We take a look behind the scenes of one of the most infamous Westerns ever made – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is often considered the greatest western movie of all time, even though Once Upon a Time in the West has a claim to that title too. Both movies were directed by Sergio Leone who must have enjoyed seeing critics argue about his two films.
The movie starred Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Elli Wallach as three men in the American Civil War era who compete to locate Confederate gold that has been buried at a secret grave in a cemetery. Here are some behind-the-scenes facts about the classic movie you probably didn’t know.
10. Why Clint Eastwood Didn’t Want To Do The Movie
By the mid-1960s, Clint Eastwood had already done a number of westerns so he was looking to do something new. When he was asked to appear in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, he declined. He was disappointed to find out that he’d be sharing the screen with two big actors namely Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. He also didn’t like the fact that Wallach’s character had been given all the juicier dialogue.
Eastwood had also been offered lesser pay because he wasn’t a major star in the US yet. His previous westerns had only been released in Europe. All these factors discouraged him from taking the role but the producers adored him so they offered him a $250,000 salary, 10% of the profits a new Ferrari 275 GTB. He accepted.
9. Eli Wallach Accepted His Role After Only Watching Two Minutes Of Sergio’s Leone’s Previous Films
Eli Wallach blended humor and deviousness with ease and what resulted was a stellar performance as Tuco Ramirez (The Ugly). Interestingly, he also declined the role initially because he didn’t fancy appearing in a western directed by an Italian (Sergio Leone).
Leon’s first choice was Italian actor Gian Maria Volontè but he refused so he persuaded Wallach, who was famous at that time for playing the villain Calvera in another popular western. Leon screened the first two “Dollars” films for Wallach and after watching only two minutes of each, he asked for the contract.
8. Director Sergio Leone Didn’t Speak English
Shocked? Don’t be. Sergio Leone is one of Hollywood’s legendary directors but he really didn’t speak English. He could only communicate in Italian and French. This didn’t discourage him from working with American actors since he always had a translator by his side.
So, he never really spoke with Lee Van Cleef, and Clint Eastwood directly. However, Eli Wallach knew French so he didn’t need a translator while talking to Leone. Classic films are always made out of the most extraordinary circumstances.
7. “When You Have To Shoot, Shoot! Don’t Talk!”
This is one of the most popular quotes from the movie but it wasn’t in the script. Wallach simply came up with it in an instant and the crew started laughing. Director Sergio Leone thus decided to keep it. Interestingly, the best lines sare never in the script. A popular example is Joe Pesci’s “You think I’m funny?” line in Goodfellas.
The quote above is said when a man who was left with one arm after Tuco injured him corners the bandit as he is relaxing in a bathtub. Instead of killing Tuco immediately, he begins boasting how he has learned to shoot with one arm. He believes Tuco is helpless but Tuco has a gun under the water so he shoots him first before blessing viewers with the timeless quote.
6. The Bridge Explosion Had To Be Filmed Twice
There is a scene where Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) blow up the bridge leading to the cemetery where the Confederate gold is buried. They do this while the war is going on. Apparently, Spanish soldiers were hired to play the Civil War soldiers.
During filming, a set member was supposed to blow up the bridge when he heard the word “Vaya” but someone said it too soon, so the bridge was blown before the cameramen were ready. The bridge thus had to be rebuilt, and the explosion was filmed again.
5. Eastwood Didn’t Really Like Cigars
Throughout the movie, Blondie (Eastwood) smokes as many cigars as a billionaire on a yacht. You’d think he’d been doing it all his life but he really hated them. Apparently, Sergio Leone was a perfectionist who liked doing very many takes before settling on one so Eastwood had to smoke over and over again. This disgusted him.
According to Wallach, Eastwood even issued Leone with an ultimatum once. The actor told him that he’d better film the cigar shots right the first time or he’d quit. Luckily, no one ended up quitting… or fighting, because of mere cigars.
4. The Movie’s Title Was Initially Different
The first title of the film was I due magnifici straccioni (The Two Magnificent Tramps). It was later changed because screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni thought it wasn’t good enough. He thus came up with Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (The Good, the Ugly, the Bad).
The executives at United Artists had also planned to use River Of Dollars and The Man With No Name as the official titles for the US. That would have been terrible, wouldn’t it? They finally decided to go with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
3. Wallach Had Near-Death Experiences During Filming
In the scene where Blondie shoots the rope around Tuco’s neck, the horse took off prematurely after getting spooked by the sound of a gunshot. This result in Wallach hanging dangerously on the horse with his hands tied for about a mile.
And in the scene where Wallach kills a Union soldier and escapes from a train, he almost got decapitated by the train after raising his head too high. Also, in the cemetery scene, the crew applied acid to one of the bags of gold so that it could open easily. They put the acid in a lemon soda bottle without informing everyone so Wallach took a sip. Bad idea!! Luckily, he spat it out and cleaned his mouth before any real damage was done.
2. The Idea Of The Movie Came Randomly During A Meeting
Leone’s first two films in the “Dollars Trilogy” were hits in Europe but they hadn’t been released in America yet. In an effort to make the movie available in the US, Leone invited United Artists executives to Italy to watch the first two movies and discuss a distribution deal. The meeting went well.
The executives asked Leone what film he had in mind next but he had none. They thus suggested that he do another film to make it a trilogy. And thus the idea of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. All three movies ended up being released in the US in a single year.
1. The Actors All Spoke Different Languages
The cast of the movie consisted of actors from different countries. As a result, actors were allowed to perform in their native languages. Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef spoke in English. Their conversations were dubbed into Italian for the movie’s Italian release.
For the American release, the voices of the three main actors were used exactly as they were, but the voices of the supporting cast members who didn’t speak in English were dubbed. Luckily, Eastwood, Wallach, and Cleef made up the most of the dialogue so there weren’t too many dubbed scenes for the US version.
BY PHILIP ETEMESI