There’s something special about Julia Butters. In Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, the 10-year-old plays Trudi, a precocious child actor on a Western set who intellectually wallops Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) over the course of a brief, startling conversation. In character, Butters is magnetic and shrewd, handily stealing the spotlight from her seasoned, Oscar-winning costar while delivering classic Tarantino-penned dialogue. It comes as no surprise that, in a press interview, DiCaprio compared the actor to a young Meryl Streep—which, somehow, has been misconstrued into reporters assuming Butters is actually playing a young Meryl Streep in the 1969-set film.
“I’m like ‘Guys, she was 20!’ And I’m 10! There’s a 10-year difference,” Butters said exuberantly in a recent phone interview (accompanied on the line by her mother, Lorelei). But the little actor doesn’t mind the comparison. “I’m so happy that he did [that]—and so mad that he did at the same time.”
Trudi was actually inspired by a character in the 1968 Western series Lancer, which Tarantino asked Butters to watch before coming to set. “I actually didn’t watch Westerns before I made the movie, and I don’t really watch them now,” she said, laughing. She liked Lancer, though.
To most moviegoers, Butters will be a revelation. She started acting in 2014, making her debut in Criminal Minds. Since 2016, she’s appeared on the ABC sitcom American Housewife as Anna-Kat Otto, a sweet but anxiety-ridden kid with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Tarantino apparently had the show on in the background as he was writing Once Upon a Time, and happened to catch a bit of her performance, which impressed him. When the 10-year-old walked in to audition for Once Upon a Time, Tarantino greeted her by exclaiming, “Anna-Kat!” She…couldn’t quite return the greeting.