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Small Details You Missed In The Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Trailer

The trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino, was recently dropped on Sony Pictures Entertainment's YouTube channel, and it is — in a word — Tarantino-y. (Hey, we didn't say it was a real word.) It shows off the film's dead-on accurate 1960s setting, QT's trademark whip-smart dialogue, and a cast that could accurately be described as "tremendous" not only in terms of their talent, but in their sheer numbers. 

Hollywood stars (to name just a few) Leonardo DiCaprio as actor Rick Dalton; Brad Pitt as his stunt double, Cliff Booth; Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, the most famous victim of the Manson family; Dakota Fanning as Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, one of that notorious family's most well-known members; the legendary Bruce Dern as George Spahn, the owner of the ranch that Manson and his followers called home for several months; and the equally legendary Al Pacino as Marvin Schwartz, producer and agent to Dalton. The long-awaited movie promises not only Tarantino's take on what he calls the last days of the Golden Age of Tinseltown, but on the events leading up to and surrounding the Manson gang's infamous crimes. True to QT's form, the spot contains a few little details that may have slipped by you upon your first viewing. Fortunately, we're here to break 'em down for you.

An interesting dynamic

As Dalton and Booth, DiCaprio and Pitt have an interesting and quirky chemistry. The duo have appeared onscreen together exactly once: in Martin Scorsese's 2015 short film The Audition, a comedic piece produced to promote Studio City Macau Resort and Casino (not exactly a widely seen effort). Judging by their inspired work together in the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer, one could be forgiven for thinking they're longtime cinematic partners — but that may only be because their characters are based on a couple of guys who were.

DiCaprio's Dalton is based heavily on screen icon Burt Reynolds, a fact which is hard to un-see once you know it. The inspiration for Pitt's Booth: Hal Needham, a stuntman-turned-director whose name is legend in Hollywood circles. As a stunt performer, he worked on such classics as How the West Was Won, Little Big Man, The French Connection, and Chinatown. His long friendship with (and frequent doubling for) Reynolds led to the opportunity to break into directing with 1977's Smokey and the Bandit, a massive hit that extended Reynolds' '70s streak and led to a long career in the director's chair for Needham. The former stunt ace would go on to direct Reynolds in a half-dozen films, retiring in the late '90s; he died in 2013 at the age of 82. Reynolds was offered a small part in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as a sort of homage, and he accepted — but unfortunately, he also passed away before he could shoot his scenes.

Fact or fiction?

When tackling historical material, Tarantino is known to play fast and loose with the facts in the service of telling an awesome story (Inglorious Basterds, anyone?). Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is no different, and while its two leads are fictional characters — and many of the events depicted in the film are sure to be, shall we say, loosely translated — the trailer reveals that some details of the Tarantinoverse are identical to those of our comparatively boring, mundane world.

Early in the spot, Dalton is seen hamming it up with a phalanx of go-go girls on a variety show called Hullabaloo, a series which really existed and ran on NBC between 1965 and 1966. Dalton's inspiration Reynolds, however, never got around to guesting on the show (or, for that matter, starring in a film in which his character takes a flamethrower to a bunch of Nazis, as seen in the trailer). The film that Robbie's Sharon Tate appears in, The Wrecking Crew, is likewise a real production from 1968 starring Dean Martin as a suave secret agent, of all things. This blending of fact with fiction is sure to be par for the course for the film, and it's likely to come down more heavily on the side of fact when doing so is more interesting than any fictional alternative — as in the case of the man who happened to choreograph The Wrecking Crew's fight scenes.

Sharon Tate's famous co-star

Dean Martin's spy vehicle may not exactly have been a classic, but if its onscreen fisticuffs were a cut above average, it's only because they were the work of a martial artist of some note by the name of Bruce Lee (who appears very briefly in the trailer, played by Mike Moh). The kung fu legend and originator of Jeet Kune Do was beginning to make a name for himself in Hollywood in the late '60s thanks to his supporting role in the TV series The Green Hornet, a part which he came by with the help of friend and Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring (portrayed in the film by Emile Hirsch). Sebring was a former flame of Tate's, and it was also through him that Lee met Tate's husband Roman Polanski, whom he instructed in the ways of kung fu.

