"[Once Upon a Time in Hollywood] is my love letter to L.A." - Quentin Tarantino
Set in Los Angeles during the tumultuous year of 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the ninth film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of fading TV star Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The studio system of the Golden Age of Hollywood is coming to an end, while the counterculture has embraced the antiheroes of movies like Easy Rider and The Wild Bunch.
As they struggle to find their place in a rapidly changing Hollywood, Dalton and Booth interact with real-life figures like Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee and most notably, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Numerous characters and storylines intersect as the film moves inexorably forward to the fateful night when Tate, hairstylist Jay Sebring, and three others were brutally murdered by followers of Charles Manson.
Filming took place in Los Angeles from June to November 2018. Instagram and Twitter were flooded with fan photos of Hollywood Boulevard, which was transported back to 1969 by the film crew. Many locations are seen only briefly in the movie, while others - like Musso & Frank Grill - have significant screen time.
In an interview with Esquire, Tarantino said that Once Upon a Time is his most personal film. "I think of it like my memory piece. Alfonso [Cuarón] had Roma and Mexico City, 1970. I had L.A. and 1969. This is me. This is the year that formed me. I was six years old then. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L.A."
Read on for Los Angeles locations featured in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, plus a bonus section for those that want to take a deeper dive into the movie. MILD SPOILERS AHEAD.
Aquarius Theatre (Nickelodeon on Sunset)
Opened in 1938 as the Earl Carroll Theatre, this venue (6230 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) was later known as the Moulin Rouge, the Hullabaloo, and the Kaleidoscope. In 1968, the club was redecorated with psychedelic art, renamed the Aquarius Theatre, and became the home of a long-running L.A. production of the Broadway musical Hair. More recently, it was known as Nickelodeon on Sunset, a stage facility that housed the West Coast production of live-action original series produced for Nickelodeon from 1997 to 2017.
"Bounty Law" + "The F.B.I." (Puerco Canyon)
Tarantino gives the audience a glimpse of Bounty Law, a fictional 1950s TV Western that starred Rick Dalton at the height of his career. (In fact, to prepare for Once Upon a Time, Tarantino wrote five half-hour episodes and wants to direct them.) Years later, Dalton guest stars on an episode of The F.B.I., which ran on ABC from 1965 to 1974. According to American Cinematographer, the sequence was filmed at Puerco Canyon in Malibu. Gaffer Ian Kincaid explains that footage of DiCaprio was inserted into an actual episode - "... the location, truck and weather all had to match the scene shot 50 years prior."
The 703-acre Cameron Nature Preserve in Puerco Canyon is part of a contiguous block of public parkland that stretches from Corral Canyon Park at Pacific Coast Highway inland to Malibu Creek State Park. The parkland offers ocean views and miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
On a fateful night, Dalton and Booth get drinks at Casa Vega (13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks 91423), the Valley institution founded by Rafael “Ray” Garcia in 1956. Casa Vega continues to be a celebrity favorite thanks to second-generation proprietor Christina “Christy” Vega Fowler, who respects her famous guests' privacy and accommodates special requests like discretely entering and exiting the landmark restaurant. Not to mention, the lighting is so low an incognito meal is practically guaranteed. As they have for more than six decades, diners slide into red leather banquettes and tuck into classic House Combinations or specialty dishes like the Vega Ribeye and the Casa Vega Molcajete with sliced flank steak, chicken breast, tiger shrimp and grilled chile relleno. The Cantina offers numerous Margarita variations and an extensive tequila selection. Pro tip: for a truly authentic Once Upon a Time in Hollywood experience, ask for table C6.
The first and only theatre of its kind in the world, Pacific Theatres' Cinerama Dome (6360 W Sunset Blvd, Hollywood 90028) opened on Nov. 7, 1963 with the premiere of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Since then, the Dome has hosted more than five decades of premieres and blockbusters. The Cinerama Dome was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in December 1998. For Once Upon a Time, Tarantino's favorite movie theatre was dressed for the premiere of the disaster film Krakatoa, East of Java which was released on May 14, 1969.
