Pratica di Mare, Pomezia, Italy
Sergio Leone (Italian: [ˈsɛrdʒo leˈoːne]; 3 January 1929 – 30 April 1989) was an Italian film director, producer, and screenwriter, credited as the pioneer of the Spaghetti Western genre. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema.
Leone's film-making style includes juxtaposing extreme
Born on 3 January 1929
Italian: Il cinema deve essere spettacolo, è questo che il pubblico vuole. E per me lo spettacolo più bello è quello del mito.
Cinema must be spectacle, that's what the public wants. And for me the most beautiful spectacle is that of the myth.— Sergio Leone,[This quote needs a citation]
In the mid-1960s, historical epics fell out of favor with audiences, but Leone had shifted his attention to a subgenre which came to be known as the "
The look of A Fistful of Dollars was established by its Spanish locations, which presented a violent and morally complex vision of the
Leone's next two films,
Based on the success of the Man with No Name trilogy, Leone was invited to the United States in 1967 to direct Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era una volta il West) for Paramount Pictures. The film was shot mostly in Almería, Spain, and Cinecittà in Rome. It was also briefly shot in Monument Valley, Utah. The film starred Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and Claudia Cardinale. Once Upon a Time in the West emerged as a long and violent dreamlike meditation upon the mythology of the American Old West, with many stylistic references to iconic Western films. Audience tension is maintained throughout this nearly three-hour film by concealing both the hero's identity and his unpredictable motivation until the final predictable shootout scene. Perhaps unsurpassed as a retribution drama, the film's script was written by Leone and his longtime friend and collaborator Sergio Donati, from a story by Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, both of whom went on to have significant careers as directors. Before its release, it was ruthlessly edited by Paramount, which perhaps contributed to its low box-office results in the United States. Nevertheless, it was a huge hit in Europe, grossing nearly three times its $5 million budget among French audiences, and highly praised among North American film students. It has come to be regarded by many as Leone's best film.
After Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone directed Duck, You Sucker! (Giù la testa, 1971). Leone was intending merely to produce the film, but due to artistic differences with then-director Peter Bogdanovich, Leone was asked to direct the film, instead. Duck, You Sucker! is a Mexican Revolution action drama, starring James Coburn as an Irish revolutionary and Rod Steiger as a Mexican bandit who is conned into becoming a revolutionary.
Leone continued to produce, and on occasion, step in to reshoot scenes, in other films. One of these films was My Name Is Nobody (1973) by Tonino Valerii, a comedy Western film that poked fun at the Spaghetti Western genre. It starred Henry Fonda as an old gunslinger facing a final confrontation after the death of his brother. Terence Hill also starred in the film as the young stranger who helps Fonda leave the dying West with style.
Leone's other productions included
Leone turned down the offer to direct The Godfather, in favor of working on another gangster story he had conceived earlier. He devoted 10 years to this project, based on the novel The Hoods by former mobster Harry Grey, which focused on a quartet of New York City Jewish gangsters of the 1920s and 1930s who had been friends since childhood. The finished four-hour film, Once Upon a Time in America (1984), featured Robert De Niro and James Woods. It was a meditation on another aspect of popular American mythology, the role of greed and violence and their uneasy coexistence with the meaning of ethnicity and friendship. It received a raucous, record-breaking ovation of nearly 20 minutes at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival (reportedly heard by diners at restaurants across the street from the Palais), at a time in Cannes's history before marathon applause became a regular occurrence. Despite such a fawning reception, Warner Brothers felt it was too long. The studio drastically recut it down to two hours for the American market, abandoning its flashback structure for a linear narrative. This version suffered heavy criticism and flopped. The original version, released in the rest of the world, achieved somewhat better box office returns and a mixed critical response. When the original version of the film was released on home video in the US, it gained major critical acclaim, with some critics hailing the film as a magnum opus.
