The sudden death of Burt Reynolds could put a wrench in production for the massive Quentin Tarantino movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Reynolds was set to start shooting the buzzy Sony Pictures film, which features an A-list ensemble cast that also includes Brad Pitt, Leonard DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie, within the next few weeks, according to a source for the Hollywood Reporter. The legendary star’s death now puts Tarantino in the position of scrambling to find another big name for the pivotal role of George Spahn.
Reynolds had been cast to play Spahn, the elderly, near-blind man who owned the Los Angeles ranch where Charles Manson and his followers lived just before their murder spree in the summer of 1969.
Reynolds’ niece, Nancy Lee Hess, told THR in a statement that the 82-year-old actor, who earned an Oscar nomination for his role in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights, had been excited to start working on the new film, saying, “My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino, and the amazing cast that was assembled.”
Earlier this year, THR reported that Tarantino was eyeing Burt Reynolds for a key role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Spahn. Tarantino teased that the hippie-era flick would be “probably the closest to Pulp Fiction that I have done.”
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 6, 2018
The movie, which was also written by Tarantino, is set in Los Angeles in 1969 and follows fading TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), who live next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Robbie) before the actress is murdered by Charles Manson’s cult. Burt Reynolds had a key role as “Spahn Ranch” owner George Spahn, who is convinced by Manson to allow him and his followers to live on the ranch in exchange for sex with his female followers who would also serve as Spahn’s seeing-eye guides.
After Burt Reynolds’ death was announced, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood co-star Dakota Fanning, who plays Manson follower Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme in the film, shared the following on her Instagram story.
“Very lucky to have met the man, the myth, the legend, Burt Reynolds. RIP.”
Burt Reynolds’ IMDB page lists him as “filming” Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The late star’s last completed role was in the film, Defining Moments, which is due to be released this December.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was originally slated for a worldwide release on Aug. 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the day that the Manson family murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the day after Sharon Tate was killed. The release date was changed to July 26, 2019. But now, with the death of Burt Reynolds, the future of the film is uncertain as Tarantino tries to fill the shoes of one of the movie’s biggest stars.