The good, the bad and the ugly told by its screenwriter, Luciano Vincenzoni

The good, the bad and the ugly told by its screenwriter, Luciano Vincenzoni

Sergio Leone’s cult western was featured in Première Classics n°2. We share an extract to wait until its rebroadcast on France 3.

The good, the bad and the ugly, of Sergio Leone, will return to television tonight. It is the second role of Clint Eastwood with the Italian filmmaker. He plays it good, Eli Wallach the ugly and Lee Van Cleef the brute who has no scruples. All three are looking for a chest full of gold coins. While the good guy and the ugly need each other to get the money, the bad guy gets involved and expects to get his share of the spoils. The master of the western gives us here the biggest success of his trilogy called the “dollar”. This is made up of two other films: and for a few more dollars And For a fistful of dollars equated with this one due to many commonalities in their storyline. Previously unveiled on France 3, they leave their place this evening to the most popular film of the “saga”.

Let yourself be transported by the inimitable music of the great Ennio Morricone with this spaghetti-western mixing violence and humour. Once again, Leone proves his technical mastery and his sense of rhythm. He accurately alternates scenes of great violence and long silences. The opening sequence is the perfect example: you have to wait 10 minutes to hear the first sentence of the film. A classic.

Besides, The good, the bad and the ugly was on the cover of the second issue of Première Classics (January-March 2018, available in our online kiosk). In our special file dedicated to the film, we published an interview with its screenwriter, Luciano Vincenzoni, who died in 2013. Here it is to (re)read, for everyone to know behind the scenes of this western, before seeing it again this evening.

Dollar trilogy: How Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood revolutionized the western

Luciano Vincenzoni screenwriter of and for a few more dollars and Good, the Bad and the Ugly looks back at the birth of this masterpiece.
“I was friends with almost everyone at United Artists and, seeing the success of the de and for a few more dollars, I called Ilya Lopert, the vice-president of United Artists, who was in Paris. I told him : “Come to Rome, the film I just made with Sergio Leone is a triumph.” He needs to be told, so I tell him that if he doesn’t come, I’m going to have to call Paramount and Warner Bros (I was in charge of foreign sales), and that if someone buys the film, and it became a success in the United States, which was inevitable, he would be fired for letting the dollars pass under his nose. He finally arrives in Rome with all the big shots of United Artists. Instead of inviting them to a private room, I take them to the Supercinema, the biggest movie theater in Rome. I order the director of the cinema to imperatively reserve six seats, and to use the police to make room if necessary. The film was always sold out. We finally find six places and we witness a projection of madness, where the spectators scream, laugh, applaud wildly.

At the exit, people from United Artists turn to me and ask me “How much ?” I ask for 1 million dollars for the whole world, except Italy, France, Spain and Germany, the film being a co-production. This is literally three times more than what producer Alberto Grimaldi hoped for. They answer me “All right” and we leave to sign the contract at the Grand Hotel. And there obviously, when signing, the first question is: “What will be the next movie?” Sergio Leone is taken aback. He has no idea, so he turns to me and says: “Well yes, what is it? Come on, tell us.” I have no idea either, so I improvise. I tell it’s the story of three crooks who go after $200,000 during the Civil War. They don’t care about politics and war and are only interested in money. It’s actually the story of another movie I wrote, The Great War, which takes place during the First World War, which I’m just transposing live to the reunion during the Civil War. The people at United Artists haven’t seen The Great War, so they see nothing but fire and they answer me: “Very well, it works, we finance. How much ?” I turn to Alberto Grimaldi, who is flabbergasted. He is in the process of signing a million dollar contract, and at the same time he is being offered another contract. He can’t believe his eyes and ears. “So how much ?”I ask him. “How much what?”he replies without understanding. “How much would the story I just told cost? – Uh, $800,000?” I reply: “It’s a war movie, which requires bigger means, let’s say rather 1 million and 100 000 $.” United Artists approve, and have the contract drawn up, which is signed on the spot. And this is how The good, the bad and the ugly was born, when no script line had yet been written! »

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