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Sergio Leone Factoids

Sergio Leone

Who Leone's greatest dream of directing as an actor for many years before he found out Eastwood for the role of "The Man with No Name" ?

Leone has always dreamed about directing Henry Fonda. Even before he started shooting A Fistful of Dollars he thought that Fonda would be a perfect "The Man with No Name".

Who Leone offered the role of "The Man with No Name" before he finally decides on Eastwood? and why didn't they take the role?

As indicated above, his ideal actor was Henry Fonda. But, in those days, Fonda was too expensive for the Italian cinema. So was James Coburn. The role was offered to Charles Bronson. Leone thought of of him because of his "granite face of destiny". He turned it down by saying that "it was worst script he had ever seen". Bronson later comments on Leone's style as "he certainly knows what I don't". Later on, the role was offered to various American actors living in Germany and Italy. One of these, Richard Harrison, who has played in an Italian western before, has suggested Leone to watch the clean-cut, thirtyfour year old co-star of the CBS TV series, Rawhide.

What Leone thought about Eastwood before and during the film shootings?

On Richard Harrison's recommendation, Leone had watched an episode of Rawhide:

"Clint Eastwood did not say a word, but, he was good at getting on a horse, and he had a way of walking with a tired, resigned air…However, he was a little sophisticated, a little 'light', and, I wanted make him look more virile, to harden him, to 'age' him for the part as well - with that beard, that pancho which made him look broader, those cigars. When I went to find him, in order to offer him the part, he had never smoked in his life; this posed problems, for, to have cigar constantly in one's mouth when one does not know how to smoke….! Before the second film, he said to me 'Listen Sergio, I'll do everthing you want, except smoke!' - but that was impossible, since the protagonist was the same."

"In real life, Clint is slow, calm, rather like a cat. During the shooting he does what he has to do, then sits down in a corner and goes to sleep immediately, until he is needed again."

How big the total budget was forA Fistful of Dollars, and how much Eastwood's salary was for this film?

The total budget for the film was $200,000, and, his salary was $15,000.

How Leone discovered Lee Van Cleef ?

Leone was in search of an actor for the "Colonel Mortimer" character for For a Few Dollars More at the age of fifty. He again thought of his ideal man, Henry Fonda. But, unfortunately he was busy shooting another film. So Leone tried Lee Marvin, who had already just signed the contract for "Cat Ballou". The rest is from Leone's own words:

"Then I remembered Lee Van Cleef - an actor I had often seen in fifties westerns. When I went to see him, he had been very ill for three years; he had come out of hospital was not working any more as an actor (he was just working as a freelance painter). I saw him some way away, and, was struck by his sillhouette, his extraordinary attractiveness: he was perfect for my character"

Who Leone thought the 3 characters should be for the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West, and why?

Once Upon a Time in the West was to open scene containing Leone's farewell to the 'Dollars' triology. Three main characters from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach - were to play the three gunfighters who wait for the train to arrive to arrive at Cattle Corner, and, who are killed by Harmonica just after the end of the credits. But 'this proved impossible' (although the others agreed, Eastwood refused), and Leone eventually killed off two of his guest stars - Jack Elam and Woody Strode - instead.

Why Leone made The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly ?

Leone has described why he made the picture:

"I began The Good The Bad and The Ugly like the two previous ones, this time with three characters and a treasure hunt, but what interested me was on the one hand to demystify the adjectives, on the other to show the absurdity of war. What do 'good', 'bad' and 'ugly' really mean ? We all have some bad in us, some ugliness, some good. And ther are people who appear to be ugly, but when we get to know them better, we realise that they are more worthy… As for the Civil War which the characters encounter, in my vision, it is useless, stupid: it does not involve a 'good cause'…. I show a Northern concentration camp, but was thinking partly about Nazi camps, with their Jewish orchestras. All this does not mean that there is nothing to laugh at in the film. Across all these tragic adventures, there runs a picaresque spirit… The picaresque and the Commedia dell'arte genres have this in common:they do not have heroes, represented by one character."

What Leone thought about American's view of seeing the West ?

" 'The Americans' have always depicted the West in extremely romantic terms - with horse that runs to his master's whistle. They have never treated the West seriously, just as we have never treated the ancient Rome seriously … Perhaps the most serious debate on the subject was made by Kubrick in the film Spartacus: the other films have always been cardboard fables. It was this superficiality that struck and interested me."

What Leone thought the essential difference between him and John Ford ?

"As Romans, we have a strong sense of the fragility of empires. It is enough to look around us. I admire very much that great optimist, John Ford. His naivete permitted him to make Cinderella - I mean, The Quiet Man. But, as Italians, we see things differently. That is what I have tried to show in my films. The great plains - they are very beautiful, but, when the storm comes, should people bury their heads in the sand of the desert? I believe that people like to be treated as adults from time to time. Because a man is wearing sombrero and because he rides a horse, does not necessarily mean that he is imbecile…

Ford, because of his European origins - as a good Irishman - has always seen the problem from a Christian point of view … his characters and protagonists always looks forward to a rosy, fruitful future. Whereas I see the history of the West as really the reign of violence by violence"

What some of the actors, whom he directed, thought about him ?

Henry Fonda has commented on Sergio Leone's unusually enthusiastic interest in the tiniest detail of setting and props. Charles Bronson was surprised to discover that Leone 'knows more about the Western than most American directors'. Clint Eastwood has described how Leone 'lives' the parts he is directing:

"He is a short, heavy fellow, but when he acts out his roles you can see what he wants and you know that he really feels himself tall and lean"

Who was the voice of the unseen bountyhunter at the opening sequence of For A Few Dollars More, heard lighting a cigar, cocking his rifle and casually whistling?

It was Leone himself that did the whistling.

What are the other film projects that Leone was involved with other than the ones that he personally directed ?

He has 'supervised' two Westerns - Tonino Valerii's My Name is Nobody (1973) and Damiano Damiani's A Genius … (1975). And, he has abandoned two major projects - one of which was to have been seen on Celine's Journey to the End of Night, the other on the last days of Mussolini. Leone was also offered 'The Godfather' as a project, but turned it down, since he wanted to make Once Upon a Time in America. The rumors say that he later regretted it very much.

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