The Real People of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" & the Actors Who Portrayed Them

Updated on July 29, 2019
Rachel M Johnson profile image

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as fictionalized characters; DiCaprio portrays an ageing Western star and Pitt his stunt double. The film is full of famous faces portraying real people. From Sharon Tate to Bruce Lee, and darker figures like Charles Manson and his followers, it features a wide array of stars. Let's take a look at the actors and their counterparts.

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Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie)

The 26-year-old actress was known for her star-making roles in films such as Eye of the Devil and Valley of the Doll, the latter earning her a Golden Globe nomination. Tate married acclaimed film director Roman Polanski in 1968 and was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with the couple's son at the time of her death. She was murdered by Charles Manson's followers in her Hollywood home, along with her friends Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski.

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Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha)

The French-Polish film director became the talk of Tinseltown when he directed the cult classic horror movie, Rosemary's Baby in 1968. The success of the film cemented his status, as did his marriage to the beautiful rising actress Sharon Tate that same year. At the time of the murders in August 1969, Polanski was in Europe working on his film The Day of the Dolphin. He has since said that his absence on the night of the murders is the greatest regret of his life. Polanski, now 85, resides in France due to pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in 1977. As a French citizen, he is protected from extradition.

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Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch)

Sebring was a famed celebrity hair stylist and founder of the hair-styling corporation Sebring International. He had a long list of famous clients from Warren Beatty to Jim Morrison. He previously was in a relationship with Sharon Tate before she became romantically involved with Roman Polanski. The trio became good friends and Sebring regarded them as family. He was murdered alongside Tate by Manson's followers.

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Voytek Frykowski (Costa Ronin)

Voytek Frykowski was Polanski's friend and an inspiring film-writer, as well as partner to Folger coffee heiress Abigail Folger. He was murdered by Manson's followers at the Tate residence.

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Abigail Folger (Samantha Robinson)

Abigail Folger was an heiress and daughter of Peter Folger, who ran the Folger Coffee Company. She was only 25-years-old when she was murdered at the Tate residence by the Manson followers. After her death, Folger's father conducted his own investigation into her murder and spent the rest of his life protecting her name from being the subject of salacious gossip.

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Charles Manson (Damon Herriman)

Charles Manson was the infamous criminal and cult leader who formed the "Manson Family," a quasi-commune based in California. His followers committed a series of 9 murders between July and August 1969, terrorizing the city of Los Angeles. Manson plotted to start a race war, and ordered the grisly Tate-LaBianca murders in August. He died in prison in 2017 at the age of 83.

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Tex Watson (Austin Butler)

Tex Watson was a central member in the "Manson family" and was considered to be Manson's right hand man. He was the leading force in the brutal Tate-LaBianca murders, and was later arrested and put on trial. On October 12, 1971 Watson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. At 73, his parole has been denied 17 times.

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Susan "Sexy Sadie" Atkins (Mikey Madison)

Atkins was only 21-years-old when she took part in the Tate-LaBianca murders. As a Manson follower, she also participated in the murder of Gary Hinman, a former friend of Charles Manson's. She was tried and sentenced to death, which was eventually commuted to life in prison due to the California Supreme Court invalidating all death sentences prior to 1972. Atkins was incarcerated until her death at 61 in 2009; she was California's longest serving-female inmate.

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Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel (Madisen Beaty)

Krenwinkel was only 20 when she first met Charles Manson and became a part of the "Family." She and fellow member Ella Bailey met The Beach Boys founding member and drummer Dennis Wilson in 1968, and were invited to stay in his mansion. This led to Manson and the other members to invading Wilson's home and space, eating his food and partying on his property. Eventually they moved on after causing Wilson financial problems. Krenwinkel participated in the Tate-LaBianca murders and has since spent her life in prison.

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Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Dakota Fanning)

Lynette Fromme was a Manson follower, and lived at Spahn Ranch; she was tasked with catering to owner George Spahn. Though not present for the Tate-LaBianca murders, she remained faithful to the group even after their arrests. During their trial, she carved an "X" on her forehead along with other followers. Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. She was sentenced to life in prison but was granted parole in 2009. She is currently 70-years-old and still loyal to Manson.

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Catherine "Gypsy" Share (Lena Dunham)

Share was a Manson follower and moved to Spahn ranch at 26. She did not participate in the Tate-LaBianca murders, but was ultimately imprisoned for committing a series of armed robberies. She remained committed to Manson during the trial, and continued to do his work while he was in prison. Share allegedly attempted to kill a witness who was going to testify during the trial, and even planned to hijack a plane and kill passengers until her fellow "members" were released from prison. She is now 76 and has attempted to distance herself from the Manson name.

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Leslie Van Houten (Victoria Pedretti)

Though Van Houten did not take part in the Tate murders, she did participate in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca on August 10, 1969. She was found guilty of holding down Rosemary as she was stabbed to death, and was therefore sentenced to life in prison. Van Houten was first introduced to Manson by a boyfriend, and believed him to be Jesus Christ.

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Bruce Lee (Mike Moh)

Iconic martial artist and actor Bruce Lee was a friend of both Tate and Sebring's; he met Tate on the set of the film The Wrecking Crew where he taught the cast karate. Roman Polanski eventually hired Lee as his personal kung fu instructor; at one point the director suspected him of being responsible for the murders. Lee was said to have been deeply affected by the murders, and it caused him to become paranoid and concerned for his own safety.

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Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis)

Coined "The King of Cool," actor Steve McQueen was known for his antihero persona that helped him find box office success in the 60s and 70s. Some of his most famous films include The Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crowne Affair, Bullitt and The Magnificent Seven. McQueen was good friends with both Sebring and Tate, and was supposed to spend the evening with the group the night of the murders. According to his ex-wife Neile Adams, the actor ran into a girl and decided to go off with her instead. Adams once said, "Going off with that girl saved his life. After that, he became more paranoid and wouldn't let me go anywhere without a gun."

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James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant)

Stacy was a veteran actor best known for his role in the western series Lancer, from 1968 to 1970. The actor served as a key inspiration for Quentin Tarantino.

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George Spahn (Bruce Dern)

Spahn owned a Los Angeles ranch that was used as a Western film set for the movie industry. He allowed Manson and his followers to live on his property; Spahn in return was given sexual favors by the female followers. He was known for giving many of the Manson members their nicknames. The ranch's buildings and sets were burned down in 1970 and the property was burned down again in 2005. Spahn died in 1974.

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Wayne Maunder (Luke Perry)

Actor Wayne Maunder appeared in multiple projects and co-starred alongside James Stacy in Lancer.

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Michelle Phillips & Mama Cass. Rebecca Rittenhouse. Rachel Redleaf.
Michelle Phillips & Mama Cass.
Michelle Phillips & Mama Cass. | Source
Rebecca Rittenhouse.
Rebecca Rittenhouse. | Source
Rachel Redleaf.
Rachel Redleaf. | Source

Michelle Phillips & Mama Cass (Rebecca Rittenhouse & Rachel Redleaf)

Michelle Phillips and Mama Cass were members of the popular folk group the Mamas and the Papas. Mama Cass was a friend of both Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring. Before spiraling into murder and madness, then aspiring singer Charles Manson even attended a party at her home. Cass died of heart failure in 1974 of heart failure at only 32. Michelle Phillips eventually transitioned into acting, appearing in films such as The Last Movie and Dillinger. She is now 75-years-old.

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    © 2019 Rachel M Johnson

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