‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’: Which Characters Are Based on Real People?

In Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is an ode to a bygone era of Tinseltown history. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a past-his-prime TV star named Rick Dalton; Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth, his former stunt double turned driver/assistant. Both the characters are fictional, but they interact with a number of real-life figures, most notably Dalton’s neighbor, the actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). 

Robbie is far from the only person playing a real person in the film, Tarantino’s ninth. Here’s which characters in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are based on actual people.

The real-life characters in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood | Andrew Cooper © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

In the movie, Dalton and Booth cross paths with a number of people from Hollywood history, including: 

Sharon Tate: Robbie plays the actress who would eventually be murdered by members of the Manson family at her home on Cielo Drive in L.A.’s Benedict Canyon neighborhood. 

Jay Sebring: Emile Hirsh portrays Sebring, a hairstylist who was murdered on August 9, 1969, along with Tate and two other victims.

Wojciech Frykowski: Frykowski was a Polish screenwriter and friend of Polanski’s who was also murdered on August 9. He’s played by Costa Ronin. 

Abigail Folger: The fourth victim of Cielo Drive killings, Frykowski’s girlfriend and coffee heiress Folger is played by Samantha Robinson.

Roman Polanski: Rafal Zawieruch plays the Chinatown director who was married to Tate.

Bruce Lee: Mike Moh plays Lee, who work with Tate on fight scenes for one of her films.

Wayne Maunder: The late Luke Perry plays Maunder, a star of several Western TV series in the 1960s. In the movie, he’s a former co-star of DiCaprio’s character.

James Stacy: Timothy Olyphant plays the star of the 1960s TV series Lancer. 

Connie Stevens: Dreama Walker has a role as the singer Connie Stevens, who was married to Stacy.  

Steve McQueen: Damian Lewis portrays the legendary actor Steve McQueen, a friend of Sebring. 

Michelle Phillips: The Mamas and the Papas singer is played by Rebecca Rittenhouse. 

Joanna Pettet: Rumer Willis plays Pettet, an English actress and friend of Tate. 

Sam Wanamaker: The actor-turned-director is played by Nicholas Hammond. 

The members of the Manson Family and their associates 

In addition to various actors and other celebrities, the movie features Manson, members of his cult, and their associates.  

Charles Manson: The infamous cult leader is portrayed by Damon Herriman. The Australian actor will also appear as Manson in the upcoming season of Mindhunter on Netflix. 

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme: Dakota Fanning is Manson’s devoted follower Fromme. Though she didn’t participate in the 1969 murder spree, she later ended up in prison after attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford. 

George Spahn: Bruce Dern appears as the rancher who let the Manson family live on his property. Originally, Burt Reynolds was supposed to play Spahn, but when he died in September 2018, the role went to Dern. 

Charles “Tex” Watson: Austin Butler plays Watson, who was eventually convicted in the Tate killings.

Susan Atkins: Mikey Madison plays Atkins, who was later sentenced to prison for participating in eight of the Manson Family killings.

Patricia Krenwinkel: Madisen Beaty plays Krenwinkel, who also went to prison for her role in the Family’s crimes. 

Linda Kasabian: Kasabian was a member of the Manson Family who later testified at the trial against them. Though she’s not identified by name in the film, a character based on her is played by Maya Hawke.

Catherine “Gypsy” Share: Another member of the Manson Family, she’s played by Lena Dunham.

Kathryn “Kitty” Lutesinger: Margaret Qualley plays a character based on Lutesinger, a Manson Family member who goes by the nickname Pussycat in the film.

Leslie Van Houten: Victoria Pedretti plays Lulu, a character based on Van Houten, a 19-year-old follower of Manson. 

Steve “Clem” Grogan: Manson follower Grogan was convicted of the murder of Spahn Ranch hand Donald Shea. He’s played by James Landry Hébert