If you went to the cinema and saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood over the weekend and also started watching Mindhunter season two, you might have noticed the same actor was chosen to play Charles Manson in both projects. The reason behind the casting of Aussie actor Damon Herriman in both instances sort of came down to sheer luck.
In case you don’t know much about Manson, let me give you a quick recap. The cult leader attempted to pursue a music career in Los Angeles in 1968 and ended up living in the home of The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson. Wilson introduced Manson to music producer Terry Melcher, but things didn’t work out.
Manson later relocated to Spahn Movie Ranch where he prepared people for the race war known as Helter Skelter.
On August 9, 1969, four members of the Manson Family cult drove to Melcher’s former house on Cielo Drive – which was owned by director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate at the time – and killed Tate and four others in an order given by Manson.
Tarantino’s apparently a fan of Justified so was happy to give Herriman an audition.
Then on August 30, it was announced that Mindhunter had also cast Herriman in the same role.
The actor has another idea for why he was cast twice as Manson, and, in pure Aussie style, he’s not giving himself enough credit.
In an interview with The New Daily, he said, “You have to be a certain height to play Charles Manson.”
“He was five foot three so I’m tall compared to him, I’m like five seven. But when a casting brief is put out for actor around five six, immediately the physicality puts you in much smaller group of candidates.”
After he finished filming the Netflix series, he began work on Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Speaking with Indiewire, Herriman revealed what Tarantino thought about him having played Manson already in Mindhunter.
“He knew that I’d done it. It would have been weird to keep that a secret… 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.”
The two depictions of Manson probably couldn’t be more different. In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Manson appears just once when he visits Cielo Drive looking for Terry Melcher, only to find Sharon and her friends. He’s seen clean-shaven and somewhat friendly, but he’s still got something about him that clearly creeps Sharon out.
Mindhunter has a much darker tone and was set more than a decade after the Cielo Drive murders when Manson was an inmate at a California prison being interviewed by the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit.
While doing research on Manson, Herriman found that he “would kind of up the crazy elements if the interviewer was treating him like he was crazy”, which is seen in his performance on the show.
While Herriman has fun playing roles like Manson, he’s ready for a break after playing a “brutish soldier” in The Nightingale.
“It’s been fun, but I’ve just reached the point where I need to take a break from pretty much anyone who’s into crime or heavy drug use, anything in that world of villains,” he told The New Daily.