“I was working on TV, Sergio Leone discovered me. He also brought about western revolutions in America »-

of Valerio Cappelli

As the documentary about the great Italian director, produced by his daughter Raffaella, is released, an icon of American cinema recounts their relationship: “That time when the blown bridge had to be rebuilt due to a mistake by the Spanish crew.”

He answers all but one question, a topic discussed in the video: why Once in America was not understood in the US, did they cut an hour? Leone never wanted to see that version. Talk to Clint Eastwood
, 92, it is inevitable to reconsider the poncho and the fill in the holster. “Many legends were shot, at a certain point they said that I kept them at home, under a glass case… I gave everything back to the costume department of Sergio’s films”.

Your first meeting?

“Just landed in Italy. I have never been there before. A wonderful interpreter helped us in the communication because at the time I didn’t speak a word of Italian and Sergio didn’t speak a word of English. We understood each other through gestures. We talked about cinema, I met his family. But we were focused on the film. I could not have known that he, like Don Siegel, would be the man who would influence me the most as a director. It made me love irony and love landscapes ».

How did the American public respond to the Italian western?
“Scorsese in the documentary says that at first he was annoyed because he couldn’t understand it, to take the measures… There were taboos, I think that only jazz and western are true American art forms. To tell the truth , everyone around said that it was a finished genre and nothing else could be added. But he entered an opaque, mannered area. There was a change of perspective and spaghetti westerns (the fable of a myth strange to you) was considered a rebirth ».

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There is a suspended time in the films of Leone.
“Well, this novelty that nothing can happen in a western was a revolutionary thing. Those films are part of the history of cinema, they look like they were made today, they don’t look old, dated. I really liked the documentary, it made me discover new elements of a man I thought I knew ».

You, after the trilogy…
“I’ll get to the point, you’re going to ask me why I didn’t accept
Once upon a time in the west
. I was always trying to do new things, and it was time to try something different, and to speak my language. With Sergio we didn’t part, we took different paths philosophically. Mine are very different sets than hers, I shoot a few takes quickly. I don’t even mean action, car; I say, guys if you’re ready, go. I turned to more personal stories, he loved the spectacular, the explosions on the trains, the soldiers on the hills ».

Which episode do you remember?
“Well, the scene of the bridge that exploded in
The good, the bad and the ugly
. The Spanish technicians got the timing of the fuse wrong and Leone came out cursing, his eyes bloodshot. He was furious. The bridge had to be rebuilt. And then the sets were full of Spanish and Gypsy extras in cloaks, uniforms, guns, if you asked them what those films were about, they wouldn’t be able to answer.”

Ennio Morricone?
“No one used music like him, he changes the style, the approach, his melodies seem to add phrases to the scripts, they are sounds that speak. Lots of trumpets and then boom, horses coming. It is an operatic music that exalts violence and shooting. Ennio was a great composer, he won two Oscars, one of which I gave him ».

Is the man without a name, who was called his character, a hero?
“Hero is someone who does useful things for society, that’s how I see it.”

What does he like?
“Golf, jazz and Cuban cigars. But now I try to avoid them ».

18 October 2022 (changed 19 October 2022 | 11:09 am)



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