THE MAKING OF THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

HOLLYWOOD – In our new series ‘The Making of…’ we go behind the scenes, using previously unseen letters, diaries and documents, of a major motion picture landmark of cinema. This week The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Idea

Sergio Leone had always wanted to make a film about a treasure hunt. Growing up in Mussolini’s Italy, treasure hunts were actually banned by the Black Shirts, as were blue shirts, yellow shirts and salmon pink trousers. So following the success of his first two ‘Dollar’ films, Leone brushed off an old idea he had been toying with for years. Three rogues during the American Civil War  all go in search of an evasive wagon of gold. He provisionally entitled it Il Magro, Il Grasso, Il Marito, which translates as The Thin, the Fat and the Husband. He wrote to Dario Argento, a young film critic at the time and wannabe film director, and explained his idea:

The idea of my western is the purest concept I have come up with, now that I’ve run out of Akira Kurosawa films to copy. I’ve based it on an old Italian folktale my grandmother used to tell me. The thin man is always alert and wily, but the fat man is more charming and gregarious and everyone helps him, but the married man is the best because wherever he goes his wife follows him shrieking loudly. It is going to be very funny. Claudia Cardinale will play the wife I’m sure. Or Sophia Loren!

Casting

Despite his initial wish for Claudia Cardinale to play the married man’s wife, the role proved so difficult to to cast that the script was changed and the film retitled Il Magro, Il Grasso, Il Scapolo: The Thin, The Fat and the Bachelor. Thoughts turned to Clint Eastwood who – although his relationship with the Italian director was difficult – was still keen to make one last contracted film. Leone wrote to his American star:

Clint, I have a lovely role for you. It is perfect. You will get to wear that hat you like. You know the cowboy one! Yes, I knew that would bring a cheeky smile to that cheeky face. The role is Il Grasso, he is a gunfighter, but his real love is blueberry pies. Oh, he eats so many. The audience will see a whole new side to you, but listen you must put on some weight. I would say quite a few kilo. Fifty at least.

Clint responded cautiously:

Dear Sergio,

I read the script and it is a good one. I’m just not sure about my character. May I suggest that instead of being fat he is relatively slender. And instead of being garrulous, he is a man of few words. And instead of eating pies, he squints and shoots people. remember when you wanted me to wear that frogman’s suit in Fistful of Dollars, you remember telling me ‘A Poncho!? That’s ridiculous!’ but who was right in the end. Trust me on this.

Production

Now called Il Magro, Il Buono, Il Brutto (The Thin, The Good and The Ugly), the filmmakers moved to Franco’s Spain which would stand in for the US West. Eli Wallach, who had never worked with Leone before, was cast as The Magro. He wrote home to his mother:

Spain is nice. Hot as you’d expect this time of year. Clint is very quiet. A fitness nut, but you know. Nice. The film looks like being a bit of disaster. I’m clowning around as best I can but frankly I don’t understand the script, I don’t understand the direction, the story. Lee Van Cleef is here playing the Thin. I swear to God it’s a stupid film. Yesterday, Sergio made us stand around in a cemetery all day while he filmed our fingers and then the bridges of our noses! Europeans!

Post-Production

With the film complete all that remained was to add the score and overdub the dialogue. Clint told Roger Ebert in his documentary Clint and Sergio:

Sergio didn’t speak English and I spoke no Italian. And the script was often a mess. We knew roughly the scenes, but he didn’t have the dialogue properly translated or translated so badly that it was meaningless. So Sergio would just get us to count up to a number out loud. You count to 7 Clint, now Lee you count to 5, now Clint to 3 and so on. Then we’d overdub with actual words.

Ennio Morricone had completed the score early but the last touches were required the iconic ‘AIIIIAIAIA’ that would begin the score and the film. This was provided accidentally by the Maestro himself when he closed the piano lid on his own fingers. The sound of his shriek of pain had been inadvertently recorded and by looping it and manipulating it electronically Morricone added a strange and comic vibe to the film.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was released in 1966.

for more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

MICHAEL SHANNON’S COMEDY PUNCH ON HBO

HOLLYWOOD – Michael Shannon’s Comedy Punch – which was initially part of Tommy Lee Jones’ Laugh In  (for more on that CLICK HERE) – has now been slated for its own slot in the Fall season.

The show which involves Michael Shannon punching unsuspecting members of the public in the back of the head, the face or the kidneys to hilarious results was originally a five minute slot, but its success has been such that HBO have booked a fifteen part season with a two hour special to get the ball rolling. We spoke EXCLUSIVELY to Michael Shannon.

Mr Shannon, sir, is this a chance to show off your diverse talents?

I’m always the psychopath, or the lunatic. The homicidal killer. Something like that. But I have a lot more to offer on the comedy and light entertainment side of the business. People are surprised they say, ‘You don’t know comedy! You don’t know what’s funny!’ But I do.

For example?

Like when I punch people and they fall down, that’s funny. When they bleed and they look scared and you can see in their eyes, they think they’re going to die, that’s funny. And when they cower and hold their hands up and beg for you to not punch them again, and they’re like animals who, if you kill their souls, will become your slaves in heaven, that’s, you know, funny.

Will the format be the same?

Yeah, pretty much. I try something different now and then, like kicking someone’s legs out from under them, but I usually go back to punching them. Oh, and we’re going to have celebrity guests. 

Will they be punching people too?

No I’ll punch them. 

Who like?

Woody Allen, Eli Wallach, Max Von Sydow, the chick from Amour.

Emmanuelle Riva?

Yeah that’s her.

But these are all quite elderly people.

And?

Well, won’t punching them be risky. They could die. 

Yeah. Ha ha. I know. The color goes out of their faces. Ha ha. And they sort of wheeze out that last breath like letting off a sparrow into eternity. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. 

Michael Shannon’s Comedy Punch will air in the Fall of this year.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 CAST LIST RELEASED

HOLLYWOOD – Ever since the baffling success of The Expendables 2, rumors have been rife about who will be included in the next installment The Expendables 3 of the geriatric action franchise.

The Studio Exec can now exclusively reveal the cast list in full.

Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Plumber, Elia Wallach and Max Von Sydow team up with Sylvester Stallone et al to kick some enemy butt.

Chip

Expendables 3: It is a Country For Old Men sees the mercenaries escape the clutches of evil Nurse Ratchet (Renee Zellweger) and fly away to Thirdworldonia, where the evil warlord Grampus, played by out-of-retirement Kelsey Grammer, is building an army of They-all-look-the-same-to-me-ites. Plumber plays young newcomer to the team, Jock and Eli Wallach will be his younger brother Chip. Max Von Sydow describes himself as the baby of the group, Joey, who is an expert in explosives and cocoa.

Expendables 3: 
It is a Country For Old Men will be made, released and forgotten in 2014.

GUY PEARCE ELECTED PRESIDENT OF ITALY

ROME – After weeks of political turmoil following a closely fought and indecisive election, Australian character actor and Memento star Guy Pearce has been elected President of the Republic.

As the Italian head of state, Guy will rule for seven years and next week flies to Italy to be sworn in and supervise the forming of a new government which looks set to include some of the freshest faces in show business, including Max Von Sydow, Harvey Keitel and Eli Wallach, who will be the minister of youth.

Political commentator, Davide Brandalise commented:

Although unconventional, the voting in of a character actor is not unprecedented  In the 1970s, Telly Savalas served as Italian President for two terms, until he was replaced by Christophe Lambert. I think that Guy could be a very good president. 

Pearce will take over from the 88 year old former President, who said he was tired and wanted a long nap.

A GOOD DAY TO FLUFFER HARD

Beefy prepares for Die Hard

In the post office last week I bumped into none other than dear old Eli Wallach! Some kind people helped me up again, I straightened my toupee, and asked him what he’s up to these days. It turns out the poor darling’s under pressure from the studio to sign up for the next Die Hard sequel! Eli’s far too old to be running around with just a vest on, so I had no qualms at all about handing him the business card for my erstwhile stunt double Billy ‘The Beef’ Beaufort. 

Beefy was educated at one of England’s lesser known public schools meaning he has a very high pain threshold and limited intelligence. If you need someone to set himself alight and jump through a stained glass window Beefy doesn’t need to be asked twice! 

We first worked together more years ago than I care to remember on a picture called Apache Chaps Go Wild! In this particular scene I escaped my pursuers by leaping from the roof of a saloon, landing on my horse, and riding off. Beefy missed the horse and bumped his head a couple of times, but there was no lasting damage. By the sixteenth take he more or less knew what he was aiming for and landed a little awkwardly right on the saddle. We did a few more just for luck and then we helped him down from the horse and he limped off for lunch.  
Beefy never had any children, but I feel sure they would’ve been proud of such a dedicated craftsman. Without Beefy there’d be no James Bond, no Indiana Jones, and no Care Bears Movie which revealed a rarely seen sensitive side to his work. He did get into a knife fight with Funshine Bear, but that’s another story…

KRISTEN STEWART TO PLAY ROD STEWART












HOLLYWOOD – Twilight star Kristen Stewart has struck a deal with Paramount to star in Danny Boyle’s Rod Stewart biopic Do ya think I’m sexy?

Kristen will be one of 6 actors who will each play a facet of Rod’s character and although some are already comparing the project to Tod Hayne’s I’m Not There (2007). Boyle insists any similarities are purely coincidental.

“Any similarities are purely coincidental,” said an unconvincing Boyle.

The script, written by frequent Boyle collaborator Alex Garland is being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way and Leo is rumoured to be making a cameo appearance as Ex-Faces and current Rolling Stone Guitarist Ronny Wood.

Boyle has gathered a smorgasbord of acting talent to play the Scottish singer. Justin Bieber, Jake Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson are already firmly on board and Boyle is chasing Bill Murray to complete the sextet.


Rod himself is said to have given his blessing to the project but his ex-wife Rachel Hunter is worried that his former lovers will not be cast in a flattering light.

“ I’ve heard that I’m going to be played by Karl Urban” said an outraged Hunter. “ I mean what the fuck is all that about?. Still it could be worse I suppose. I hear Eli Wallach has been cast as Britt Ekland!”


Pre-production is due to start early next year with a provisional release date of Christmas 2013.