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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Everything you need to know about Charles Manson and his cult

Quentin Tarantino's film assumes you've a fair amount of knowledge of the Manson Family and their murders

Clémence Michallon
New York
Wednesday 07 August 2019 23:09 BST
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino‘s new film, is set in 1969 – the year members of Charles Manson‘s cult went on a killing spree, murdering pregnant actor Sharon Tate among other victims.

While neither of the two central characters in Tarantino’s film are involved in Manson’s “Family”, as the cult was known, they exist in close proximity to Manson’s devotees, and the cult members’ actions certainly contribute to shaping the movie’s plot.

The movie assumes some knowledge about the history of Manson’s cult, as well as the Tate murders, meaning it’s not a bad idea to brush up on the facts before heading to the cinema.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is already out in the US, and will be released in the UK on 14 August.

Here is everything you need to know about Manson and his cult in order to follow the action in ‘Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood’:

Members of Manson’s cult lived together in a California ranch

Charles Manson, whose birth name was Charles Milles Maddox, spent time in and out of prison for petty crime beginning in his childhood. He was released on parole on 1967 and began recruiting his first followers.

In 1968, the group moved to Spahn Ranch, which served as a shooting location for films and TV shows. The location is portrayed in Tarantino’s film, and, yes – members of Manson’s cult did give visitors horseback riding tours in the area, as depicted in the movie.

Manson’s followers were in large part women whom Manson kept under his influence, exploiting the hippie ethos of the times and painting himself as a Messiah.

Manson’s ideology was rooted in racism

At the heart of Manson’s ideology was the racist belief that a race war, which he dubbed Helter Skelter, would one day pit black and white citizens against each other.

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In Manson’s scenario, he and his followers would wait out the conflict, after which Manson would ultimately emerge as a ruler.

Members of Manson’s cult murdered a pregnant Sharon Tate in August 1969

When the race war described above didn’t unfold, it is believed that Manson decided to precipitate it through a series of murders.

In the night of 9 August, 1969, Manson dispatched a small group of his followers to the Los Angeles home of actor Sharon Tate, then 26 and eight months pregnant, and her husband Roman Polanski (the same Roman Polanski who pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in 1977).

Tate was murdered that night, along with Jay Sebring, 26, Wojciech Frykowski, 37, Abigail Folger, 26, and Stephen Parent, 18. Polanski was not in the US at the time.

The following day, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a wealthy supermarket executive and his wife, were killed at their home.

Manson missed out on the death penalty, but died two years ago

In 1971, after a seven-month trial, Manson and some of his followers were convicted in the slayings.

Manson, as well as cult members Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, were convicted and sentenced to death. Charles “Tex” Watson, another follower, was also convicted in 1971, separately from the other four.

All five were given life sentences after California struck down (then reinstated) the death penalty in 1972.

Manson died at a hospital in Bakersfield, California, on 19 November, 2017, while serving his sentence at California State Prison in Corcoran. Atkins died behind bars in 2009.

Damon Herriman as Charles Manson in 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood'. (YouTube / Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Convicted Manson followers are still alive and remain behind bars

Krenwinkel is still incarcerated. She was denied parole in 2017 and will be able to apply again in 2022.

Van Houten, too, is still behind bars. Her latest parole application was rejected in June this year.

Watson sought parole in 2016 and was denied.

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Manson and his followers are portrayed in the film

Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten are all portrayed in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.

Manson appears briefly and is played by Damon Herriman.

Watson is portrayed by Austin Butler; Atkins by Mikey Madison, Krenwinkel by Madisen Beaty, and Van Houten by Victoria Pedretti.

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