The good, the bad and the ugly: the masterpiece that a Ferrari needed to convince Clint Eastwood

Today it is impossible not to think about the good, the bad and the ugly as one of the key films in the history of cinema, and in Sergio Leone as one of the greatest authors in the industry. But this saga of antiheroes, great treasures and duels to the death arose from an unexpected proposal, and from an actor who was one step away from not embodying one of his most emblematic characters.

Condensing the career and importance of Sergio Leone in a few lines is almost disrespectful. He was an off-road director, one of those who could demonstrate his solvency in any task that arose within the framework of a shootfrom technical issues to other artistic ones, going from being the person in charge of the second management unit, to correcting scripts for other projects.

Sergio Leone, a director “fixes everything”Capture

Leone was a “fix everything”, a true animal of the cinema who could solve any problem expeditiously and effectively. His world was that of Italian films, ranging from Roman heroes to neorealism. And although his official filmography has only seven titles, his real mark is much higher. Among his many contributions is the have worked in bike thief, the direction of the chariot scene in Ben Huror the performance of my name is nobody. Leone did everything, and he did everything well.

In 1961, he received the opportunity to be accredited as a director in The Colossus of Rhodesa full-fledged peplumwhich although it does not show signs of his style, allows us to glimpse the greatness of the director.

In 1964, the premiere of For a bunch of dollars allows you to collaborate for the first time with Clint Eastwoodin a movie that was a blatant plagiarism of Yojimbo (and that earned him a complaint by akira kurosawawhich Leone proudly displayed in his office).

The spaghetti western (name given to the Italian westerns of the time, of dirty antiheroes and sandy landscapes), was the terrain in which this author showed his best weapons, revealing himself as a craftsman of great elegance. The director needed two films to polish his style, and with the premiere of his third film, For a few dollars more, Leone’s was already a forceful signaturewith stripped long shots and shootings that overflowed with preciousness.

And although today highlighting the figure of Leone is obvious, in at that time his work was far from being appreciated by criticshis name being one more among that of so many other Italians who made “those shooting”. For now, the producers were interested in Leone not because of his artistic aspirations, but because his films sold thousands of tickets. And for that reason, after three very profitable films, they offered him the possibility of financing a fourth project, which would mark a before and after not only in his career, but in the history of the spaghetti western. And from the cinema.

Leone had already made two films with that antihero played by Clint Eastwood, and that time named, ironically, as “The man with no name”. Those two films had been a great success in different countries of Europe, but in the United States they had not even been distributed.

For this reason, the director invited a group of executives from United Artist to Italy, to show them the feature films and discuss the possible commercialization of both in the United States. Within the framework of that negotiation, they asked him if he had a third project in mind, which could complete a thematic trilogy, and was offered a $900,000 deal for the US rights. It was an offer impossible to refuse, a business that he had already secured almost a million before even even starting.

Without wasting a minute, producer Alberto Grimaldi launched the project that Leone had in mindand which at that time was titled Two magnificent vagabonds. But the writer Luciano Vincenzoniwho had already written For a few dollars morehad a very clear idea: “I don’t know why, but the image of the poster appeared in my head, Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivothe story of three pilgrims who wander around the Civil War, in search of money”.

The director then summoned two more screenwriters, Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli, to write the script, but his disappointment was greater. The duo specialized in comedies, and for that reason made a humorous treatment of the premise devised by Leone and Vincenzoni, which is why the director discarded the entire script. The work started practically from scratch, and while the filmmaker stayed true to his starting point, he received advice that could have changed everything.

At a dinner he had the opportunity to converse with orson wellesand the person in charge of the lady from shanghai He assured him that making a movie around the American Civil War was a bad idea, because that theme scared away the box office. Leone, convinced of his project, ignored Welles’s opinion and went ahead with his epic western, which had that war as its background. And with the epic of those three pilgrims as the axis, began to put together a perfect casting.

In the mid-sixties, Eastwood was a long way from being a big star., and his film and television jobs were mostly cameos or supporting roles. Clint knew he was destined to be a star, but the breakout role seemed to elude him time and time again.

For this reason, when Leone called him for a third film of the man with no name, the actor rejected it. A film with two other protagonists did not seem like a job in which he could stand out, and to top it off, after reading the script he discovered that the best dialogues corresponded to Tuco. “In the first feature film I was alone, in the second there were already two of us, and now there were going to be three of us. If it continues like this, in the next one I’m going to star alongside all the American cavalry,” Eastwood said on one occasion.

