Quentin Tarantino was scheduled to make the film for The Weinstein Company. When news broke out about the sexual assault allegations against co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, Tarantino severed ties with The Weinstein Company and essentially began summoning studio executives to his agent's office to read copies of his Manson script. The project was already one of the most anticipated and promising projects on the board at the time. After reading the script, each studio -- Warner Bros., Universal, Sony, and Paramount, most prominently -- were welcome to make a bid for the theatrical right before a second round of bids pitched to Tarantino himself. Sony won the theatrical rights in the bidding war.
Leonardo DiCaprio was courted for several months to take on one of the two primary characters in the film. The role was revealed to be the character of Rick Dalton, a washed up former television western star, which DiCaprio would eventually be convinced to sign on for his second collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. Their prior collaboration between them was for Django Unchained (2012).
Its title is an homage to Sergio Leone, who has directed Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) as well as Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Tarantino has cited the director as a favorite of his and an influence throughout his career.
This film was originally scheduled to be released on August 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the murder of Sharon Tate and friends by members of Charles Manson's 'Family,' before Sony changed the release date to July 26, 2019. August 9, 1969 is also recognised as the point the 'Hippie' movement, the free love era, and the 60s as a whole came to an abrupt end as a result of these murders.
Rumors have circulated that Jennifer Lawrence was being considered for the role of Manson Family member Susan Atkins. In 2014, Quentin Tarantino considered Lawrence for the role of Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight (2015), which ultimately went to Jennifer Jason Leigh. In interviews around that film's release date, Tarantino described Daisy as "a Manson girl out West, like Susan Atkins or something", suggesting that Tarantino has imagined Lawrence in mind for a part like this for some time.
Brad Pitt was reportedly in talks for an unspecified role in the film, which was rumoured to be a detective investigating the murders, and was eventually turned down by Pitt. Negotiations stopped for a couple months as it was assumed Pitt wasn't interested. Tarantino then tried to consider Tom Cruise for a role as many assume it was the same role (its not been confirmed) that Pitt declined but matters never materialized with Cruise. Tarantino then went back to Pitt months later for a role again but this time, the role was confirmed for being the stuntman character, Cliff Booth which Pitt would sign on to do.
This will be the first film starring both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. At one point when Good Will Hunting was making the rounds to get produced, all the studios and directors wanted "Leo and Brad" to star in it, a film since starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Damon would subsequently go on to work with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed and Brad Pitt in the Ocean's Eleven trilogy as well as cameo together in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Audiences at the Cinerama Dome on the 12 June 2018 were surprised to see that the scheduled 70mm screening of " 2001: A Space Odyssey " appeared to be replaced by " Krakatoa, East of Java"! In fact " 2001: A Space Odyssey " had just been moved to another screen, and " Krakatoa, East of Java "was just part of the second unit work required for " Once Upon a time in Hollywood" to recreate the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles.
Manson follower Nancy Pitman was quoted as saying "We are what you have made us, we were brought up on your TV. We were brought up watching Gunsmoke [and] Have Gun Will Travel". Both of these shows were prime time, long running Western TV shows and Tarantino's film follows a faded Western TV star during the Charles Manson killings of 1969.
Cinematographer Robert Richardson has previously worked on three films starring actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The Aviator (2004), Shutter Island (2010), Django Unchained (2012). The former two were directed by Martin Scorsese, while the latter and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are films by Quentin Tarantino.
Originally, Burt Reynolds was cast to portray George Spahn. However, on September 6, 2018, he died of a heart attack a few days before he was scheduled to film his scenes. He's been replaced by Bruce Dern.
Brad Pitt, Dakota Fanning and Zoë Bell have previously co-starred in Blockbuster films opposite Tom Cruise. Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), Dakota Fanning in War of the World's (2005) and Zoë Bell in Oblivion (2013)
The film was originally scheduled to be released on August 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the murder of Sharon Tate and friends by members of Charles Manson's 'Family,' before Sony changed the release date to July 26, 2019.
Burt Reynolds was initially cast as George Spahn. Weeks before he was set to film his scenes, however, Reynolds died of a cardiac arrest, and was replaced by Bruce Dern, who already worked with Tarantino on Django Unchained and The Hateful 8.
Production began at The Weinstein Company, but after the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal that took Hollywood by storm, Tarantino moved production elsewhere, and Columbia Pictures picked it up instead.