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When Laura Dern sat down to Thanksgiving dinner last year, she may have been expecting to rehash some memorable family stories. She probably wasn’t expecting her father to share the Manson family murders story with her children over turkey and stuffing, though. The Dern family is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Her mother is Diane Ladd, and her father is Bruce Dern -- who took over the late Burt Reynolds' role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And Bruce Dern was apparently so inspired by his experience on the film, he decided to share the details around the dinner table.
Laura Dern recounted the mildly traumatizing moment to Jimmy Kimmel when he interviewed her on November 27. She brought her teenage children to her parents’ for Thanksgiving, and everything seemed normal at first. But then, she said, things got dark -- really dark:
We sit around. My mom brings us to a gratitude prayer and talks about what we’re grateful for and what we wish for on the planet, amongst our family. And then it ends and my dad [Bruce Dern] is like, ‘I dunno what to share.’ Ellery, my son says, ‘Well, Grandpa Bruce, what have you been doing? Share something about your experience.’ He goes, ‘Interesting you bring that up. I just did this Tarantino movie. Do you know the story of the Manson murders?’ And then tells the ENTIRE Manson murders story to my children at Thanksgiving!
While the Dern children’s history lesson was ill-timed, Bruce Dern is certainly someone you should turn to if you’re looking for insights into the film industry. At 83-years-old, he is among just a handful of actors who have been working in the industry for six decades. And while he was not directly involved in the Manson murders, he likely had some personal anecdotes to share about their fallout in the Hollywood community. And in playing George Spahn, the man who owned the ranch the Mansons lived on, he likely learned some grisly details during the filmmaking process.
In reality, the Manson murders led to the brutal deaths of five people, including actress Sharon Tate, in 1969. Though Charles Manson wasn’t present at the crime scenes, he played a pivotal role in orchestrating the deaths. While the events of that night are no less brutal in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino ultimately gives new meaning to the Manson family murders. Though the film has been called out for some significant (and controversial) historical inaccuracies, it’s been lauded as a love letter to the movie-making industry he loves. And in one way or another, it’s helped a new generation, like Laura Dern’s kids, learn about one of Hollywood’s darkest moments.