Quentin Tarantino has spent his summer bringing his favorite stars aboard his next big project, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a 1960s crime drama set that reportedly will include the Manson Family murders. But perhaps the most intriguing role of all, Charles Manson, had remained unclaimed — until now. Damon Herriman, an Australian actor best known to American audiences for his work in the TV shows Justified, Quarry and Battle Creek, has staked his claim. Herriman, 48, may be a decade older than Manson was in the summer of 1969, when the cult leader’s followers famously slaughtered actress Sharon Tate and eight others, but their resemblance is uncanny.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be Herriman’s first major U.S. movie role, but he should be a familiar face to fans of Australian cinema, which is perhaps how he landed on Tarantino’s radar. According to The Guardian, the director collects 35mm and 16mm prints of his favorite Australian films, and coined the term “Aussiesploitation” (later shortened to “Ozploitation”) to describe low-budget horror, comedy, and action films made after 1971, when the country introduced the R rating.
Herriman joins a star-studded cast that includes Margot Robbie as victim Sharon Tate; Dakota Fanning as Manson follower Squeaky Fromme; Burt Reynolds as George Spahn, who owned ranch where the Manson Family lived; Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring, who was killed alongside Tate at her home in the Hollywood Hills; Damien Lewis as actor Steve McQueen, who was invited to Tate’s home the night of the murder, but couldn’t make it; Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, an actor and Tate’s neighbor; Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, Dalton’s friend and stunt double: and just about everyone else you can think of in major, minor and as yet unspecified roles: Luke Perry, Al Pacino, Lena Dunham, Rumer Willis, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant and James Marsden, just to name a few.
As leader of his notorious “family,” Charles Manson orchestrated a two-day murder spree in August 1969, which left seven people dead. He died last year in prison at the age of 83, after spending nearly 50 years behind bars. Four years before his death, he spoke with Rolling Stone, describing his life in prison and defending his legacy. “He’s a winner,” Manson said of prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, whose true-crime best-seller Helter Skelter became the de facto chronicle of the case. “He got over! He’s a genius! He took 45 years of a man’s life for his greedy little grubby self. And he’s going to go to his deathbed with that forever on his conscience? Is there no honor in him at all?”
According to Collider, Herriman has also been cast as Manson for the second season of Mindhunter, Netflix’s scripted drama about the creation of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in the 1970s.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is currently scheduled for release in mid-2019.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that the movie is not about Charles Manson, but is set in Los Angeles during the time of the Manson Family murders.