The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly will forever be known as the masterpiece movie it undoubtedly is. Lauded as perhaps the greatest Western ever made, the film catapulted its star Clint Eastwood to superstardom and cemented Sergio Leone’s status as one of the finest directors of all time. The movie is regularly cited on lists of the best ever films, and it ranks as one of our favorites for sure.
The jewel in the crown of the Spaghetti Western genre, this timeless classic has a rich backstory, a wonderful cast, and one of the most iconic scores of all time. The film is, of course, a classic, but the story behind it may not be one you are too familiar with. Get a load of these awesome facts that help to tell the story of how this stunning movie was made.
The story was improvised in a meeting
Rather unconventionally for a Hollywood movie, the actual premise, and story of the film was improvised during a meeting. By the mid-1960s, the first two movies in the trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars, and For A Few Dollars More had been very successful in Europe. To capitalize on this success, director Sergio Leone wanted to secure the American rights. After successfully screening the movies to executives, Leone and his writer were asked if they had any other Westerns in the works. The two men improvised on the spot an idea of three bums searching for treasure during the Civil War – the rest is movie history.
Eastwood’s salary caused a delay in filming
By the time the third movie was due to come out, Eastwood’s star was on the rise. He had agreed to sign on for a third film but wasn’t happy about having to share top billing with Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. Eastwood had less negotiating power than you might imagine because he wasn’t yet the major star he is now. Despite this, his agents managed to negotiate a fee of $250,000, as well as 10% of the profits – he made out like a bandit.
There was a big problem with communication between director and star. Leone didn’t speak English, so he was unable to communicate directly with Eastwood during filming. The pair had already made to movies together, but Eastwood and Van Cleef (with whom he had made one film prior) had to communicate through Leone’s interpreter. Wallach, however, was able to speak French, and could thus communicate directly with Leone, who was fluent. Can you imagine a movie set in which everyone is speaking different languages, and struggling to communicate?!
There were plans to make a fourth film
Following the success of TGTBATU, there were plans to make a fourth movie, but Eastwood was done. Tired, and jaded, and having worked on three movies with perfectionist Leone, the rising star decided he didn’t want to make a fourth film. Instead, he made the decision to form his own company and start directing his own films. Leone still coveted Eastwood and approached him for the role of Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West. The role wound up going to Charles Bronson after Eastwood turned it down.
It’s pretty clear that the production of the movie was pretty chaotic, and the backstory behind how the film came to be greenlit is fascinating. It’s strange that all these events combined to make one of the greatest movies of all time, and it’s not even a film that was planned to be made in the first place!