The Dome was renovated and reopened in March 2002 with state-of-the-art projection and sound as part of ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood. The signature marquee and portico on Sunset Boulevard, the 316 hexagons in the famous geodesic dome, and the deeply curved screen (32 x 86 feet!) were all restored to their original specs. The Dome seats more than 800 guests per showing and has maintained the historic loge seating - a favorite of moviegoers over the years.
El Coyote Mexican Cafe
Originally opened in March 1931, El Coyote Mexican Cafe moved to its current location (7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles 90036) in 1951. Generations of guests have dined on authentic Mexican cuisine and sipped the famous Margaritas in El Coyote's lively, colorful setting. Autographed photos of Hollywood stars line one wall, while Christmas lights brighten up the dining room all year.
Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger ate their last meal at El Coyote on Aug. 8, 1969. Along with 18-year-old Steven Parent, the group was murdered later that night by members of the Manson Family at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. The house was rented by Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski, who was in Europe at the time. Musician Trent Reznor rented the house in 1992 and set up a recording studio there before moving out a year later. Owner Rudolph Altobelli demolished the house in 1994 and built a replacement home called Villa Bella - the street address was changed to 10066 Cielo Drive.
Fox Bruin Theatre + Fox Village Theatre
Located near UCLA at the corner of Broxton and Weyburn in Westwood, the Regency Bruin Theatre (948 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles 90024) opened in December 1937 as the Fox Bruin Theatre. In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Sharon Tate stops by the Bruin to watch herself in The Wrecking Crew, the 1969 film starring Dean Martin. ("I play Miss Carlson, the klutz.")
Featuring a wraparound Streamline Moderne marquee, the theatre was designed by noted architect S. Charles Lee, who also designed the Los Angeles Theatre, the Tower Theatre, the Hollywood Melrose Hotel (now the Hollywood Historic Hotel), the Max Factor Building (home of the Hollywood Museum), the Hollywood & Western Building (aka The Mayer Building), and the Fox Wilshire Theatre (Saban Theatre). The Bruin was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in June 1988.
Across from the Bruin, the Regency Village Theatre (961 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles 90024) opened as the Fox Village Theatre in August 1931. The theatre has hosted Hollywood movie premieres for decades and was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in June 1988. The theatre's most famous architectural feature is the iconic 170-foot white Spanish Revival/Moderne tower, which is topped by a blue and white Art Deco "FOX" sign. At night, the illuminated tower and sign create a beacon for Westwood Village.
Italian Restaurant (Cicada)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn't the only movie appearance for Cicada, the stunning Art Deco restaurant and special event venue located in Downtown L.A.’s historic Oviatt Building (617 S. Olive St. Los Angeles 90014). Even though it's nearly 30 years since Pretty Woman was released, Cicada is still called the “Pretty Woman restaurant.” Known as Rex Il Ristorante when Pretty Woman filmed there, Cicada continues to accommodate requests for the table where Julia Roberts had her snail-eating mishap in that famous scene - the host will point out where the eagle-eyed waiter stood at the ready to catch the “slippery little suckers.” On select nights, the restaurant transforms into Cicada Club, a classy evening of dinner and dancing with nostalgic music performed by swing and jazz bands.
"Lancer" (Western Street - Universal Studios Hollywood)
Rick Dalton guest stars as a bad guy on an episode of the Western TV series Lancer directed by Sam Wanamaker (Nicholas Hammond). During the shoot, Dalton gets into a philosophical discussion about acting with his co-star, an 8-year-old method actress played by a scene-stealing Julia Butters. Lancer was an actual series that aired on CBS from 1968-70 - Wanamaker directed the debut episode, "The High Riders."
Generations of passengers arriving at LAX have been greeted by colorful mosaics designed by Charles Kratka. According to the Daily Breeze, Kratza - a longtime South Bay resident - was born in Pasadena and attended UCLA and Art Center. As part of a major airport modernization project, in 1961 mosaics were installed in five of the seven tunnels that connected gates to baggage claim. After Kratka's death in 2007, Janet Bennett - an artist on his design team at Pereira & Luckman - said that the mosaics were actually her concept. The flowing colors represent a transcontinental airplane flight - blues symbolize the oceans while greens, yellows and browns evoke the landscape.
