The title of the movie “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” really says it all: The film has a fairy tale feel. But while plenty of the characters in the film are truly outrageous, many of them are actually based on real people.
The story follows fading Hollywood star Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio) and his stunt double/best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who live next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). As their story plays out, we also get glimpses into a group of young, aimless people, mostly women, who talk reverently of a guy named Charlie. Rick and Cliff are fictional creations, but Sharon Tate was very real and very famous — as was that group, the Manson Family, which gained eternal notoriety for killing her and others in August 1969. Below, take a look at how the Manson members and their victims match up to their onscreen counterparts in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
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Warning: Mild spoilers below.
Damon Herriman as Charles Manson
Herriman portrays enigmatic cult leader Charles Manson, whose devoted followers would go on to commit some of the country’s most heinous murders. Manson spent more than half his early life behind bars before being released from prison in 1967. As a free man, Manson relied on his powers of manipulation to attract struggling young men and women looking for a sense of “family.”
Using drugs, sex, violence and the supposed threat of a race war, he later convinced some of his followers to kill for him. Manson was sentenced to death for the murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others in 1969. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison, where Manson died in 2017.
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
Robbie played Hollywood actress Sharon Tate who rose to fame in the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. Tate was eight and a half months pregnant with her first child when Manson followers Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel broke into her home, tied her up and stabbed her 16 times, killing her and her unborn baby. The 26-year-old was married to director Roman Polanski.
Emilie Hirsch as Jay Sebring
Hirsch plays Sebring, a celebrity hairstylist who had been romantically linked to actress Sharon Tate before she married director Roman Polanski, according to Vogue. The pair continued a platonic friendship after her marriage and he was one of several friends at her home the weekend of the savage murders. He died trying to save the actress.
Margaret Qualley as Pussycat
Qualley’s character “Pussycat” lures Booth and Dalton to the ranch in Tarantino’s film, but she’s likely an amalgamation of several Manson women rather than being based on just one woman. Her nickname “Pussycat” could be linked to actual follower Kathryn “Kitty” Lutesinger. Lutesinger was brought into the group by boyfriend Bobby Beausoleil, according to Jeff Guinn’s book “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson.” The often transient group member didn’t always get along with Manson and once fell asleep while Manson was talking, only to wake up as he punched her in the face, CharlesManson.com reports.
Costa Ronin As Wojciech Frykowski
Ronin portrays Wojciech Frykowski, a Polish actor and screenwriter who was friends with director Roman Polanski. Frykowski was staying at Sharon Tate’s residence along with coffee heiress Abigail Folger and celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring the night Manson followers Charles Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel broke in and slaughtered the friends.
Samantha Robinson as Abigail Folger
Robinson plays Abigail Folger, the coffee heiress and girlfriend of Polish screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski.The one-time social worker had been staying at the home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate as a housesitter with Frykowski and was still at the home reading a book in bed the night Manson followers Charles Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel slaughtered the group of friends, according to the blog CieloDrive.com.
Maya Hawke as Linda Kasabian
Hawke portrays Kasabian, a twice divorced young mom, who joined Manson and his family just weeks before the brutal murders at the age of 20. She was asked to go to Sharon Tate’s house in August 1969 and acted as a lookout during the slayings. She was later granted immunity by the prosecution and testified against her former cult members. Kasabian changed her name and slipped from the public’s view until a documentary crew found her in 2009 living in a trailer home, according to Biography.
Mickey Madison as Susan “Sadie” Atkins
Madison plays Susan “Sadie” Atkins, a former stripper and high school dropout who joined Manson in 1967. Atkins was one of several followers who broke into Sharon Tate’s home and savagely slaughtered the occupants inside. She was sentenced to death for the murders in 1969, but later had her sentence commuted to life in prison.
She died in prison in 2009 at the age of 61 from a brain tumor. “Her last whispered word was ‘Amen’,” her husband told Reuters at the time. “No one (on) the face of the Earth worked as hard as Susan did to right an unrightable wrong.”
