The Haunting of Sharon Tate: Jonathan Bennett on Playing Jay Sebring in This Manson Murder Story [Exclusive Interview]

Charles Manson and family orchestrated the most horrific and talked about murders in the last century. The group killed 8-month pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her houseguests in the most gruesome murder spree in that fateful night in Los Angeles.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate is another film that showcases the events leading up to the murderous night. In its unusual twist, this version of Sharon Tate receives visions of her imminent death and will change the outcome.

The film stars Hilary Duff (A Cinderella Story), Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls), Lydia Hearst (#Horror), Pawel Szajda (Under the Tuscan Sun) and Ryan Cargill (WITS Academy). The film is written and directed by Daniel Farrands (The Amityville Murders).

LRM Online had the opportunity to speak with actor Jonathan Bennett over the phone late last month. We discussed about his role and research into Jay Sebring, the renown hair stylist to the stars and a victim during this murder spree.

Bennett was best known for his role as Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls. He had been involved in multiple television shows and television movies over the years, including Awkward, Van Wilder: Freshman Year, and The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning. He had also hosted Food Network’s Cake Wars for several years. He is also the author of The Burn Cookbook, which is available on Amazon today.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate is playing in limited theaters and available on demand today. The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 4th.

Read our interview below.

LRM: Why were you attracted to this project of The Haunting of Sharon Tate?

Jonathan Bennett: They called and asked,” Do you want to be in a movie about the Manson murder of Sharon Tate?” It’s by Jay Sebring and Hilary Duff is playing Sharon Tate. Yeah. [Laughs] What more convincing do you need? It’s such an iconic Hollywood story in history. Um, it’s fun. It’s not just something that people are in awe with. People really gravitate towards the story, because it was so bizarre, so horrible and so interesting. It’s also getting to work with Hilary Duff, who I worked with before. I absolutely love her. I was just really excited to be part of it.

LRM: How did you conduct research on this. There’s so much material. There’s many videos and films on the Manson murders. How did you research for your role?

Jonathan Bennett: I watch documentaries on it. I watched some clips. I read a lot of articles. At the end of the day, you can’t be Jay Sebring. No one can. You can only do your interpretation of what you think would have happened there. I think you can take liberty there as an artist, because we’re not trying to do a direct reenactment of what happened. We’re telling our story, our vision of what we think happened. So I read a lot of articles and it was really, really hard to figure out who he was. I really tried to dig into like what made him tic and what his life might have been like on a daily basis. I tried to bring that to life as best I could.

LRM: What do you like about him the most about this character that you portray?

Jonathan Bennett: I loved his relationship with Sharon Tate. He was introduced to Sharon by his friend Joe Hyams. They had a relationship. She wanted to marry Roman Polanski. Her and Jay were each other’s person. Even though she was married and she was pregnant with Roman’s baby. They still loved each other. It wasn’t romantic anymore, but they’re just a love for each other. I liked that about this character.

He’s very protective of her. Even after they broke in and trying to murder, Jay Sebring was the one pleading with them not to hurt her and tried to, bargain with them. He knew how advanced she was in her pregnancy. He tried to say, “Please don’t do it! Don’t kill her baby. Take me instead!” He’s very protective of her. I think that’s a beautiful relationship.

LRM: Was there anything that was surprising to you that you didn’t know about before about the murders when you were looking into the role?

Jonathan Bennett: He was a hairstylist for the stars, right? That’s what he would do. I just found out how great it was that he would travel. He basically cut every famous man in Hollywood for a haircut for years. He had traveled to the set. He once cut George Peppard’s hair on set in Dublin. He would fly all over the world to come people’s hair on location. One interesting thing about him, with cutting all these famous people’s hair, one can imagine the amazing conversations he had with people.

LRM: That’s something I didn’t know about him.

Jonathan Bennett: They call it the Sebring look. It’s pretty much every young guy going to any Hollywood nightclub has this haircut. He cut hair from every level from Paul Newman to Frank Sinatra to Sammy Davis, Jr. to Henry Fonda. All of them.

LRM: In real life, Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring were best friends. How was the synergy between you and Hillary Duff, as you to actually have to play up best friends in the movie?

Jonathan Bennett: It’s great. Hillary and I are close and such good friends. Before shooting this movie, we worked together before. I wouldn’t say we’re best friends, but good friends. It was really a comfortable relationship to have with someone on set. It helped with the scenes. It shows a level very comfortability with each other. Also during the scenes that got really intense and when the murders happened, we were able to trust each other with faith in each other to go there and make this thing work.

LRM: Was that the toughest scene for you have on production trying to plead for everyone’s lives, in particular with having that noose around your neck?

Jonathan Bennett: Everything’s going through your head of what it would be like to be in that position. Everyone asks, “What you do to prepare for that? Boy, you can’t. When someone has a noose around your neck and a gun to your face, there are things happening in your brain that you can’t recreate it. It was really intense.

LRM: This film actually takes a different take. What did you think about the twist of like alternative universes?

Jonathan Bennett: I think that my favorite part of the movie. My favorite part of the movie is the alternate fantasies and universes of what might have been. It made the movie very cathartic. We could see what if Sharon Tate done this instead, and we had a different ending. Sharon Tate never got to tell the her murderers to fuck off. She never got to do any of that. Our version, in the alternate universe when that happened, there’s something cathartic about that as an audience member. I don’t know if you got that, but it’s so good that this character got her revenge.

LRM: Can you talk to me about more about the house? The original house doesn’t exist anymore.?

Jonathan Bennett: No, it doesn’t. I’ve been to the original property. Jeff Franklin, who I did a pilot with, built his house on that property. I’ve been there to that property.

But, the house that we shot at, was atop of Runyon Canyon. It’s one of the most iconic houses in Hollywood owned by the famous director, Randal Kleiser, who I’ve worked with in the past. That house was so much fun. It was just unbelievable moment at the top of Runyon Canyon in a house that I actually green tested that for a movie with Amanda Bynes that I did called Lovewrecked. I did my screen test in the pool at Randal Kleiser’s house during Lovewrecked. Being in that house was just very familiar. I was very comfortable there because I had been there before.

LRM: For yourself, what kind of roles do you like to gravitate towards? The role you played here in this movie seems to be tough, but I figured you like you have a favorite type of role to play.

Jonathan Bennett: I like making people laugh. I did this movie, because I knew it’s something that I normally wouldn’t do. When the opportunity came, I was like, well, I’m going to do it. It’s just a great movie to do in. I like making people laugh. I gravitate a little bit more towards comedies.

LRM: Let me start wrapping things up with you, Jonathan. Can you talk about future projects after The Haunting of Sharon Tate?

Jonathan Bennett: Right now, we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of Mean Girls in April. We’re celebrating that with my The Burn Cookbook. Have you heard of the The Burn Cookbook?

LRM: No, I haven’t.

Jonathan Bennett:
I have Mean Girls themed cookbook. It’s amazing. It’s got great recipes for people to hang out with their girlfriends and have the best time. You can have an awesome time and drink shooters. It’s just an amazing experience. There’s games. There’s quizzes. It’s fun thing for the 15th anniversary of Mean Girls. The cookbook is available on Amazon.

LRM: I’m going to have to order that and then do a Mean Girls party.

Jonathan Bennett: Oh my, God. It’s awesome. Download it. Buy it. Have your friends over. Play the games that are in the book. Figure out what which mean girl you are. It’s really fun.

LRM: I’ll trust you on that one since you’re definitely Mean Girls expert.

Jonathan Bennett: Yeah, exactly.

LRM: I’ll message you what I think about the book. Thank you for this conversation.

Jonathan Bennett: Awesome. Thank you.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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