Tarantino's 1969 Manson Film

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
hits theaters Aug. 9, 2019

Quentin Tarantino's ninth feature film about Charles Manson will star Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. The much anticipated film is described as, "A story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood," Tarantino stated.

Speculation over DiCaprio starring began the minute that project details started to leak last year. The film will play out against the harrowing pop culture sensation of the Tate-Labianca murders, executed by followers of Charles Manson.

For DiCaprio, this will be his return to the silver screen since he last depicted the suffering hero in ‘The Revenant’. From time to time studios have hinted at his commitment to big period biopics in which he’d be cast as classic heroes ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Leonardo da Vinci. The character he’ll be portraying in the Tarantino movie is less heroic.

While DiCaprio had been tipped to play recently-deceased cult leader Manson, he’ll instead star as faded TV actor Rick Dalton. He is a struggling actor who, once cast in a TV Western, is pondering a move to Italy to emulate Clint Eastwood’s career arc. Will his character be endowed with the “moral center” — Tarantino’s phrase — to connect him with the audience?

Brad Pitt will play his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth. Both men are trying to reinvigorate their careers, according to an official synopsis, in a changing Hollywood landscape that they don’t recognize anymore. Oh, and one more thing — Rick’s next-door neighbor is Sharon Tate.

Tarantino worked with Pitt on ‘Inglorious Basterds’ which grossed over $321 million worldwide and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Best Supporting Actor. DiCaprio starred in the director’s ‘Django Unchained’, which grossed over $425 million worldwide, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, and won for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. His most recent film 'The Revenant’ grossed $532 million in 2015, for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor.

Tarantino has been shopping the previously untitled film since October, 2017, when he made studio heads trek from their luxurious offices to sit in a conference room at his agency WME just to read the script. The director refused to send copies or digital versions for fear of leaks — remember, he almost scrapped his bloody Western “The Hateful Eight” because the script got out.

Critics have lavished praise on Tarantino, coining expressions to describe his “aestheticization of violence.” Certainly the violence of 1969 represented a darkly chaotic moment. Political assassinations dominated the headlines, just as sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll ruled the culture.

When Charles Manson and his gang murdered actress Sharon Tate and eight other victims, the brazen, unmotivated crimes sent a shock wave through Hollywood. Too many, Manson symbolized the noir nihilism of the period. Everyone was suddenly locking their doors and pulling down their shades.

In the tense hours after the murders, the erratic behavior of law enforcement heightened the paranoia. Though Tate’s husband, Roman Polanski, was in London at the time of the crime, he was instantly looked upon as complicit. Rushing back to Los Angeles, Polanski sought refuge in a bungalow on the Paramount lot to escape the media. The Polanski name even then aroused a cloud of suspicion (his innocence was quickly established).

The wife of Roman Polanski and star of the iconic “Valley of the Dolls” is the Manson Family’s most famous victim, Tate was killed at her L.A. home at 10050 Cielo Drive in 1969 while she was pregnant. Tarantino has asked Oscar-nominated I, Tonya star Margot Robbie to play Tate, who was murdered by Charles Manson’s crazy cult members.

With the film title, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, it appears Tarantino is providing an homage to Sergio Leone and his films ‘Once Upon A Time In America’ and ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’, but it sounds like it. Tarantino’s pal Robert Rodriguez has used the term for his film ‘Once Upon A Time In Mexico’. Sony Pictures acquired the film after Tarantino was forced to pull it away from The Weinstein Company because of the company’s woes.

Tarantino comments: “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. 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 & Pitt as Rick & Cliff.”