It’s no coincidence that, on the fiftieth anniversary of the murders of Sharon Tate and four others in Roman Polanski’s house, there is a renewed interest in Charles Manson.
The notorious cult leader, who was believed to have encouraged his followers to murder the young starlet and her friends, features in two major film and TV productions this August – the second season of David Fincher’s Netflix drama Mindhunter and Quentin Tarantino’s ’60s-set fairytale Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – and, remarkably, he is played in both by Australian actor Damon Herriman.
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The two projects are in no way affiliated, but Herriman’s resemblance to Manson and his acting prowess caught the eye of both Fincher and Tarantino. He signed up to Once Upon A Time after filming on Mindhunter had finished.
The actor, who has previously featured on US crime drama Justified, Aussie series Rake and has never once featured on Neighbours or Home and Away, said on a recent podcast appearance that the time difference – OUATIH is set in 1969 with Manson out in the world, while Mindhunter finds him locked up in prison in 1980 – helped him to keep the performances distinct from one another.
“Mindhunter came first,” Herriman said. “[Charles Manson] is in jail at that point. So yeah, it’s different. Because of that age gap. Manson, in the Tarantino movie, is pre-jail, and he’s kind of in his court jester… out there just living on the ranch and taking drugs and having sex. He’s in that sort of whole cult life world. And then in jail, he’s an incredibly bitter, angry man. A certain lightness existed in him in the early stuff…he doesn’t feel like the same guy anymore when you see him in jail. He looks pretty pissed off most of the time.”
He compared his portrayal of Manson in Mindhunter to that of a mentally ill person.
“The closest thing I can think of to him is a homeless person,” he said. “Maybe someone with schizophrenia that you see talking to themselves on the street. A lot of his interviews have that sense, where [he’s] just spouting stuff that doesn’t make sense. Other times it does make sense, like a lot of sense. So clearly the guy was mentally ill. I’ve read and watched a whole hell of a lot; I still don’t really know what made him tick.”
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He added that Tarantino knew he had played Manson in Mindhunter, but that they didn’t discuss it in depth.
“[Tarantino] knew that I’d done [Mindhunter]. It would have been weird to keep that a secret,” Herriman said. “But it didn’t come up much. He said at one point while we were shooting, ‘You’ve done Fincher’s thing already?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, it was a couple weeks ago.’ He said, ‘Cool, how’d that go?’ I said, ‘Great.’ He didn’t ask about any of it other than that. He certainly didn’t say he wanted me to do something different. There was enough already that I found different about him, and I looked different.”
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is out NOW. Mindhunter season 2 launches on Netflix on Friday 16th August