Did ‘Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’ Get The Facts Right?

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth project Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood has finally released in theaters. Its an ambitious fairytale telling of life in Hollywood during the ’60s. Bringing Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio together for the first time was a stroke of genius and Margot Robbie also plays a vital role, depicting the late Sharon Tate. Critics have generally enjoyed the movie with an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That all sounds sensational but did the directing genius get everything right? Here’s what Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood got wrong and right, as well as a look at the characters real-life counterparts.

Happy Ending For Tate

once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood Margot Robbie
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Viewers didn’t have to witness the real fate of Sharon Tate, and that’s probably for the better. What Tarantino chose to do was send three members of the Manson Family to Dalton’s home (DiCaprio), which was next door to Tates.

When Pitt and DiCaprio’s characters realize the Manson’s aren’t there for a drink, the big fight ensues. Instead of brutally murdering a pregnant Tate, we saw two fictional characters fight for their lives. We’ll dive more into this later.

Was That REALLY How Bruce Lee Was?

Bruce Lee in a martial arts position in a scene from the film 'Enter The Dragon'-159816248
Warner Brothers/Getty Images
Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Lee’s daughter, Sharon Lee, argues that they got her father completely wrong. “He comes across as an arrogant [expletive]who was full of hot air, and not someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others,” Lee said.

She noted to The Warp that it was natural for folks to challenge her dad to a fight. People wanted to see how they would fair against the lean machine, but Lee would do all he could to avoid those types of altercations. In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Lee is the one starting a fight with Pitt’s character.

How Close Were Tate And Lee?

Sharon Tate with Bruce Lee going over choreography for fight scene
Hector ortiz/Pinterest
Hector ortiz/Pinterest

Sharon Tate first met Bruce Lee in 1965 while dating Jay Sebring, the celebrity hairstylist. Tate eventually broke up with Sebring for Roman Polanski but remained close friends with Lee and Sebring.

Author of Lee’s biography, Matthew Polly said that Lee earned $11,000 to teach Tate moves for a movie. In Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, we see Lee and Tate training together. That’s probably as close to real as you’re going to get without diving too deep into the friendship.

Tate’s And McQueen’s Relationship

Steve McQueen, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski Steve McQueen in London
Vintage Hollywood Classics/Pinterest
Vintage Hollywood Classics/Pinterest

Damian Lewis plays Steve McQueen, someone who was also good friends with Tate. They were close enough for him to receive an invite to the dinner the night the Mansons murdered Tate. Fortunately for him, he never made it to the house.

Another woman is why he didn’t eat with his friends that night. “Going off with that girl saved his life, ex-wife” Neile Adams said. “After that, he became more paranoid and wouldn’t let me go anywhere without a gun.” McQueen would later give the eulogy at Sebring’s funeral.

Were The Mansons Living At Spahn Ranch?

Spahn Movie Ranch as depicted in
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

In the movie, we saw the Manson followers living at the Spahn Ranch. Did they really stay there? Yes, they did live at the 55-acre Ranch owned by George Spahn. The followers lived there between the spring of 1968 through August 1969 following the arrest of Manson.

In 1970, a fire burned down most of the buildings, but according to location manager Rick Shuler, they were able to recreate it. Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood recreated “pretty much building-for-building what Spahn Ranch used to look like,” says Schuler.

What About The Musso And Frank Grill?

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio star in ONCE UPON TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Was the Musso & Frank Grill a real place? Not only is this place real, but its been around for 100 years. Quentin Tarantino showcased this and other famous Hollywood Boulevard locations in his movie too. Location manager Shuler says Tarantino had the grill closed down for five days during tourist season to shoot.

“Everything you see there is the real Musso & Frank’s,” says Schuler. “That was a must-have and we showed quintessential Hollywood locations that have survived.”

How The Ending Differed From Real Life Events – Part One

Brad Pitt star in ONCE UPON TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

We’ll start with one of the apparent things that Quentin Tarantino added to this Californian tale. Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) isn’t supposed to be a real person from the ’60s because he’s entirely fictional. The Manson murderers ended up changing their focus from Tate to Dalton and Booth (Pitt) because they felt their movies glorified violence.

We didn’t see the original gorefest that happened in real life but instead saw Pitt and DiCaprio’s characters fend off the three deranged family members. They even made it out without much damage. This Dalton figure didn’t prevent the Mansons from partaking in their murderous onslaught.

Linda Kasabian Didn’t Get Cold Feet – Part Two

Manson family member Linda Kasabian, star witness in the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murder trial, at a press conference in Los Angeles, after being granted immunity from prosecution
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before the climax of the film, Manson family members park their car at the bottom of a hill to discuss their plan. As they make their way up to perform the murders, member Linda Kasabian realizes she left her knife in the car and heads back. Instead of coming back, she ends up driving away.

In real life, Kasabian played the lookout for the rest of the group. Kasabian later said she attempted to stop the bloodbath, but she was with them the whole time.

Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski Were All Murdered – Part Three

Margot Robbie stars in ONCE UPON TIME IN HOLLYWOOD,
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

We’ve eluded to this sad fate earlier, but didn’t dive in too deep. Sharon Tate and her friends didn’t have their lives spared because the Mansons figured Rick Dalton was responsible for all the violence in Hollywood. In real life, they stuck with their plan and didn’t deter.

At the time, Tate was eight months pregnant and reportedly begged the culprits to spare the life of her unborn child. The Mansons did this as a way to send a message to record producer Terry Melcher because he snubbed Manson for a record deal.

