“Once Upon Time… In Hollywood” is one of my favorite flicks, full disclosure I’m a former video store clerk and devout Quentin Tarantino fan, and the 2019 movie is a proper time capsule to 1969 and the Manson Family murders. Starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, the critically acclaimed movie was nominated for ten Oscars and won two, Pitt won Best Supporting Actor for his role as Cliff Booth, and took in $357 million at the box office.
Tarantino’s tribute to the Hollywood of his youth gives the audience the feeling that they have been immersed in the Hollywood of 1969. One way the production got the proper vibe for the movie is by the efforts of Picture Car Coordinator, Steve Butcher.
For the movie Butcher used more than 2,000 cars and in some ways you identify the character with the vehicle they drive. That or Tarantino has the uncanny ability to film driving scenes where the cinematography and music are combined to make a great moment.
Pitt’s character, stuntman Cliff Booth, has a sky blue 1968 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible as his daily driver. This VW has an existence in the Tarantino Universe after being driven by Uma Thurman in his 2004 movie “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”.
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Like a few cars in the movie, it was auctioned off in 2020 for $50,000.00.
Booth is also the assistant to DiCpario’s fading movie star, Rick Dalton. As such, Booth pilots Dalton’s yellow 1966 Cadillac Coupe De Ville throughout Southern California. Like Pitt’s VW, the Cadillac is part of Tarantino canon.
In Tarantino’s 1992 movie “Reservoir Dogs” Michael Madsen’s character Mr. Blonde drove the same Caddy. Madsen provided his own car for the movie and offered it to the production of “Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood”.
“Well, I know that he (Tarantino) does stuff like that a lot,” Madsen said in a CinemaBland podcast. “That’s why my Cadillac is in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. That’s Mr. Blonde’s car, but who’s gonna know that unless they knew that.”
The movie revolves around the Manson Family murders and Sharon Tate. The three members of the Manson Family roll in a 1959 Ford Galaxie to the Tate residence and it is a historically accurate representation.
The Galaxie was painted with a two-tone finish, Inca Gold and cream, and was given a rough appearance with various dents, rust and all the rest. The production was offered the original car driven by the Manson Family and they politely declined. It was up for auction in 2020 but did not sell.
Roman Polanski, Tate’s husband, made a brief appearance and rolled in a green 1962 MG TD with his wife. Polanski might have been an inspiration for Austin Powers, as he cruised in a British drop top dressed in a blue velvet coat with a ruffled shirt on his way to the Playboy Mansion.
These are just a few selections from a great period piece that provides some revisionist history to a tragic crime. The story might not absolutely accurate, like Inglorious Basterds, but the cars are legit and that counts for a lot.