once upon a time in hollywood cast

The Hollywooders

In addition to the Family members, more of the Tate victims have also been cast, as have a number of other celebrities tied directly or indirectly to the murders. The AmericansCosta Ronin will play Voytek Frykowski, Roman Polanski’s childhood best friend who continued to work with the famed director after he crossed the seas for America. The Love Witch’s Samantha Robinson will play Abigail Folger, Frykowski’s girlfriend and heiress to the Folger Coffee fortune. Both Frykowski and Folger were murdered alongside actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and hairstylist Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch) in Tate and Polanski’s Benedict Canyon home on August 9, 1969.

Polish actor Rafal Zawierucha is tapped to play Polanski, the prestigious director, husband of Tate, and father of their unborn son, Paul, who died in his mother’s stomach. (Sharon was 8 and 1/2 months pregnant when she was killed.) Zawierucha’s casting makes good on Tarantino’s desire to find a native Polish actor for the role.

Also of note is Rumor Willis as Joanna Pettet, a British actress who was dear friends with Sharon Tate, and who had lunch with her, Frykowski, and Folger the afternoon of the murders. Pettet was married to actor Alex Cord, one of Jay Sebring’s clients. There’s also Dreama Walker as Connie Stevens, an actress and singer popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Stevens was once married to singer Eddie Fisher, is the mother of actresses Joely and Tricia Fisher, and was step-mother to Carrie Fisher. I don’t know of any direct ties between Stevens and the Manson murders, save one anecdote, where she was quoted as saying the crimes “scared the daylights out of everyone.” Perhaps she’ll appear in some sort of newsreel footage discussing the murders?

Who’s Left?

Almost all of the big players in the Manson murders – from the Family to the victims to the stars in the orbit of the infamous events – have been cast in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood already. But there are a few curious omissions. They’re either not-yet onboard, or – like “Katie” and “Lulu” –  hidden in the announcements. Or maybe they won’t be part of the film at all.

The biggest one I’ve noticed is Susan Atkins, probably the most notorious Family member after Charlie. Atkins was present for both the Tate and LaBianca murders, and – according to whose account you believe – might have dealt Sharon’s fatal wound. She was Manson’s go-to gal, about as sadistic as a human being can get. She’s also the reason the Family got caught; while incarcerated on separate charges, she blabbed to a fellow inmate that she killed Sharon Tate. With Watson – and possibly Krenwinkel and Van Houten – cast, her omission is notable.

Another big name commonly associated with Manson is Dennis Wilson. The Beach Boys singer was friendly with Charles Manson and even let the Family stay in his home. His relationship with Manson kicked off the series of events that would lead to the murders.

Charles Manson was an aspiring musician, who shared much of his work with Wilson. In 1968, the Beach Boys recorded one of Manson’s songs – “Never Learn Not to Love” – but credited Wilson as the sole songwriter. Manson was said to be furious; many believe that anger fueled his antagonistic lashing out against the Hollywood elite in the months to come. The most tragic thread of the Manson/Wilson debacle is that Wilson introduced Manson to music producer Terry Melcher – son of Doris Day – who lived in a home at 10050 Cielo Drive; a home that months after his move-out was rented to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, and was the site of the grisly murders.

In film scholar Karina Longworth’s acclaimed podcast You Must Remember This, she recounts Manson’s ties to Hollywood, and recalls one particularly unsettling anecdote: Manson visited the Cielo Drive home looking for Melcher a few months before the murders, and came face-to-face with Tate and a photographer friend, who told Manson that Melcher no longer lived there, and guided him to a back exit. Manson’s knowledge of the house’s location and layout, and its ties to Melcher, painted it with a blood-soaked target that day.

Dennis Wilson, Terry Melcher, and Melcher’s then-girlfriend Candice Bergen – who lived with him at the Cielo Drive home – could all feasibly figure into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. So, too, could Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, whose ties to the crime inspired him to pen Helter Skelter, the Bible of the true crime genre. Prominent Family members like Sandra Goode and Linda Kasabian – who was present for both the Tate/LaBianca murders and was the court’s star witness – might also make their way to the screen. There are more victims, too: Steven Parent, Leno LaBianca, and Rosemary LaBianca also lost their lives to the Manson Family.

But of course, Tarantino has already told us this story is “not Charles Manson, it’s 1969.” So maybe those lingering names won’t matter to the film he’s cooking up. Either way, we can’t wait to find out more about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which hits theaters on July 26, 2019.

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