s Django Unchained, he had wanted an older actor to play the role, but rewrote it to take into account DiCaprio’s age.
DiCaprio previously worked with Tarantino on 2012’s Django Unchained, which received five Academy Award nominations and took home two Oscars for its screenplay and for supporting actor Christoph Waltz.
“I’ve been working on this script for five years, as well as living in Los Angeles County most of my life, including in 1969, when I was seven years old,” said Tarantino in a statement accompanying the announcement. “I’m very excited to tell this story of an L.A. and a Hollywood that don’t exist anymore. And I couldn’t be happier about the dynamic teaming of DiCaprio and Pitt as Rick and Cliff.”
Tarantino’s most recent project as both writer and director was 2015’s The Hateful Eight, which was nominated for three Academy Awards and won one Oscar for its original score.
Updated on August 29: Added casting news for Damon Herriman, who will play Charles Manson.