Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood cast is filled with actors and actresses who portrayed real-life people. The ninth film by Tarantino – who says he plans to retire after his tenth – opened to the biggest box office weekend the director has ever had, as well as a slew of enthusiastic reviews. The movie takes place in Hollywood at the end of the ‘60s, as the studio system is coming to an end and hot, young, rebellious talent is on the rise.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood blends fiction and non-fiction, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Rick Dalton, a fading TV Western star struggling to transition to film, and Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, his longtime stunt double. While these characters have been created specifically for this film, they are inspired by Burt Reynolds and his own stunt double Hal Needham. The world they inhabit is full of familiar faces, both in the world of celebrity and that of the most infamous event of Hollywood in 1969, the Manson murders.
To play this vast ensemble, Tarantino has put together an impressive array of talent, with familiar names and rising stars playing some of the biggest celebrities of the era as well as its most infamous. Here’s our list of everyone who plays a real person in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood's Real-Life Characters
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate - The most famous victim of the Manson murders, Sharon Tate was an actress and model who was arguably Hollywood's It Girl at the time of her death. She only made seven movies in her lifetime, including Valley of the Dolls and The Wrecking Crew (which is featured prominently in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). At the time of her death, she was eight and a half months pregnant with her first child with husband and director Roman Polanski, who she worked with on the 1967 comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers.
Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring - Sebring was one of the first celebrity hairdressers, crafting an image for himself as the stylist to the stars. He worked with major figures like Frank Sinatra and Warren Beatty, and the latter was said to have taken inspiration from Sebring for his 1975 film Shampoo. Sebring had been in a relationship with Tate for two years before she married Polanski, and the pair remained great friends until their deaths.
Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy - Stacy was primarily a television actor in the 1960s, guesting on shows like Gunsmoke and Perry Mason. He got his break-out role in the Western series Lancer, the filming of which features prominently in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In 1973, Stacy lost his left arm and leg in a motorcycle accident that killed his passenger. He eventually made a comeback in various film and TV appearances. In 1995, Stacy served six years in prison for molesting an 11-year-old girl.
Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wanamaker - Nicholas Hammond is a real blast from the past, having played by Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music and Peter Parker in the 1970s TV series The Amazing Spider-Man. He plays Sam Wanamaker, the celebrated American actor-director who helped to restore London's Globe Theater. On top of celebrated stage work, Wanamaker acted in films as varied as Private Benjamin, Death on the Nile, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. His directing work includes several films and television shows, including Lancer, which is why he is featured in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder - The late 90210 and Riverdale star plays Wayne Maunder, a Canadian actor and star of Lancer. Maunder was a regular feature on TV Westerns of the era, including Custer and The Virginian. His later roles include guest appearances in series like Police Story and the movie Porky's.
Rafał Zawierucha as Roman Polanski - The celebrated Polish director has a long and difficult legacy that pop culture has never truly dealt with. In the 1960s, he was the bright young director of the new age of Hollywood, thanks to films like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. He married Sharon Tate in 1968, although he has openly admitted that he cheated on her numerous times. At the time of Tate’s murder, Polanski was in London working on a movie. In 1978, he fled America while awaiting sentencing on a case of sexual abuse, wherein he pleaded guilty to the charge of statutory rape against a 13-year-old girl. Polanski currently lives and works in France, and is married to his regular collaborator, Emmanuelle Seigner. In 2018, The Academy voted to expel Polanski from its membership because of the statutory rape case, although by that point in time they had already given him a Best Director Oscar for The Pianist.
Dreama Walker as Connie Stevens - The actress and singer Connie Stevens was best known in the 1960s for the popular American detective series Hawaiian Eye, which ran from 1959 to 1963. She was married to Lancer star James Stacy for three years, divorcing him in 1966. She then married singer and actor Eddie Fisher, becoming his third wife after Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor.
Rebecca Rittenhouse as Michelle Phillips - The other female singer in The Mamas & the Papas, Michelle Phillips was married to the band's lead singer John but divorced him in 1969 after a very tempestuous relationship. She was a good friend of Sharon Tate's, although Phillips did reportedly have an affair with Roman Polanski.
Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen - The effortlessly cool Steve McQueen, at the time best known for films like The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, and The Sand Pebbles (which landed him his only Oscar nomination), was good friends with Jay Sebring. McQueen was also one of his regular clients and would give the eulogy at Sebring's funeral. After the Manson murders, the media reported that police had found a hit-list of potential targets for the family that had McQueen's name on it. It has also been claimed that McQueen had been invited to Tate's house on the evening of the murders but chose to stay at home instead.
Rachel Redleaf as Mama Cass - One-quarter of the group The Mamas & the Papas, Mama Cass Elliot had been establishing herself as a solo star during the latter half of the 1960s following the band's break-up. However, by that point in her short career, she was also dealing with extensive drug use, including an addiction to heroin. She died of heart failure in 1974 at the age of 32, although urban legends persist to this day that she actually choked to death on a ham sandwich.
Rumer Willis as Joanna Pettet - The English actress Joanna Pettet starred in films like the 1967 version of Casino Royale and The Night of the Generals. Hours before Tate was murdered, Pettet, a close friend, had dinner with her at her home.
Costa Ronin as Wojciech Frykowski - One of Polanski's friends from Poland, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski is another one of the Manson murder victims from the night of Sharon Tate's death. He had been staying at Tate and Polanski's house upon the request of the director, who wanted his friend to keep an eye on Tate until he returned from London. Frykowski was a heavy drug user and occasional dealer, and police originally thought the murders were linked to this before the Manson arrests were made.
Mike Moh as Bruce Lee - One of the true icons of martial arts cinema, Bruce Lee barely needs an introduction. Before he became a big-screen icon himself in films like Enter the Dragon and Fist of Fury, Lee had appeared in the TV series The Green Hornet as Kato. He also taught martial arts to some of Hollywood's biggest stars, both for film work and as a hobby. Sharon Tate was one of his students for The Wrecking Crew. After Tate's death, Roman Polanski briefly considered Lee a suspect in the murders.
Samantha Robinson as Abigail Folger - Frykowski's girlfriend and another victim of the Manson murders, Abigail Folger was the heiress to the Folger coffee fortune. Like Frykowski, she was staying with Tate to keep her company until Polanski's return. She, Tate, Frykowski, and Sebring had dinner together at El Coyote Cafe on the night of the murders.
Bruce Dern as George Spahn - Spahn was a rancher who owned the 55-acre Spahn Ranch in Los Angeles County. He frequently rented out the ranch to film and television productions, particularly during the Western boom. By the late '60s, Spahn was 80 years old and going blind, and he then allowed the Manson family to move onto the ranch, rent-free in exchange for labor. The ranch was where the family lived while committing the infamous murders. The role of George Spahn was originally set to be played by Burt Reynolds, but he died before filming started and was replaced by Bruce Dern.
Real Manson Family Members
Damon Herriman as Charles Manson - Perhaps one of the most recognizable and infamous criminals of the latter half of the 20th century, Charles Manson became the ultimate symbol of the corruption of the flower power generation and signaled, as Joan Didion famously wrote, the end of the 1960s. Manson was a life-long criminal who was in and out of prison for most of his early years. He attracted a group of followers who went with him to Los Angeles while he tried to pursue a music career, famously getting briefly involved with the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. Allegedly guided by his interpretation of lyrics by The Beatles, Manson adopted the term "Helter Skelter" to describe an impending apocalyptic race war that he claimed would be incited by his followers murdering the right people. His exact motivations for the Tate-LaBianca murders have never been clear. He died in prison in 2017 at the age of 83.
Dakota Fanning as Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme - Lynette Fromme was one of Manson's earliest and most devoted followers. When the family moved to Spahn Ranch, she gained the nickname Squeaky because of the sounds she made whenever George Spahn touched her. During the murders, Fromme remained at the ranch, but consistently showed her devotion to Manson during the trial. She frequently proclaimed his innocence and preached his gospel to news stations. Famously, in 1975, she threatened President Gerald Ford in an attempted assassination involving a gun with no round in the chamber. She spent nearly 34 years in jail for the crime and was released on parole in 2009.