Today the mosaics can only be viewed in Terminals 3, 4 and 6. The Terminal 6 mosaic appears in an early scene of Once Upon a Time, when Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha) land in LA; and later in a parallel scene when Rick Dalton, Francesca Capucci (Lorenza Izzo) and Cliff Booth arrive from Rome. The mosaics have also appeared in the intro to Tarantino's Jackie Brown, Airplane!, The Graduate, Point Blank, and TV's Mad Men and The Rockford Files.
Musso & Frank Grill
Hollywood's oldest restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 90028) is featured prominently in the Once Upon a Time trailer and PR photos. In a scene filmed at Musso's, Dalton meets agent Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino), who says he's a big fan and offers him an opportunity to make a Spaghetti Western in Rome.
Celebrating its centennial this year, Musso's is as famous for its Martinis as the legendary clientele, which spans generations of celebrities from Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe to Keith Richards and Johnny Depp. Musso's was also a mecca for famed writers like William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, William Saroyan and Dorothy Parker. Ask the Dust author John Fante was a Musso's regular, which inspired Charles Bukowski to emulate his idol and frequent the bar ("Fante was my god.").
In an interview with Architectural Digest, production designer Barbara Ling says that they were able to film at Musso's because "Quentin is a big customer and has been going forever. They love him there and closed the restaurant down for five days for filming. The interiors are almost exactly the same [since the grill’s inception in 1919], and the headwaiters gave us the dishes used in the '60s, which was a miracle."
A party scene was filmed on location at the Playboy Mansion (10236 Charing Cross Road, Los Angeles 90024), the former home of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who lived there from 1974 until his death in 2017. Located in the ritzy Holmby Hills neighborhood near Beverly Hills, the mansion gained notoriety in the 1970s thanks to reports of Hef's decadent parties attended by the rich and famous.
Currently owned by Daren Metropoulos, the son of billionaire investor Dean Metropoulos, the mansion is frequently booked for special events, corporate functions, fundraisers, and fashion shoots.
Pussycat Theatre (Swissx Lounge)
Opened as the News-View in May 1940, the theatre became part of the Pussycat adult movie theatre chain in November 1974. It officially became the Pussycat Theatre in March 1975 with the installation of the famous cat-girl logo and remodeled facade. The Pussycat's biggest hit was Deep Throat, which ran for ten years before the theatre closed and became the Ritz, a third-run movie house. More recently, the venue reopened as the Hologram USA Hollywood in November 2017 and then closed last December. The space is currently operating as a cannabis club, the Swissx Lounge (6656 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028).
Spahn Ranch (Corriganville Park)
Spahn Ranch was a 55-acre movie ranch that is infamous for being the primary residence of the Manson Family for most of 1968-69, including the Tate-LaBianca murders. The ranch was owned by 80-year-old George Spahn (played by Bruce Dern), who allowed Manson and his followers to take it over in exchange for daily chores and sexual favors from the women. A wildfire destroyed the dilapidated film sets and residential structures in September 1970. Now part of Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, Spahn Ranch hosts organizations like Atlas Obscura that offer guided tours of the former Manson Family hideout.
In Once Upon a Time, Spahn Ranch is portrayed by Corriganville Park in Simi Valley. Formerly owned by actor and stuntman Ray “Crash” Corrigan, the park was once the Corriganville Movie Ranch and was the filming site for more than 3,500 movies, TV programs and commercials. Today, the park is home to five trails that wind around the 246-acre property, which is owned by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.
The Supply Sergeant + Peaches Records & Tapes
Because Tarantino didn't want to use digital sets, Variety notes that production designer Barbara Ling created facades that were built off-site and installed by crane to recreate Hollywood Boulevard in 1969. Dozens of vintage cars and extras in '60s fashion added to the illusion. Facades ranged from existing businesses like The Supply Sergeant (6664 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 90028) to the original Peaches Records & Tapes, which closed in 1980. As part of an agreement with the city, the production could only shoot one side of the street at a time - months later, the other side of Hollywood Boulevard was dressed to film the rest of the scene.
