How Quentin Tarantino's Next Movie Intersects Leo, Brad and the Manson Family

Sharon Tate in 'Valley of the Dolls.' 20th Century Fox

Quentin Tarantino's next movie has a title: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Set in 1969, at what Sony Pictures describes as "the height of hippy Hollywood," Tarantino's latest has long been described as a sprawling Los Angeles story backgrounded by that summer's Charles Manson murders, particularly the gruesome death of actor Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of Manson cultists.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will star Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a washed-up Western actor, former star of fictional show Bounty Law (1958-1963), contemplating lighting out for Italy and the Spaghetti Western scene after years looking for acting work in Hollywood. Brad Pitt, Variety reports, joins the cast as Dalton's longtime stunt double, Cliff Booth.

Leonardo DiCaprio will play washed-up Western star Rick Dalton in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.' Columbia Pictures

While Tarantino was previously vague on the Manson connection, the latest plot description suggests where the cult will intersect with his characters. Dalton has a famous neighbor in actor and model Sharon Tate (to be played by Margot Robbie).

While speculation has long swirled around whether Manson himself would appear (and who would play him), the latest plot description for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood suggests a different villain more suitable to Dalton and Booth's narrowed perspective on the murders: Charles "Tex" Watson.

Manson wasn't at Cielo Drive—where both Tate and the fictional Dalton live—on the night of the murder, though he had visited the house in an effort to see record producer Terry Melcher. Melcher, introduced to Manson by Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, had briefly considered signing Manson to his label, but found the erratic cult leader impossible to work with in the studio. Manson, refusing to take the hint, visited Melcher's house (one possible intersection in Tarantino's movie) but Melcher had moved. Director and statutory rape fugitive Roman Polanski (Tarantino has made some troubling excuses for him) and his wife Tate began renting the house.

The most likely overlap between Dalton and the Manson Family would, of course, be the night of the murders, Aug. 8, 1969. Rather than Charlie, if Dalton had ventured outside that night he would have encountered Manson Family members Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel and Watson.

Watson, in particular, roved freely about the exterior of the property, first by climbing a telephone pole and cutting the phone line to the house. Watson shot the first victim, Steven Parent, four times in the property's long driveway, after slashing the 18-year-old with a knife. And though much of the butchery would take place inside—where the Manson Family members bound and stabbed Tate and her house guests in the living room—two victims, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and Polanski's friend Wojciech Frykowski, escaped out to the lawn, only to be chased down and stabbed dozens of times each by Watson and Krenwinkel.

The night of the murders isn't the only place where the Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood plot could intersect with the Manson Family. The movie is, in part, about Dalton and Booth feeling adrift in "a Hollywood they don't recognize anymore," Tarantino said in the Variety story. It's hard to imagine a more potent symbol for that shift than the Spahn Movie Ranch, a former Western TV set overrun by the Manson Family — a literal takeover of the old Hollywood by mainstream America's darkest imaginings of the 60s youth movements.

How could Tarantino resist Spahn Ranch as the former shooting location for Bounty Law? Once Upon a Time in Hollywood comes out Aug. 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the murders at 10050 Cielo Drive.