Lena Dunham as Catherine “Gypsy” Share
Dunham plays Manson follower Catherine Share. Share, who was known in the family as “Gypsy,” was 26-years-old when she moved to Spahn ranch to live with Manson and his followers. Although she never was asked to carry out any of the murders, she was later served time behind bars for a robbery carried out with other Manson family members and for credit card fraud, Cleveland.com reports.
She has since denounced Manson and has vocally spoke out in support of other followers who remain behind bars.
Dakota Fanning as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
Fanning portrays Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who joined ranks with the notorious cult leader after being thrown out of her father’s home. Fromme was tasked on the ranch with helping take care of elderly ranch owner George Spahn. She was never involved in the murders, but was a vocal supporter of Manson during his trial, speaking with media and sitting outside the courthouse. Fromme was later convicted in 1975 for trying to assassinate President Gerald Ford. She was released from prison in 2009, the BBC reports.
Austin Butler as Charles “Tex” Watson
Butler portrays Charles “Tex” Watson, a Texas college drop-out, who was often considered Manson’s right-hand man. Watson led the violence at both the Sharon Tate murders and slayings of Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following evening, at Manson’s command. Watson was convicted with other Manson followers for the murders in 1969 and remains in jail, where he has become a Christian minister and denounced Manson, according to his website Abounding Love Ministries.
James Landry Hérbert as Steve “Clem” Grogan
In "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood," Clem slashes the tires on Rick Dalton’s car that Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) drives to Spahn Ranch, and, well, Cliff really wants him to fix it. In real life, Grogan, along with Manson, was friends with Denis Wilson of the Beach Boys.
Grogan went with the group the night of the LaBianca murders, but continued on with Atkins and Kasabian to attempt to kill actor Saladin Nadler, but Kasabian took them to the wrong apartment and the plan fizzled. He was, however, found guilty of helping, Watson and Bruce Davis murder Spahn ranch hand Donald “Shorty” Shea at Manson's instruction, and was sentenced to death.
A judge later changed his sentence to life in prison because he thought Grogan was “too stupid and too hopped on drugs to decide anything on his own." Grogan was granted parole in 1985, and so far, has been the only Family member found guilty of murder that has been released from prison.
Bruce Dern as George Spahn
In Tarantino’s version, George Spahn is an addled elderly blind man, likely being taken advantage of by the Manson family to stay on his Ranch, which was the location for many Westerns before the genre fell out of favor. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme is portrayed as his lover, something that she denied in an interview with producers for an upcoming Oxygen special, “Manson: The Women.” Fromme did tell producers she helped care for him, as well as other women that will appear on the special including Catherine “Gypsy” Share, Sandra Good, and Dianne Lake.
Kansas Bowling as Sandra “Blue” Good
Bowling plays Sandra Good, known as “Blue” within the Manson family. Good came from an upper middle class family and was never involved in the murders, although she would later go to prison in 1976 for “conspiracy to send threatening letters through the mail,” the BBC reports.
Sydney Sweeney as Dianne “Snake” Lake
In the film, Squeaky orders Snake to stand guard at the door to see who Pussycat brought with her to the Ranch. Dianne Lake, who was called Snake, was the youngest member and was only 14 when she joined the family. Lake was not involved with any of the murders, and became a key witness for the prosecution during the murder trials after spending several months at a mental hospital.
Victoria Pedretti as Leslie "Lulu" Van Houten
Pedretti portrays Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten, a one-time homecoming princess who fell into drugs in high school and later ran away to San Francisco at the age of 17, according to The Associated Press. Van Houten would soon join Manson and his followers to the abandoned movie ranch. She and several other followers savagely murdered Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Van Houten is currently serving out a life sentence, but was recently recommended for parole by a parole board in January. California Gov. Gavin Newsome later overruled the parole board’s decision.
Madisen Beaty as Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel
Beaty portrays Manson follower Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel, who participated in both the Sharon Tate murders and LaBianca murders the following night. After murdering Leno LaBianca, prosecutors said Krenwinkel took a carving fork and carved the word “war” into his stomach, to send a grisly message to authorities, CBS News reports. She was convicted of murdering Tate and eight other victims in 1969 and was sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison, where Krenwinkel remains despite repeated times before the parole board.
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