“I got an audition for the project through the normal channels, through my agents, and I did an audition in my bedroom with my dad.” So says Maya Hawke, the ethereal Flower Child of Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Maya’s audition story seems pretty standard and even quite ordinary to anyone who understands the casting process in Los Angeles. In fact, it happens every day. A compelling and influential director is accepting submissions for an interesting project, you submit a killer self-tape, one thing leads to another and Bingo! You’re in!

However, upon closer inspection, Maya’s conventional self-tape takes on much greater significance and aura given her dad and scene partner is none other than the legendary actor Ethan Hawke! Needless to say, Ethan’s been in a few decent movies. And indeed, Maya’s mom is former Tarantino muse and Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction star Uma Thurman!

When asked why so many filmmakers produce movies about actors and about Hollywood history these days, Maya Hawke stated simply, “Because everyone in Hollywood is hugely self-involved.” This may be an insight into why QT cast the offspring of Hollywood elites in his retro, meta, and nostalgic homage to classic moviemaking: to keep it in the family and to protect the realm. 

Another benefit to casting Hollywood royalty has to do with the enormous cost of movie-making. Hoping to pull in as much money as possible, it’s no surprise that filmmakers would prefer to place a bet on the descendants of movie stars. The names alone are a draw for the masses. Hollywood royalty doesn’t slip under the radar. Think the Baldwins, the Smiths, the Sheens, the Coppolas, the Sutherlands, and on and on.

However, there’s something to be said on behalf of Hollywood’s progeny. They often grow up visiting their parents while on set, observing the movie-making process as well as absorbing the industry language. It’s no surprise this kind of introduction into the biz can predispose them to follow in their parents’ footsteps. 

In addition to Maya Hawke, Margaret Qualley plays the feral as well as dangerous Manson family member, Pussycat, in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Margaret is the daughter of Sex, Lies, and Videotape actress Andie McDowell and former model Paul Qualley. Margaret is a very talented actress and she delivers a terrific performance as a rather furry family member, and she displays impressive chemistry with Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth. However, it’s hard to get around the fact that Margaret’s royal pedigree may have had something to do with her participation in the film. In fact, Margaret herself says of her Once Upon a Time in Hollywood experience, “The cool kids are excited to be there, Brad Pitt’s excited to be there and Quentin’s excited to be there, so I was allowed to be unabashedly enthusiastic.” 

Not to be outdone, Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, gets in on the act as well! Rumer plays Joanna Pettet, Sharon Tate’s close friend and trusted confidant. And Clerks director Kevin Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, plays Froggie—yet another lost Manson family girl. 

Quentin Tarantino is a singular artist who’s proven to be, over many years, a master filmmaker. One can only assume he had a very specific thematic reason for casting the progeny of Hollywood royalty in a picture about Hollywood culture. Perhaps he’s after a level of verisimilitude which can only be achieved through people who’ve grown up amongst the Hollywood players, hustlers, stars, wannabes, and hangers-on of the movie industry. 

Still, it’s not difficult to imagine struggling actors and actresses, who’ve toiled away at soul-crushing jobs while hustling for every opportunity and audition available, feeling a bit gutted when hearing of tremendously wealthy, famous-at-birth children nabbing the hottest projects in town. And in this case, from a casting perspective, it may have made more sense to go with normal suburban kids of middle-class parents, as that is what made up the original Manson family. That’s not to say the privileged kids are doing a subpar job. Whether they’ve earned their place at Hollywood’s big table is really up for anyone to decide. What do you think?

 

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