Lee also imparted his knowledge to Tate as part of his duties on The Wrecking Crew, and it's a little-known fact that before authorities had any idea what they were dealing with, he was actually investigated for possible involvement in the murder of the actress and her companions. Polanski himself was briefly convinced that Lee was responsible, thanks to a bizarre coincidence: Manson's followers had left a pair of glasses at the crime scene for the sole purpose of throwing off investigators, and Lee happened to lose his specs (and mention that he had lost them to Polanski) right around the time of the murders.

An infamous location

The trailer features a few brief scenes which take place at a dusty old ranch, a place which appears to be a far cry from the hills of Hollywood. One blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, however, reveals the location's importance to the story: it's the Spahn Movie Ranch in Los Angeles County, the property of a trusting octogenarian by the name of George Spahn. In the '50s and '60s, Spahn would rent out the ranch as a shooting location for Westerns and the like — but that legacy has been far overshadowed by its grim history as the place where Manson and his followers actually planned the murders of Tate and others.

After they were kicked out of the home of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson (an insane story in its own right), Manson and crew got wind of the Spahn Ranch, which wasn't hosting quite so many film shoots as it had been in its heyday. Manson and Spahn reached an agreement in which the female members of the "family" would act as personal servants and, well, sex slaves to Spahn, in exchange for free rent and no questions asked. It was at the Spahn Ranch that Manson developed his bizarre, Beatles-influenced "Helter Skelter" theory of impending race war, planning the group's murders as a means of attempting to incite racial unrest and kick said war into motion. 

A little Manson déjà vu

It remains to be seen just how focused Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be on the actual crimes of Charles Manson's followers, but one thing is certain: when it came to the casting of the key role, Tarantino's pick was a no-brainer. Australian actor Damon Herriman portrays Manson, and as it turns out, Tarantino wasn't the first acclaimed director to notice Herriman's physical resemblance to the notorious psychopath.

Before the actor was cast as Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he landed the exact same role with producer David Fincher for season 2 of Netflix's brilliant historical series Mindhunter. Interestingly, that show's second outing will take place in the '80s, meaning that Herriman will portray a slightly older version of the character, one who has long been behind bars. While Tarantino's casting was announced first, Herriman's Mindhunter gig came along much earlier; he had, in fact, already completed the filming of his scenes for the Netflix series by the time Tarantino's film went before the cameras. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be released roughly a month before the debut of Mindhunter's second season, however, and there will undoubtedly be a cross-section of viewers doing double takes and wondering if there's some kind of weird crossover in the works. (Spoiler alert: there isn't.)

A tragic tease

The crimes of the Manson family have become so ingrained in the popular consciousness that it can be easy to forget just how brutal and tragic they were; Sharon Tate was eight months pregnant at the time of her murder, and three others also lost their lives on the night of August 9, 1969 (along with a supermarket executive and his wife the following night).

While the trailer doesn't feature any scenes depicting the actual crimes, Quentin Tarantino is certainly no stranger to shocking images of graphic violence, and there are a couple brief hints of the mayhem which might unfold onscreen. One shot prominently features a street sign reading Cielo Drive, which is the street on which Polanski and Tate's home was located; another, late in the spot, shows us three figures purposefully striding down a dark street at night, one with a knife in her hand. It's intriguing to think about how Tarantino — prone as he is to exercising creative license to straight-up revise history — might handle the actual event. Might Tate escape her grisly fate? Will Bruce Lee show up, fists of fury flying, to thwart her would-be murderers? Or will Dalton and Booth play some part in the ultimate outcome? Hey, it's Tarantino; anything could happen, and we figure there must be a reason why he urged the film's audience at Cannes not to spoil its ending. We'll find out when Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits screens on July 26.