After Charles Bronson will reject the role of Rubio, the production insisted with Clint again, and only then did they manage to convince him, although the negotiations were not easy. The start of filming was postponed again and again, because the parties did not finish agreeing on a salary, until the producers finally agreed to give Eastwood what he demanded: $250,000 and a Ferrari 275 GTB.

Clint knew very well that the filming of the good, the bad and the ugly It was not going to be easy, and time proved him right. The long days in arid Spanish deserts, were a real burden for the artistic and technical team. Worse still, being a team from different countries, there was not a single language on the setand for that reason, the interpreter recorded his parts in English, and many of his colleagues did so in Italian or even Spanish.

In fact, between Eastwood and Leone communication was not easy, considering that the director could only converse in French or Italian. But What Clint disliked most (apart from the many times he got sunstroke) was always carrying a cigarette. Eastwood did not smoke, and the shots and retakes with the cigar in his mouth disgusted him to the point of demanding Leone one day to finish putting together the shot, because otherwise he was going to vomit.

When the good, the bad and the ugly came to an end, Eastwood considered that his partnership with Leone had also come to an end. He was already exhausted from the meticulousness of the director, a preciousness that although it was his signature, the actor I had ended up overwhelming him. When the interpreter saw the finished film, was slightly disappointed, thought there was too much violence, and that Tuco was by far the best character. Far from imagining that Rubio was on his way to becoming the great antihero of his career.

Finding Rubio’s two antagonists was no easy task. For Angel Eyes, Leone thought of Henry Fonda, Lee Marvin Y Enrico Maria Salernountil he appeared on the scene Lee Van Cleefwho had already worked with the director on For a few dollars more.

In the case of Tuco, the filmmaker originally wanted Gian Maria Volonte, but the Italian chose to work on another project. In this way, Eli Wallach entered the scene, to compose one of the most enormous bandits of the western.

As happened to Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach also had to stoically endure a very difficult shoot, of high temperatures and different challenges. Wallach was twice close to deathwhen there was a problem with the horse he was riding while he had a pitchfork around his neck, and in the mythical bridge explosion scene.

For his part, Van Cleef also tolerated the difficulties of filming, although only once did he refuse to comply with a request from the director. In a scene in which Angel Eyes had to hit a prostitute, the actor told the director that he was not going to do that, and expressed: “I’m not going to hit a woman, I just can’t. There are very few principles that govern my life. One of them is not to mistreat dogs, and the other is not to hit any women.”

With a budget of one million two hundred thousand dollars, the good, the bad and the ugly grossed almost thirty million, at the time of its release. But as happened with many, if not all, spaghetti westerns, the success of the public did not translate into awards. Even today, it is considered one of the great mistakes of the Academy not to have nominated Eli Wallach, one of the grossest mistakes of the Academy, while Leone never received a statuette.

Besides, music composed by Enio Morricone It was also remarkably popular, and the soundtrack album remained for several weeks one of the best sellers in Italy, an honor not enjoyed by any other similar film.

The three protagonists of the story left their mark on cinephiles, and are still very loved today. watch out for this, Leone fantasized about bringing them back for the beginning of his next film, once upon a time in the west, in the opening scene where Harmonica kills the three assassins who are waiting for him. But Eastwood refused to make that cameo, and so that tentative comeback fell through. The possibility of a sequel was also on the cards for several years.

Screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni he even wrote a first sketch of the plot, in which Tuco was chasing Rubio’s grandson, to discover if the treasure was still in his possession. Eastwood expressed that he would have liked to participate in the project as a narrator, but everything was cut short when the director said that he did not want to use the characters of the original film again.

Rubio and Tuco, two of the three protagonists of the film by Sergio Leone
Rubio and Tuco, two of the three protagonists of the film by Sergio Leone Capture

the good, the bad and the ugly It is a perfect feature film. Several of its scenes were installed in the public imagination, even giving rise to documentaries such as Unearthing Sad Hill. Quentin Tarantino on innumerable occasions he referred to the impact that the film had on his career as a director, and he even participated in a documentary called Django & Djangowhich refers to the spaghetti western as one of the richest cinematic universes ever created.

The construction of its characters, the historical intersections within a plot of amoral gunmen, Leone’s magnetic staging and the final duel, are just the most superficial features that made this feature film an essential piece. Over time, Eastwood recognized the great value of his collaborations with Leone, one of the directors who shaped him the most as a future filmmaker. For that reason, as a love letter to Rubio, the actor recently confessed that he still has the mythical poncho of that character, that allowed him to be immortalized as one of the biggest movie stars.

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The good, the bad and the ugly: the masterpiece that a Ferrari needed to convince Clint Eastwood


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