The Manson Family Really Went To Jail – Part Four

Manson family members and murder suspects Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie van Houton.
Bettmann/Contributor
Bettmann/Contributor

As cool as it was to see Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio defeat the Manson followers, they didn’t die. Manson Family members Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and leader Charles Manson all went to prison instead. They received life, with Atkins and Manson passing away in 2009 and 2017.

Tarintino flipped the script and gave Tate a happy ending. He also made the end of the brawl a triumphant moment for the film, moments after DiCaprio used a flamethrower to torch the last Manson member.

Now, we’ll see which actors played who in this ’60s retelling…

Rafal Zawierucha Is Roman Polanski

Rafal Zawierucha played Roman Polanski in the film
QTarantino_news/Twitter
QTarantino_news/Twitter

When the news hit the internet that Rafal Zawieruch would play Roman Polanski, many Tarantino fans loved the idea. Polanski was supposed to be there the night of the murders, but he was in London filming The Day of the Dolphin.

Years after the murders, Polanski would plead guilty for engaging in unlawful intercourse with a 13-year-old. Hollywood hasn’t shown him much love after that whole ordeal, and his current wife (Emmanuelle Seigner) spoke out about the film. She said Tarantino was just “using the tragic life of someone and then walking all over them.”

Emile Hirsch Is Jay Sebring

Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring
scribbler19/imgur
scribbler19/imgur

Emile Hirsch plays Jay Sebring, the man Sharon Tate dates before meeting Polanski. Sebring was a celebrity hairstylist during this time, with clients like Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra.

He stayed close friends with Tate after the breakup and that decision ultimately played a part in his brutal murder. Had he not remained close with his ex, he might not have received the invite to the friendly dinner that night they were murdered.

Damian Lewis Is Steve McQueen

Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen
scribbler19/imgur
scribbler19/imgur

Damian Lewis took on the role of Steve McQueen, a close friend of Tate and Sebring. McQueen was an Oscar-nominated actor known for films like The Getaway, The Magnificent Seven, and Le Mans.

McQueen narrowly escaped a bloody end to his life due to his desires to go home with a woman. Had he not run into that woman and decide to go off with her as his ex-wife said, this movie could have gone a little different.

Dakota Fanning Is Squeaky Fromme

Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme
scribbler19/imgur
scribbler19/imgur

The talented Dakota Fanning gave us an amazing performance as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. She was an avid follower of Manson and lived at the Spahn Ranch. Fromme did work for ranch owner Spahn as well.

In 1975, Squeaky Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Perhaps that’s how she earned her nickname. Fromme wasn’t successful and received a life sentence but would later become a free woman on parole in 2009. Hopefully, she doesn’t try anything else…

Damon Herriman Is Charles Manson

Damon Herriman as Charles Manson
rapadura/Twitter
rapadura/Twitter

Australian actor Damon Herriman dared to take on the role of cult leader Charles Manson. It was Manson who ordered his followers to slaughter Tate and consequently, the rest of her friends that fateful night.

“It’s one of the harder roles that I’ve had to play, for sure,” Herriman said to The Hollywood Reporter. “And especially knowing that people know who he is and what he’s like, so there’s an added pressure on getting that right.”

Lena Dunham Is Catherine Share

Lena Dunham Is Catherine Share
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

Lena Dunham played Catherine Share, another member of the Manson Family. Share moved into the ranch when she was 26-years-old. She might not have been present for the Tate murders, but she found herself in plenty of trouble not too long later.

Share took part in an armed robbery in 1970 with a few other Manson family members, and they all got arrested. Share served five years for the crime and would later testify against fellow cult member Leslie Van Housten in 2017.

Rumer Willis Is Joanna Pettet

Rumer Willis Is Joanna Pettet
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

Rumer Willis is the eldest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Rumer won season 20 of Dancing with the Stars and had her Broadway debut in Chicago in 2015. She had the pleasure of playing Joanna Pettet, a close friend of Tate.

Pettet had lunch with Tate on the day of the murders. That’s something that can haunt you at night, knowing you were just with a pretty close friend, hours before their life ended.

Mike Moh Is Bruce Lee

Mike Moh Is Bruce Lee
RevengeOTFans/Twitter
RevengeOTFans/Twitter

Many only know Bruce Lee to be a martial arts king and nothing more, but he was. Not only did he pioneer a new wave of action into movies, but he was also very close to Tate. Mike Moh played Lee, but Lee’s daughter, Sharon, took exception to his portrayal. One of the scenes she has a gripe with is when Pitt’s character fights Lee.

“I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-[expletive] who could beat up Bruce Lee,” Sharon said. “But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”

Austin Butler Is Charles “Tex” Watson

Austin Butler Is Charles
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

Austin Butler took on the part of Charles “Tex” Watson. He was a vital figure of the Manson Family who had a significant role in the Tate murders. In the film, we see him get attacked by Brandy the pitbull during the attempting killing, which was oddly satisfying.

Since the death penalty was overturned in California, Watson is currently serving life in prison. His chance of parole has been denied 17 times.

Margot Robbie Is Sharon Tate

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Getty
Getty

Quentin Tarantino called upon rising star Margot Robbie for the coveted role of Sharon Tate. Not only do the two looks similar, but Robbie did a fantastic job at replicating the late celebrity. Even Tate’s sister fell in love with her performance.

Debrah Tate saw the movie and couldn’t believe it. She told Vanity Fair, “[Margot Robbie] did such a damn good job that, for me, personally, the visit was a little short. I had Sharon back in front of me again, and it was too short a visit.”