Vine Theatre (Dolby Screening Room)
Opened as the Admiral Theatre in May 1940, this venue later became the Vine Theatre, a second-run movie house. Dolby Laboratories reopened the facility in May 2015 as a Dolby Screening Room to showcase advanced Dolby sound and visual technologies for professionals. The screening room is located just west of the world-famous corner of Hollywood and Vine (6321 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028).
Vogue Theatre (Cabo Cantina)
Another Fox West Coast Theatre designed by S. Charles Lee, the Vogue Theatre (6675 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) opened in July 1935 next door to Musso & Frank Grill. For several years, the Vogue was the home of Supperclub, which closed in October 2015. More recently the venue housed Screenbid, a film and TV memorabilia auction house. Cabo Cantina (6669 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) occupies the former Vogue space that's directly adjacent to Musso's.
Location manager Richard Schuler, who has worked on L.A.-based films like A Star is Born and Her, explained to Tim Grieving on The Frame: "What's to the left of [Musso's] however, the Cabo Cantina, all of that got stripped off - from the straw awning to all the signage and everything. The Vogue Theatre used to extend in front of that, so we put the Vogue Theatre back in right there."
Take a deeper dive into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Los Angeles in the 1960s.
101 COFFEE SHOP
Open till 3am daily, the 101 Coffee Shop at the Best Western Plus Hollywood Hills Hotel (6145 Franklin Ave, Hollywood 90028) is perfect for a late bite after a concert at the Hollywood Bowl or Ford Theatres. In its previous incarnation as the Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop, the Googie-style restaurant appeared in Swingers (1996). Chef Brandon Boudet and business partner Warner Ebbink took over the diner in 2001, updating the menu and keeping the retro '60s vibe with faux wood counters, tan booths, stone walls, and drop-down globe lanterns. Popular menu items include buttermilk pancakes, burgers, and meatloaf. And since this is Hollywood, there's also blackened tofu with fried carrots, sauteed broccoli, kale, brown rice and avocado vinaigrette.
A massive statue of Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) is a must-Instagram stop on a visit to Chinatown's Central Plaza. The late martial arts legend once had a studio nearby at 628 W. College St.
CANYON COUNTRY STORE
In the mid-1960s to 1970s, Laurel Canyon was home to some of the greatest musicians of the rock era, including Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, and members of The Mamas & The Papas, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Musicians flocked to Laurel Canyon because of its idyllic setting as well as the cheap rent and proximity to Sunset Strip clubs such as the Whisky A Go Go, The Roxy and The Troubadour.
Located in the heart of Laurel Canyon, the Canyon Country Store (2108 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Los Angeles 90046) was the coolest convenience store on the planet in its heyday, serving music royalty and hippies alike. You can still experience that bohemian vibe at the store today - shop memorabilia and vintage vinyl, order the popular pastrami sandwich, or pick up various sundries for the pantry.
Jim Morrison and his girlfriend, Pamela Courson lived kitty-corner from the store at 8021 Rothdell Trail, the street that inspired The Doors song, "Love Street." Morrison mentions the Canyon Country Store in his spoken word interlude: "I see you live on Love Street/ There's this store where the creatures meet/I wonder what they do in there?/Summer Sunday and a year/I guess I like it fine, so far."
The store continues to attract and inspire musicians. Father John Misty was a regular customer and he met his wife, Emma Elizabeth Tillman (née Garr) there - his 2015 song, "I Went to the Store One Day" opens with lyrics about that night: "We met in a parking lot/I was buying coffee and cigarettes/Firewood and bad wine long since gone."
INN OF THE SEVENTH RAY
Follow the smell of incense to the Inn of the Seventh Ray, a hidden gem nestled in the hippie haven of Topanga Canyon (128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd, Topanga 90290). Founded in the early 1970s by Dr. Ralph and Lucile Yaney, the Inn is a longtime advocate of vegan and vegetarian cuisine - the restaurant continues the Yaneys' mission of offering their guests the benefits of cooking without chemicals or artificial additives.
