Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a film of Quentin Tarantino. It weaves "multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age."

In the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio's character name is Rick Dalton and is based on actor Burt Reynolds, similarly, Brad Pitt's character name is Cliff Booth and is based on stuntman and filmmaker Hal Needham.

For the other actors and their characters, they use the exact same name as the actor based on.

  • Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
  • Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen
  • Bruce Dern as George Spahn
  • Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring
  • Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder
  • Damon Herriman as Charles Manson
  • Austin Butler as Charles "Tex" Watson

the list continues...

So why did they use fictional names for DiCaprio and Brad Pitt? or why didn't they use the same name as the actor based on?

  • 5
    Possibly due to possible lawsuit for defamation. Having main characters who are not "real" you can not only avoid court case by the family or estate of said people but also any interaction of those "fakes" with real personas can be disregarded a priori as not being real. Mar 22, 2019 at 10:18
  • @SZCZERZOKŁY Why does that apply only to main characters, can't support characters have the same treatment? Mar 22, 2019 at 12:11
  • @GustavoGabriel They don't need as, from my understanding of law around fictional characters, the fictional main work as an umbrella "none of this ever happened". While at the same time leaving real people names give a touch of authentic feel to whole movie. Mar 22, 2019 at 12:30
  • 1
    @GustavoGabriel I haven't seen the movie (obviously) but I would guess that it's more down to the specific way Tarantino is planning to use these two characters. It's not that the main characters need special treatment (where secondary characters don't) - it's down to the specifics of how these characters are being used (or abused) in this script.
    – Steve-O
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


The characters played by DiCaprio and Pitt are 'inspired by' (not exactly based on) Reynolds and Needham in an entirely fictional, almost tangential way. Reynolds and Needham had no involvement in Manson or the events that transpired. These two fictional characters are placed into the true story of the Tate murders (well, Tarantino true).

The other actors are playing characters actually based on real people and their true story (again, with liberties taken by Tarantino, I'm sure); thus their characters are named after those real people.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .