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Clint Eastwood

Why Clint Eastwood Held Off On Making Unforgiven For Almost A Decade

“Unforgiven” redefined the Western film, breaking down conventions all while incorporating revisionist themes that influenced a new wave of the genre in the nineties. The film’s reflections on age and the ideas of myth and storytelling fit snugly within the context of release year 1992, when the Western was seemingly a relic of the past. Ironically, David Webb Peoples’ original script was written in 1976, much closer to the Western’s heyday, and Clint Eastwood sat on the screenplay for years.

William Munny, the protagonist of “Unforgiven” who is played by Eastwood, is in many ways a reflection of the actor’s own career and his relationship with the Western genre. Both are aging men who, despite having moved on to another type of life, are permanently associated with their past. Munny probably has a lot more demons to conquer considering his history of violent bounty hunting, but there’s certainly a meta element to Eastwood’s direction and performance that enhances the experience of watching the film.

The Cowboy Actor

Will Munny In Rain Unforgiven Finale

Revisionist Westerns have been part of the genre’s history long before “Unforgiven,” so it does make sense that the story predates the film’s release by more than fifteen years. Heck, Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns introduced revisionist ideas of frontier morality in Eastwood’s own Man With No Name. The complex explorations of good and evil found in Peoples’ script are arguably a timeless part of the legacy of Westerns. In addition, Eastwood had taken up directing Westerns himself since “High Plains Drifter” in 1973, intermittently returning to the genre as late as 1985 with the box office hit “Pale Rider.” None of his efforts, however, were as critically or commercially successful as “Unforgiven,” which just may be one of Eastwood’s most personal films.

Peoples, who is also known for co-writing “Blade Runner” and “12 Monkeys,” initially sold the script to director Francis Ford Coppola of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” fame. However, Eastwood acquired the screenplay some time in the early eighties, though like Coppola, decided not to immediately turn it into a movie. In an interview with NJ.com, Eastwood explains his reasoning for sitting on the script for so long:

“…a lot of people said, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be a cowboy actor.’ But I want to mix it up. I guess that’s why when I got [the script for] “Unforgiven” in the early ’80s I put it in a drawer for 10 years, I’d done a bunch of Westerns, I thought I should do some other things first. Then 10 years later I picked it up and re-read it and it felt fresh…”

Subverting the Western Hero

Unforgiven Opening Shot

The final version of “Unforgiven” mostly follows Peoples’ original 1976 draft except for some crucial differences that reveal Eastwood’s own attitude towards the film. For one, the title was changed from “The William Munny Killings” and, at one point, “The Cut-Whore Killings,” to the more ambiguous but thematically resonant (and less offensive-sounding) “Unforgiven.” The original script overlays the opening crawl during the film’s starting narrative event, but in Eastwood’s vision, the audience gets to soak in a somber landscape shot of Munny’s farm and watch him dig a grave for his wife. He brings this shot back at the end of the film, when Munny looks down on his wife’s grave, and cuts a scene when Munny reunites with his son and lies to him about not killing anyone.

These are important changes, modifying the film’s themes regarding morality and turning Munny into a more morally ambiguous character. They’re touches of direction that may not have been included if it wasn’t for Eastwood’s age and years of self-reflection. “Unforgiven” is ultimately about how Westerns color our views of the Old West with myths and tall tales that glorify killers. The film demonstrates how legendary gunslingers aren’t heroes, but actually cold-blooded murderers. That theme must have particularly resonated with Eastwood, who practically created the archetype of the gruff action protagonist. Even if The Man With No Name is often considered an antihero, the character is still someone people can idolize, a cool, clever figure who kills bad guys. William Munny is ruthlessly violent, even if he tries to escape from that nature. It’s no wonder Clint Eastwood waited all those years to direct “Unforgiven.” He needed to recognize that his Western hero may not have been so heroic.

 

Clint Eastwood

The actor Sergio Leone wanted instead of Clint Eastwood for ‘A Fistful of Dollars’

Hollywood’s most decorated living legend, Clint Eastwood, broke through in the late 1950s and ‘60s as one of many western stars riding the genre’s concurrent wave of popularity. Having established a tough, squinting outlaw image in the foundational TV series Rawhide and mastering it in Sergio Leone’s legendary Dollars Trilogy, the handsome gunslinger consolidated his status as the iconic anti-hero cop Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry franchise.
Throughout his six-decade stint under the Hollywood limelight, Eastwood expanded his skillset to become a leading producer and director, earning four Academy Awards and four Golden Globes for his duties behind the camera. Remarkably, Eastwood is still active today at 93 years of age and is currently working on his final movie, Juror #2.
However, the nonagenarian may not sit atop such a humbling mountain of success as an actor and filmmaker if Leone hadn’t given him his big movie break in the 1960s. The Dollars Trilogy finished most memorably with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 1966 but set off with A Fistful of Dollars two years before.
Although joining the cast would turn out to be one of the most important steps in Eastwood’s career, he wasn’t enthusiastic about the project at first. “I was doing Rawhide, and I was coming to a hiatus,” Eastwood once recalled in a BBC documentary. “I took three months off, usually around February, March and April every year, and my agent in Los Angeles called me up and asked me if I’d like to go to Europe and make an Italian, German, Spanish co-production of a remake of a Japanese film [Yojimbo] in the plains of Spain.”
“I said, ‘Not particularly,’” Eastwood recalled with a smile.
Another hurdle to Eastwood’s unseen future was the fact that Leone didn’t really want Eastwood for the role initially. “I really wanted James Coburn, but he was too expensive,” Leone told the BBC. “The Italian cinema is very poor. We got Clint for $15,000, Coburn wanted $25,000.”
Continuing, the Italian director explained why he was initially wary of Eastwood’s style. “I didn’t see any character in Rawhide, only a physical figure,” he said. “What struck me most about Clint was his indolent way of moving; it seemed to me Clint closely resembled a cat.”
Eastwood recalled becoming more intrigued by the project after reading the uniquely constructed script. “The script was in English, very strange English because it had been written by an Italian group of people who didn’t speak English that well – especially English with what you’d call the western kind of slang,” he explained. “It was like an Italian concert of what a western slang would be.”
“So, a lot of the dialogue was a little bit on the shaky side,” Eastwood continued. “I liked it, though, and I felt that maybe a European approach would give the western new flavour because I thought it had been in a very stagnant period at that point.”
Ultimately, Leone settled for Eastwood, and Eastwood settled for $15,000 from a total movie budget of approximately $200,000. Although the movie was released in mainland Europe in 1964, it wouldn’t receive its theatrical debut in the US until 1967. Taking $19.9 million at the box office, the movie was a monumental commercial and critical success as the progenitor of the spaghetti western genre.
Watch the trailer for the A Fistful of Dollars 4K restoration below.

 
 

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Clint Eastwood

“I don’t like it when it’s dumb”: Yellowstone Star Kevin Costner Revealed He Hates Western Genre Despite Sharing Clint Eastwood’s Rare Record In Hollywood

