'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood': 8 of the Film's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations

1:30 PM 9/20/2018

by THR staff

Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film set in Los Angeles in 1969, featuring Manson murder-victim Sharon Tate and her friends, has a number of actors playing real-life figures.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Still 1 - Publicity - H 2019
Andrew Cooper

Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, travels back to 1969 and features real-life characters like actress Sharon Tate, cult leader Charles Manson and his followers.

The story follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former star of a Western TV series, and his longtime stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don't recognize anymore.

Tarantino describes the fictional tale as "a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood," but many of the movie's famous cast are portraying real-world historical figures. Below, read more about the cast and who they play in the film, which is scheduled to hit theater next year

  • Sharon Tate, portrayed by Margot Robbie

    Sharon Tate was an actress who appeared in various television roles throughout the 1960s before transitioning to film. She married filmmaker Roman Polanski in 1968. The following year, she was murdered by the Manson Family at her home in Los Angeles. She was pregnant with her and Polanski's child at the time. 

    Robbie portrays the late actress in Tarantino's film, following other turns as real-life figures in last year's I, Tonya and this year's Mary Queen of Scots.

  • Charles Manson, portrayed by Damon Herriman

    Charles Manson was the leader of his eponymous Manson Family and orchestrated the murders of Tate, her houseguests and her unborn child. He died in 2017 of cardiac arrest while serving a life sentence in prison.

    Australian actor Damon Herriman will portray the murdering cult leader in the film.

  • Bruce Lee, portrayed by Mike Moh

    Bruce Lee was a movie star and martial artist, whom Polanski briefly suspected of murdering his wife and unborn child. At the time of the murders, it was not known that the Manson Family had carried them out. Lee, who had given Tate training for the 1968 film The Wrecking Crew, told Polanski he had lost a pair of glasses. A pair of glasses was also a piece of evidence in the murders. 

    Inhumans and Empire star Mike Moh portrays Lee in the new film.

  • Squeaky Fromme, portrayed by Dakota Fanning

    Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme was a member of the Manson Family. She was not involved in the Tate Murders directly, but was convicted of attempting to prevent those who were imprisoned for the crime from testifying. In 1975, she attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. She failed and was given a life sentence. She was released on parole in 2009.

    Dakota Fanning plays Fromme in the film.

  • Steve McQueen, portrayed by Damian Lewis

    Steve McQueen was one of the biggest stars in the world during the 1960s, with roles in films such as The Great Escape, Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair. He was a personal friend of Tate and Polanski's and was planning to attend a dinner party at the couple's home in 1969 where the Manson murders took place. McQueen skipped the party as he'd met a woman beforehand and spent the evening with her.

    Damian Lewis, of Homeland and Billions fame, portrays McQueen in the film.

  • Jay Sebring, portrayed by Emile Hirsch

    Jay Sebring (real name Thomas John Kummer) was a celebrity hairstylist who dated Tate before the actress met Polanski. Sebring later befriended the director and remained friends with Tate. He was murdered along with Tate and fellow guests Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger at Tate's Cielo Dr. residence on Aug. 8, 1969.

    Emile Hirsch plays Sebring in Tarantino's film.

  • Tex Watson, portrayed by Austin Butler

    Charles Denton "Tex" Watson is a murderer and member of the Manson Family who participated in the murders of Tate, her unborn child and houseguests in 1969. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

    The Shannara Chronicles actor Austin Butler is portraying Watson in the film.

  • Joanna Pettet, portrayed by Rumer Willis

    Joanna Pettet is an English actress who was friends with Tate and lunched with her hours before she was murdered on Aug. 8, 1969.

    Rumer Willis plays Pettet in the film.