Austin Butler as Charles "Tex" Watson - A Texas native who moved to California in the late '60s, Charles "Tex" Watson joined the Manson family the same year of the murders. He was one of the four members to participate in the Tate deaths, then the next night he went with Manson and several others to kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Watson, as with many other family members, was sentenced to death, commuted to life imprisonment when California abolished the death penalty. He is still in prison, having been denied parole 17 times, and claims to have become a born-again Christian.
Lena Dunham as Catherine "Gypsy" Share - Gypsy Share met Manson through Bobby Beausoleil, a family member who performed as a musician and, for a time, was the muse of experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger. She was not directly involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders but would testify at the 1970s trial that Linda Kasabian, the family member who turned witness for the prosecution, was the true mastermind of the murders. She disassociated herself from the Manson family after spending time in prison for robbery. Today, she appears in various documentaries about the Manson murders and speaks out against cults.
Mikey Madison as Susan Atkins - "Sexy Sadie" Atkins may be the most notorious of the Manson family aside from the man himself. She was involved in the murder of Gary Hinman, a death that kickstarted the family's killing spree. She is widely believed to have been the one who killed Sharon Tate, although she would change her story multiple times over the years. During her life sentence, she became a born-again Christian and model prisoner who talked openly of her regret of ever being involved with Charles Manson. She died in 2009 of terminal brain cancer, having been denied parole a total of 13 times.
Maya Hawke as Linda Kasabian - Kasabian was one of the key witnesses for the prosecution during the Manson murder trials. She had been given the job of driving family members to the Tate-Polanski house, although she was never actively involved in the deaths. After being informed that a warrant for her arrest had been issued, following the mass arrests of the family, Kasabian turned herself in to authorities and took immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving evidence. She spent 18 days in the stand being cross-examined. Following the trial, she has lived a quiet life out of the spotlight.
Madisen Beaty as Patricia Krenwinkel - Also known as Big Patty, Patricia Krenwinkel met Charles Manson when she was 19 and became instantly enamored with him. On the night of the Tate murders, she chased down and stabbed Abigail Folger to death. During the trial, she, like Atkins and Leslie Van Houten, remained loyal to Manson, and she did so during the first couple of years of her life sentence. She later distanced herself and has maintained a perfect prison record since then. Having been denied parole 14 times, she is now the longest-incarcerated female prisoner in the California penal system.
Victoria Pedretti as Leslie Van Houten - Leslie Van Houten was recruited to the Manson family ranks at the age of 19. She did not participate in the Tate murders but did stab Rosemary LaBianca multiple times. During the trial, she, like the other women, was disruptive and did not take the process seriously. She was also sentenced to life imprisonment but was granted a retrial in 1977 due to lawyer issues. For a while, she was free and lived a normal life, even going to the Oscars with a friend, before being sent back to prison for life. Van Houten has been recommended for parole numerous times, each of which has been vetoed by the Governor of California, but Van Houten continues to have major figures supporting her fight for freedom, including director John Waters.
Sydney Sweeney as Dianne Lake - From the age of 14, Dianne Lake was one of the youngest girls in the Manson circle. Known to the family as "Snake", Lake's parents had given consent for her to join Manson. Following the Tate-LaBianca killings, Lake escaped and later gave testimony against the family during their trial. In the years that followed, while living with foster parents, Lake struggled with trauma and flashbacks but has since moved on and led a normal life. She also wrote a book about her experiences in the cult.
Kansas Bowling as Sandra Good - Sandra "Blue" Good was a close friend of Squeaky Fromme who was in jail for using stolen credit cards when the Tate-LaBianca murders took place. After Fromme's attempted assassination of President Ford, Good told a U.S. radio station that "a wave of assassins" from a group that she identified as the International Peoples Court of Retribution would soon start targeting major business executives. In 1975, she was jailed for conspiracy to send threatening letters through the mail and spent 10 years in prison. Good remains one of the few Manson family members who remained loyal to Manson many years after the murders. For a while, she even ran a pro-Manson website and she worked on his environmental causes.
James Landry Hébert as Steve “Clem” Grogan - Clem Grogan has the distinction of being the only person who has been released from prison after being convicted of murder as part of the Manson family. described as an intensely stupid young man, Grogan was involved in the deaths of Spahn Ranch worker Donald "Shorty Shea". He later assisted the authorities in locating Shea's body and was released on parole in 1985. His current whereabouts are unknown.