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Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: Who Did Austin Butler Play?

Quentin Tarantino definitely has a knack for revisionist history. While his 2009 World War II revenge film, "Inglourious Basterds," featured the assassination of Adolf Hitler, fans couldn't be certain that he'd pull the same trick with "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." However, it turns out that the fairy-tale nature of the film's title was there as a hint all along.

Still, the presence of the infamous Manson Family casts a vast and unsettling shadow over the events of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Luckily, the four members who show up to trouble Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are dispatched in a hilariously brutal fashion before they're able to get to their notorious "devil's work."

While fans might have spotted recognizable performers like Dakota Fanning, Margaret Qualley, and Lena Dunham among their ranks in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Austin Butler wasn't the big name back in 2019 that he is today, following his star-making role in "Elvis." For this reason, it's easy to see why viewers might not have realized that he was, in fact, the actor behind real-life spree-killer Tex Watson.

Austin Butler plays real-life killer Tex Watson in the film

True-crime aficionados will well know that despite the infamy associated with cult leader Charles Manson, the ringleader wasn't there for the cult's most vicious and brutal crime. The murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent rocked the nation on August 9th, 1969, and it was Tex Watson that led the horrifying depravity of the evening as Manson's right hand.

Given how charming Austin Butler was as the titular crooner in "Elvis," it's hard to imagine him playing such a despicable creature as Watson in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Still, it's a testament to his range as a performer that he can create such disparate yet believable versions of two characters based on real men from opposite sides of the moral spectrum.

In reality, however, the real-life Watson remains incarcerated to this day. His most recent parole hearing was denied in 2021, and as a result, the 77-year-old felon won't be up for parole again until 2026. As for Butler, fans can look forward to seeing him return to the dark side in "Dune: Part Two," where the actor will be playing the sinister Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen.