You don’t have to look too hard to find similarities between Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. They’re both romantic visions about the power of stardom, clear-eyed about the fact that not everyone can make it but insistent that you’ve got to keep trying anyway. Squint even harder and you could see each film as a cautionary tale warning young women not to fall under the sway of a bearded musical Svengali.
But it turns out the films have more than their themes in common: They also happen to share a key location. As Once Upon a Time location manager Rich Schuler revealed to Fandango, the grocery store where Charles Manson’s followers are seen dumpster-diving at the beginning of the film is the exact same store outside of which aspiring songwriter Ally Campana first introduced rock legend Jackson Maine to a little ditty about being off the deep end, watching as she dived in, she’ll never meet the ground. Yes, that’s right — it’s the supermarket where an Oscar-winning song was born. These Manson girls might not know it, but they’re close to the shallow now!
As anyone who’s read Alison Herman’s landmark investigation at The Ringer could tell you, that grocery store is actually the Super A in L.A.’s Glassell Park neighborhood. Before 2018, it was popularly known as “the Crossroads supermarket,” thanks to its starring role in the 2002 Britney Spears vehicle, where it played a grocery store in Alabama. As Schuler explained to Fandango, he worked on A Star Is Born too and decided to return to that movie’s iconic supermarket parking lot a year later for Once Upon a Time, which I suppose is the location-manager equivalent of a major flex.
The Glassell Park Super A played itself in Star Is Born — as cinematographer Matthew Libatique explained, the location “was meant to root [Ally’s] existence on the East Side of Los Angeles” — but considering the store is about a ten-hour walk from Spahn Ranch, where the Manson family was holed up in 1969, we can probably assume that in Once Upon a Time, the grocery is supposed to be located in another part of town. Still, it’s easy to see why it got cast. With its classic mid-century-modern design (it was built in 1967), the Super A’s exterior is emblematic of the period Tarantino was trying to resurrect, even if that exterior gets much less screen time than it did in A Star Is Born. Maybe, like Tim Roth, James Marsden, and Danny Strong, the grocery will get another chance to shine in the inevitable director’s cut.
The Super A’s use in Once Upon a Time could also be read as a nod to the Star Is Born scene, as both sequences feature an impromptu a cappella musical performance. But while “Shallow” was front and center in the ASIB Oscar campaign, the haunting melody the Manson crew sings in OUATIH has been left off the film’s official soundtrack. There’s a reason for that: It was penned by Manson himself, during the period when the cult leader was taking his own shot at musical stardom. Titled “I’ll Never Say Never to Always,” the song has long been a touchstone for those looking for a whiff of the macabre, from Crispin Glover to the music supervisors on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The tune has a certain appeal, but when it comes to songwriting, I think we can agree that Charles Manson was no Ally Campana.