Movies & TV

That Once Upon A Time... Fight Scene Is Soundtracked With Celery

It's the only way to capture the sound of a cultist's teeth snapping

That (spoiler alert) almighty kick-off at the end of Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood between Brad Pitt's Cliff Burton, his dog Brandy, the Manson Family outriders and a flamethrower-wielding Leo DiCaprio was quite something.

Whether you thought it was classic Tarantino in the splenetic larks ahoy sense or the eye-rolling ultraviolent outrage-by-numbers sense, you can't deny that it sounded like it really, really hurt.

That's all thanks to Foley artist Gary Hecker, who told Vulture how he went about mimicking the sound of a would-be cultist murderer's teeth snapping by rummaging around in his vegetable drawer. That sickening crack as Booth slams Patricia Krenwinkel's face into a mantelpiece is celery snapping.

"What I did was mic it super close and then I took the palms of my hands, the meaty part, and I smashed them on my stage on a cement slab surface that’s a little hollow underneath for the thunk. I got those face hits so you could hear face and skin," he said. "[Booth] probably did it like four times or five times, so I did those, and it actually hurt to do it. Then for the skull crunches or teeth, I cracked celery for each one."

The attention to period detail that runs throughout the film extended to the exact brand of phone which Booth used to belt the cultist in the face with too.

"When Brad Pitt is smashing that Manson cult member's head with a phone, I had to go in my prop room and find the right phone with a really ringy bell," Hecker explained. "Back in that era, in the late '60s, the phones had the bells in them, so using one of those old-style phones I smashed it into the middle of a wooden desk, just making it really thick and resonant and violent. Just pounding. They wanted everything violent."

Photo by Columbia/Andrew Cooper.

A fluke of the recording ended up meshing perfectly with Cliff's acid-fried mental state as the fight kicks off. "This machine I was using happened to do some weird thing to that last ring and it made it into a weird flurry, like it wasn’t real. We were actually laughing after, because that’s how this might sound in Brad Pitt's mind. It was perfect."

Tarantino himself is obsessive about the way that his films sound, Hecker said.

"What's cool about Tarantino is he loves Foley and he loves sound, and he crosses the line. If you listen to all of his movies, they sound awesome. He really appreciates it, and he’s really picky. Your sound can't just be average, ordinary sound."

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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