Situated adjacent to Topanga Creek and surrounded by a forest of sycamore, oak and pine trees, the restaurant's romantic setting makes the Inn a popular wedding location - whether it's a bright, sunny day or a warm evening, there isn't a bad table on the fairy tale patio. On cooler nights, seats by the fireplace are highly coveted.
JAY SEBRING SALON (GOODFORM)
One of the Manson Family victims was Sharon Tate's ex-lover and close friend, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). Dubbed "L.A.'s first celebrity hairstylist" by Vogue, Sebring boasted a client list of legendary male actors that included Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Warren Beatty, who reportedly based his playboy character in Shampoo (1975) in part on Sebring. With salons in West Hollywood, New York and London, Sebring flew to Las Vegas every three weeks to cut the hair of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr; did the hairstyling for films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Thomas Crown Affair; and even designed Jim Morrison's flowing locks. In 2007, the GoodForm salon opened at Sebring's former L.A. location on Fairfax just north of Melrose (725 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles 90046).
The Bruce Lee Connection: Sebring was in the audience when a then-unknown Bruce Lee demonstrated his famous one-inch punch and two-finger push-ups at the inaugural Long Beach International Karate Championships in August 1964. Sebring mentioned Lee's performance to his producer friend William Dozer, who invited Lee to screen test for the role of Kato in The Green Hornet.
NEW BEVERLY CINEMA
During production, the cast and crew watched films at Tarantino's movie theatre, the New Beverly Cinema (7165 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles 90036). Production designer Barbara Ling tells Architectural Digest the weekly movie nights included The Wrecking Crew, Valley of the Dolls, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Tarantino famously said, "As long as I'm alive, and as long as I'm rich, the New Beverly will be there, showing double features in 35mm." Many of the 35mm and 16mm prints shown are from his private collection.
Dedicated film fans can track down 10 Columbia Pictures films curated by Tarantino for the Sony Movie Channel that represent "The Swinging Sixties" era of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM
For car buffs, The Vault at the Petersen Automotive Museum (6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90036) is a bucket list experience - an extraordinary collection of more than 250 iconic and rare cars from around the world exhibited in a newly renovated 60,000 square-foot underground space. Two tour options are available: the 90-minute Introductory Tour and the 120-minute World Tour.
Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) was a well-known car collector. One of the highlights of The Vault is McQueen's favorite car, the legendary 1956 Jaguar XKSS that he affectionately nicknamed the "Green Rat." McQueen loved driving this car fast and reportedly received so many speeding tickets his driver’s license was almost suspended twice during his first year of ownership.
Cliff Booth lives in a trailer behind the Van Nuys Drive-In, which Pacific Theatres opened in July 1948. The drive-in was demolished in the 1990s and today the location is the site of Vista Middle School.
The Pacific Theatres drive-in legacy lives on at the Vineland Drive-In (443 Vineland Ave, Industry 91746). Opened in April 1955, the Vineland Drive-In presents double features of first-run movies for just $10 General Admission (9 years old and up) and $3.50 for children ages 5-8. Unless otherwise posted, on Friday-Sunday nights the first feature is repeated after the second feature is over. All films are broadcast in FM Dolby Stereo sound.
VINTAGE CLOTHING STORES
Oscar-nominated costume designer Arianne Phillips describes Tarantino as "a kindred spirit" in her interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Phillips scoured local vintage shops and rental houses for the late 1960s and early '70s fashion that "play a big role in defining the characters." Here are three stores that she shared with The Hollywood Reporter:
- Timeless Vixen (1100 S. Beverly Dr, Los Angeles 90035) - "The yellow hot pants outfit on Margot is an original that Sharon Tate was known to have worn."
- Vintage on Hollywood (4659 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90027) - Phillips sourced the denims worn by the female members of the Manson Family and the "Hollywood" print dress Sharon Tate wears go-go dancing.
- The Way We Wore (334 S. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles 90036) - Owner Doris Raymond curates a selection that spans the best of 20th-century vintage, "ranging from haute couture to the esoteric, from sportswear to casual fashion."