First Look at Transforming Hollywood Boulevard Back to the 1960’s
by Chris Nicolas | LA Magazine | July 19, 2018
About one year from today, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will hit theatres. Firm plot details are mostly being kept under wraps right now, but is rumoured to be split into thematic chapters in the style of Pulp Fiction – the story will take place in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969 at the height of hippy Hollywood when the Charles Manson cult was wreaking havoc. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), former star of a western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor Sharon Tate, of the famed Manson Family murders. Even though the movie will deal with Charles Manson and the famed Manson Family murders, it’s been made clear that particular subject matter won’t be the main focus.
Damian has been cast in a small role as Steve McQueen but in what capacity, we do not know. For starters, the inclusion of Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen in the film is connected. Both actors were clients of Jay Sebring, a world-renowned hair stylist who was a major fixture in 1960’s Los Angeles. Sebring was known for bringing European hair techniques to America and he established a name for himself when we popularized the feathering and layering of male hair, which was dubbed the “Sebring Look.” Sebring helped Bruce Lee find work teaching kung fu to Hollywood stars, including Steve McQueen and Roman Polanski.
History states McQueen is said to have been invited by Jay Sebring to Sharon Tate’s (Roman Polanski’s wife) house dinner party, but he no-showed. Preparing to attend the dinner, McQueen ran into a female friend and decided to spend the evening with her instead. That night in 1969 would become one of the most notorious in modern American history: Tate and Sebring, along with two of their friends, were brutally murdered by the followers of Charles Manson. Spending the evening with his female friend saved McQueen’s life. His close call with death spooked him so bad that he went into a state of paranoia. His then-wife Neile Adams recalled that, after the murders, McQueen “became more paranoid and wouldn’t let me go anywhere without a gun.”
The facade of Jay Sebring’s former salon on Fairfax Ave in West Hollywood is being rebuilt. Sebring (Hirsch) reinvented the men’s haircut and the very image of a hairstylist. He was young and handsome and dated gorgeous actresses, including at one time, Sharon Tate. In the late ’60s, he owned a salon on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax that attracted a long list of celebrity clients, including Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee. At the time, barbers charged around $1.50 for a haircut, but a session with Sebring could cost up to $25.
As we wait for more information about Damian’s role as McQueen, let’s take a peek at additional set photos that are surfacing:
Phil Grishayev, a video director and VFX artist, shared a clip of Hollywood Boulevard lined with vintage cars that transport us to the distinctive decade.
Even the shop fronts and billboards that have been changed to look like they belong to a retro age. Work crews are swarming the 6600 block of Hollywood Boulevard between Cherokee and Las Palmas and transforming the facades, signage and shop windows for the $100 million film. Musso & Frank Grill closed for a week as scenes were filmed inside, and once again the Boulevard sports a Pussycat Theatre, the Peaches record shop, and a recreated Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop at the location it occupied in the 1960’s and 70’s.
While the action may be set in 1969, the set dressing reflects a broader timeline. The magazines on the newsstand date to 1968, Peaches Records & Tapes took out a grand opening ad in November of 1974, and permits show that the Pussycat theatre signage went up in March of 1975.
Nevertheless, it is breathtaking to see the stores filled with beehive wigs and tube TVs, and the spectacular neon soldier above Supply Sergeant flickering to life once again. I especially love seeing the technology of digital LED theater marquees turned back into white plastic and changeable letters.
Psychedelic-era movie star posters by Elaine Hanelock recreated as a mural.
While the film’s release date was August 19, 2019, it will now hit theatres on July 26, 2019. Stay tuned as we bring you more sneak peeks as filming progresses.