Taking a look at the rear-view mirror in the journey of Hollywood, everyone remembers the good old days when Western films dominated not just the US, but the entire world. And leading that charge was the legendary Clint Eastwood, along with stars like Kevin Costner following close behind. To this day, the effect of those classic pieces of cinema can be felt.
Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner
In fact, when we take a look at Costner’s career in the industry, many will realize that it was the 1985 Western classic Silverado that brought him to the spotlight. In the later stage of his career, he won two Academy Awards for his film Dances with Wolves, something that Eastwood has also managed to achieve. But despite leaving an everlasting impression, it seems like he doesn’t love the genre for being dumb.
Kevin Costner Reveals That He Doesn’t Love The Western Genre Because It’s Dumb
Kevin Costner in a still from Dances with Wolves Kevin Costner in a still from Dances with Wolves
While he may have been forgotten for a while in the changing landscape of Hollywood, the fans of the classic Western genre of films will never forget the impact Kevin Costner made with his films in the category. Going toe-to-toe in this genre with the face of old-school Western films Clint Eastwood himself, the actor and director has proved why he’s a genius in this department.
But despite achieving the extremely rare accolade of directing one of the only four Western films to receive the Oscars, also including Unforgiven by the Dirty Harry star, Costner reveals that this genre may not be his favorite.
In a past interview with Good Morning America, the former Yellowstone star talked about how he was not a big fan of the Western genre, the reason being that most of the films produced in it are dumb and illogical. He says that there’s too much of a straight divide between good and bad without any substantial form of moral complexity.
On top of that, he calls out the genre for being somewhat illiterate but has the potential to become so much more than just an illustrious piece of history. He said:
“[western] have to be literate. It’s too much black hat, white hat…I won’t tolerate bad language, meaning literacy of a western on TV or in film. I hate it. I don’t like it when it’s dumb because there’s such great opportunity because the architecture of a western should be to actually frighten you sitting in the dark, watching something. ‘That could have just happened to me. And I don’t know what I would’ve done’”
Thus, his new and unique outlook on the filmmaking of a Western film is what drives him to only make the best that the genre has ever seen.
What Was Dances With Wolves About?
A still from Dances with Wolves A still from Dances with Wolves
Widely considered to be one of the best films in the history of this genre, recognized by being awarded two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director for Costner, Dances with Wolves may be Western filmmaking done right.
The film tells the tale of Civil War soldier Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, a man who is posted at Fort Hays, where he meets and develops a relationship with the native Lakota Indian tribe. Mesmerized by their lifestyle and simple outlook on the world, he soon finds himself being welcomed into their clan. But when Union Army soldiers come to their land with the agenda of uprooting the tribe, Dunbar has to choose a side.
Dances with Wolves, streaming on Prime Video.

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Clint Eastwood

“He was too expensive”: Clint Eastwood Starred in ‘Dollars Trilogy’ After Director Couldn’t Afford Another Oscar Winning Actor With $15000 Salary

In today’s day and age, Clint Eastwood’s name is one that echoes with terms such as legendary and brilliant. His ability to be expressive as an actor without having to say too many dialogues was one admired by many. Not only his skills as an actor, but being a talented director helped build his reputation in the best way possible.
Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
During his days as an actor, there were many films offered to him. Some he let go of, others he grabbed as soon as he could. One of his most iconic works is the Dollars Trilogy with director Sergio Leone. Despite the massive amount of fame that he got from it, there was an unfortunate yet slight chance that Eastwood would have lost out on the role because Leone wanted another actor altogether.
Sergio Leone’s Initial Choice for His Trilogy was not Clint Eastwood
One of Clint Eastwood’s biggest movie trilogies, the Dollars trilogy was something that came along his career, giving him a boost the actor never knew he needed. The year 1964 saw a rise in his fame from then on. However, as per BBC (via Farout Magazine), Eastwood was not Sergio Leone’s first choice for the film.
James Coburn
“I really wanted James Coburn, but he was too expensive,” Leone stated. “The Italian cinema is very poor. We got Clint for $15,000, Coburn wanted $25,000.”
The director revealed that because of the budgetary limitations that they had, there was no way possible for him to get James Coburn for the role. The actor wanted $10,000 more than what Eastwood had settled on, making it an absolutely impossible choice for them to hire Coburn. He elaborated on how being in the Italian cinema at that time did not give him flexibility with the budget. Due to this, Eastwood became his ideal choice and that in turn benefitted his career.
Clint Eastwood Almost did not Join Sergio Leone
Clint Eastwood’s career has been a rising climb for decades now. One of the reasons for this is his credible fame because of the Dollars trilogy. However, there was a slight chance that the actor would have given up on the role. According to a BBC documentary (via Farout Magazine), the actor was hesitant about saying yes.
Clint EastwoodClint Eastwood
 “I was doing Rawhide, and I was coming to a hiatus,” Eastwood remembered. “I took three months off, usually around February, March and April every year, and my agent in Los Angeles called me up and asked me if I’d like to go to Europe and make an Italian, German, Spanish co-production of a remake of a Japanese film [Yojimbo] in the plains of Spain.”
The actor/director stated that he was asked to make a film in a rather peculiar setting right after he was coming back from a three-month-long break. His reply to the same had been a rejection. In the end, he warmed up to the idea.

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