When it was still coming together, the film that would become Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was referred to as Quentin Tarantino’s Charles Manson movie. That early descriptor turned out to be well off the mark as Charles Manson is barely in the film. However, that may not have always been the case, because it looks like Quentin Tarantino cut a bunch of Charles Manson footage from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The actor who played Charles Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Damon Herriman, also plays the infamous cult leader in the recently premiered second season of David Fincher’s Mindhunter on Netflix. Speaking about the differences between the two projects and portrayals, and how much was cut from Tarantino’s ninth film, Damon Herriman said:
For me, it was fairly evident where the differences lie. The tonal thing you get from the script: Mindhunter was very much a drama, OUATH obviously has that Tarantino tone. And we did shoot a little more than what’s in the film. He did cut quite a lot out of the film. The stuff I got to do in that was lighter and more of a fun tone, whereas in Mindhunter, Manson is in jail and he’s bitter and he’s angry at the world.
Charles Manson’s presence is felt throughout Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but we only get to see him briefly. Quentin Tarantino wrote more for the character, though because as Damon Herriman told Entertainment Weekly, he shot more scenes as the cult leader than what made it into the final film. That extra footage, however, didn’t make it out of the editing process.
We know that Quentin Tarantino considered making Once Upon a Time in Hollywood longer after its Cannes premiere, and while that doesn’t seem to have really happened, the first assembly cut of the film from editor Fred Raskin was 4 hours and 20 minutes and included everything. So as Damon Herriman said, Quentin Tarantino cut a lot out of the film, including at least one other scene of him as Charles Manson.
Audiences got more of a taste of what Damon Herriman can do as Charles Manson in Mindhunter, but the performances between that show and what was cut from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are quite different. As he said, the tone is the big distinction between the two portrayals. Mindhunter finds Charles Manson in prison in 1980, when he’s older and angrier, and it has that dark and dramatic tone David Fincher does so well.
The stuff cut from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would have been Manson in 1969 at the height of his influence, and it would have adhered to the more fun tone inherent to Quentin Tarantino’s style. Damon Herriman also said that the other stuff he shot as Charles Manson was far more humorous than anything in Mindhunter or his brief appearance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The actor suspects that Quentin Tarantino made the decision to not include it to keep Manson largely in the background as an ominous figure who looms over everything.
In his interview with EW, Damon Herriman didn’t reveal the content of what was cut from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as far as his Charles Manson is concerned, just that there’s more out there. He thought it best to not say anything, lest his other scenes show up at some point, he wouldn’t want audiences spoiled. So for now we are left to speculate and hope for an extended cut or deleted scenes on the eventual home video release.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is now playing. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all the movies headed to theaters this year.