EXCLUSIVE: As Charles Manson gears up for his behind-bars nuptials to a young follower named Star, a February shoot has been set for long-gestating indie drama Manson Girls. Susanna Lo is directing the film about the female devotees who joined Manson’s flock in the 1960s and helped carry out brutal killings meant to start an apocalyptic race war. Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects) will portray Manson in the film, which TriCoast Worldwide boarded this month at AFM.
Rather than probe the twisted brain of Manson himself, Manson Girls will chronicle how eight young women in his brood came from diverse and even privileged backgrounds to become the most notorious female serial killers of the decade’s Love Generation. The pic will follow the girls’ pre-Manson teen years through their indoctrination into the Family and up to the bloody summer of 1969 when their violent “Helter Skelter” campaign that rocked Los Angeles and the counterculture community.
Cast as some of the real-life Manson followers are Eric Balfour (Skyline) as Bobby Beausoleil, Monica Keena (Freddy vs. Jason) as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw 3D) as Leslie Van Houten and Laura Harring (Mulholland Drive) as Alice Rainer. Lo’s also got a cameo earmarked Ron Jeremy, who’ll play the director of The Ramrodder, the softcore film that featured Beausoleil and fellow Manson Family member Catherine Share in small roles. Taryn Manning previously was involved in the project, which has undergone some cast shifts.
Lo spent years researching all things Manson but opted not to approach the cult leader himself. “A lot of it was like the film Rashomon: Five different perspectives from all the different people at the scene,” she told me. “One of the toughest scenarios to find the truth about was the Gary Hinman murder.”
The project has been the subject of curiosity since Lo announced it three years ago at Sundance. She linked up early with John McFee and Guy Allison of the Doobie Brothers, who are producing a soundtrack that also will feature Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane/Starship, David Crosby and Beth Hart. At Sundance 2011, the two Doobies and Lo’s cast even performed songs like “California Dreamin'” for the Park City crowd. Lo shot a sizzle reel soon after but spent the next few years courting financiers. “We ended up getting a lot of press, but nobody committed to presales,” Lo said. TriCoast stepped up to take worldwide sales rights this month.
The $2 million production will shoot in rebate-friendly Georgia and LA, with some scenes replicating the Haight-Ashbury counterculture scene on location in San Francisco. Lo is producing for her Slo Motion Studios with Jennlik Productions’ Jennifer Niejadlik and Ineke de Vos.