Al Pacino joins cast of Charles Manson movie directed by Tarantino

Nancy Bilyeau
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The latest big name to be cast in the much-talked-about film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Al Pacino, who joins Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Damian Lewis, Burt Reynolds, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Luke Perry, Dakota Fanning, and many other actors of note.

The director is Quentin Tarantino and yes, the subject is Hollywood but as seen through the context of the Charles Manson murders in 1969.

Al Pacino. Photo by Thomas Schulz CC BY-SA 2.0

The film will be released on August 9, 2018, the 50-year anniversary of the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a middle-aged couple who lived in the L.A. district of Los Feliz, the night after the murder of Sharon Tate and three of her friends.

Tarantino at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International promoting “The Hateful Eight.” Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY SA 3.0

“The Tarantino pic has been referred to as a Pulp Fiction-like tapestry of stories set in L.A. in the summer of 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood,” according to Deadline Hollywood.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this film is that Tarantino has not yet cast anyone to play Manson. Is it possible that the film won’t ever actually show the psychopathic mastermind of the Tate-LaBianca murders?

With Tarantino, anything is possible.

Leonardo DiCaprio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Persoon Saturday, April 23, 2016.

The characters whom he has created and cast so far do give significant clues as to Tarantino’s approach to one of the most infamous criminals of the 20th century, Charles Milles Manson, who died in prison in Bakersfield, California, on November 19, 2017.

Brad Pitt. Photo by DoD News Features CC BY 2.0

Pacino will play Marvin Shwarz, the agent for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, who is a former star of a TV Western. Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth, the stunt double for Dalton.

Tarantino reportedly told an interviewer that DiCaprio and Pitt are “the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman.”

Sharon Tate Polanski – 1967.

Dalton and Booth appear to be fictional. But the next door neighbor of Dalton in the film is a real person, the tragic actress Sharon Tate, portrayed in the film by Margot Robbie.

Margot Robbie speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con International. Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski, were renting a house in Benedict Canyon in the summer of 1969. It seems certain that Benedict Canyon, home to many of the elites of Hollywood, will be central to Tarantino’s movie.

Emile Hirsch plays Jay Sebring, the male hair stylist who was Sharon Tate’s lover before she married Polanski and who was with the pregnant Tate in Benedict Canyon the night the Manson family broke into the house. They both were hideously slain.

DiCaprio and Pitt star in Tarantino’s Manson film

Steve McQueen, portrayed by Damian Lewis, was close friends with Sebring and was invited to stop by Tate’s home that fateful night, but he didn’t make it.

A possible connection to other characters in the film is that McQueen was the star of a TV Western, Wanted: Dead or Alive, before successfully making the transition to big screen stardom with Never So Few and The Magnificent Seven in the early 1960s.

Photo of Steve McQueen as Josh Randall from an episode of the television program “Wanted: Dead or Alive” dated August 21, 1959.

Another clue to the direction Tarantino is taking is that he’s casting characters who live at Spahn Ranch, the large set used for Western movies and TV shows in Los Angeles where Manson and his “family” lived in 1968 and early 1969.

This could also possibly tie in with Steve McQueen and the fictional Western actor and stuntman played by DiCaprio and Pitt.

The Spahn Movie Ranch. Photo by PKM CC BY-SA 3.0

Burt Reynolds plays George Spahn, the elderly owner of the ranch who was conned by Manson into letting his cult followers live there, and Dakota Fanning plays Squeaky Fromme, one of Manson’s most trusted followers whose job it was to have sex with Spahn to keep him from complaining about the thefts, drug deals, and orgies going on at the ranch. (Squeaky would later attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford.)

The links between Hollywood and Charles Manson were also explored in the podcast “You Must Remember This.”

Charles Manson, prison photo taken August 14, 2017.

Manson formed his Family of followers in San Francisco but took them to Los Angeles in search of a recording contract. He cultivated friendships with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and record producer Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day, but the contacts did not lead to a music career.

Some theorize the rejection set off a homicidal rage in Manson.

Sharon Tate was renting Melcher’s house on Benedict Canyon, 10050 Cielo Drive, and while Vincent Bugliosi successfully prosecuted Manson and his followers using the theory that they wanted to murder people to set off an apocalyptic race war, an alternative theory is that Manson sent his followers to that house to kill everyone living inside it thinking that Melcher still resided there.

Nancy Bilyeau has written a trilogy of novels set in the court of Henry VIII: ‘The Crown,’ ‘The Chalice,’ and ‘The Tapestry.’ The books are for sale in the U.S., the U.K., and seven other countries. For more information, go to