Austin Butler’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Role Explained

Austin Butler is almost unrecognizable in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, playing one of the film’s final antagonists.


Before Austin Butler gained international recognition for his leading role elvishe appeared in it Once upon a time in Hollywood. Set in 1969, at the height of Hollywood’s golden era, Quentin Tarantino’s film follows two contrasting men as they try to survive in the ever-changing film industry: Rich Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a forgotten movie star, while Cliff Booth is a cranky stuntman who acts as Dalton’s chauffeur. Parallel to her story, her neighbor Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, is rising to stardom.

What Once upon a time in Hollywood best plays with the quirks of a decade through both fictional and real characters. Rick Dalton is based on many real-life actors of this decade, while Sharon Tate, an iconic real-life actress, represents kindness and innocence in times ravaged by violence and war. Mankind’s decay in the face of change is portrayed by Charles Manson’s cult, a hopeless group of people trying to make sense of their naivety, and that’s where Austin Butler comes in.

Also see: 8 Tricks Tarantino Uses in Every Movie


Austin Butler plays Tex Watson

Austin Butler in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

In Once upon a time in Hollywood, Austin Butler portrays Manson Family member Tex Watson, who first appears in the film’s Spahn ranch scene. When Cliff picks up a hitchhiker (Margaret Qualley) who lives at the ranch where he worked as a stuntman for Rick, he finds the place full of hippies. He immediately suspects they are taking advantage of the ranch’s owner, the elderly, nearly blind George Spahn (Bruce Dern, who replaced Burt Reynolds). Angry, Cliff beats up one of the hippies after discovering the guy had a flat tire. This causes the hippies to call for Tex, who arrives while Cliff drives away.

Tex Watson was one of the Manson followers involved in the cold-blooded murders of Sharon Tate and her friends, and her unborn child, at her home in Benedict Canyon. In the film, Tex is one of the four cult members sent to murder the residents of Tate’s house, which happens to be next door to Rick’s. Tex and the others spot Cliff there and decide to attack him instead. Despite Tex holding a gun, Cliff gains the upper hand on the younger man and kills him and the other cult members with Rick’s help.

Tarantino changes history with Watson’s fate in the film

Tex Watson points a gun at someone

Austin Butler’s Tex is clearly a fictionalized version of Tex Watson. Despite correctly understanding Manson’s cult and the attack, Tarantino changes history by changing Sharon Tate’s fate. In Once upon a time in Hollywood, the attackers never kill anyone because they are stopped by Cliff and Rick, indirectly saving Sharon, her baby and all her friends from their unfair fate. It’s not the first time Tarantino has used fiction to fix what went wrong in reality: in Inglorious Basterdskills a character Adolf Hitler and many other prominent Nazis in a movie theater.

It’s easy to miss Butler at first glance because he’s almost unrecognizable as a Tex. Unlike his demanding role as Elvis Presley, he looks dirty and unkempt. Tex’s a small role, but Butler takes the job seriously and delivers a great performance, capturing the fear in Tex’s eyes: although the words he spits out are menacing, his lack of experience is palpable in every move. With this character Once upon a time in Hollywood highlights the cowardly and thoughtless nature of the Manson family trying to prove something they didn’t even believe in.

More: The best order for Quentin Tarantino’s films

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