According to biographer Sir Christopher Frayling, Leone was deeply hurt by the studio-imposed editing and poor commercial reception of Once Upon a Time in America in North America. It was his last film.
Death and unrealized projects
Leone died on 30 April 1989 at his home in Rome of a heart attack at the age of 60.
A Place Only Mary Knows
A treatment for an "Americanized" Western was written by Leone, Luca Morsella, and Fabio Toncelli. It is speculated to have been Leone's last Western and was to have starred Mickey Rourke and Richard Gere as the two main leads. Set during the height of the American Civil War, the story focused on a Union drafter, Mike Kutcher from Georgia, whose job is to enroll men into the Union Army. The other is Richard Burns, a Southern shady businessman transplanted to the North after a successful heist with his ex-lover and partner, Mary. They try searching for the buried treasure left behind in an unmarked grave outside Atlanta in "A Place Only Mary Knows". Joined by a freed slave and an Italian immigrant, Francesco, who arrives via the Port of Boston, they try desperately to avoid the battles of the ongoing war between the states.
The film was to have been a homage to classic writers from literature such as
Leningrad: The 900 Days
While finishing work on Once Upon a Time in America in 1982, Leone was impressed with Harrison Salisbury's non-fiction book The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, and he planned on adapting the book as a war epic. Although no formal script had been completed or leaked, Leone came up with the opening scene and basic plot. According to the documentary Once Upon a Time, Sergio Leone, the film opened in medias res as the camera goes from focusing on a Soviet hiding from the Nazis' artillery fire to panning hundreds of feet away to show the German Army Panzer divisions approaching the walls of the city. The plot was to focus on an American photographer on assignment (whom Leone wanted to be played by Robert De Niro) becoming trapped in Leningrad as the German Luftwaffe begin to bombard the city. Throughout the course of the film, he becomes romantically involved with a Soviet woman, whom he later impregnates, as they attempt to survive the prolonged siege and the secret police, because relationships with foreigners are forbidden. According to Leone, "In the end, the cameraman dies on the day of the liberation of the city, when he is currently filming the surrender of the Germans. And the girl is aware of his death by chance seeing a movie news: the camera sees it explode under a shell".
By 1989, Leone set the film's budget at $100 million, and had secured half of that amount in financing from independent backers from the Soviet Union. He had convinced Ennio Morricone to compose the film score, and Tonino Delli Colli was tapped to be the cinematographer. Shooting was scheduled to begin sometime in 1990. The project was canceled when Leone died two days before he was to officially sign on for the film. Alex Cox offered to replace Leone as director, but was unable to secure the remaining $50 million required to produce the film.
According to Frayling's biography of Leone, Something to Do with Death, he envisioned a contemporary adaptation of Cervantes' 17th century novel Don Quixote with Clint Eastwood in the title role and Eli Wallach as Sancho Panza. He had discussed doing the project throughout the 1960s–1970s, and he started seriously considering it toward the end of his life.
In 1987, Sergio Leone contacted his old collaborators Sergio Donati and Fulvio Morsella, pitching an idea for a TV
Leone was also an avid fan of Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind and the 1939 film adaptation. His relatives and close friends stated that he talked about filming a remake that was closer to the original novel, but it never advanced beyond discussions to any serious form of production.
In 1969, Sergio Leone was contracted to direct 99 and 44/100% Dead with Marcello Mastroianni and Charles Bronson starring. He was replaced as director by John Frankenheimer, while Mastroianni was recast with Richard Harris.
Leone was a fan of Louis-Ferdinand Céline's novel Journey to the End of the Night and was considering a film adaptation in the late 1960s; he incorporated elements of the story into The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Duck, You Sucker! but his idea of adapting the novel itself never got past the planning stages.
Awards and honors
- David di Donatello
- 1972: Duck, You Sucker! (Won)
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts – Award for Best Direction
- 1984: Once Upon a Time in America (Nomination)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
- 1984: Once Upon a Time in America (Nomination)
He received the America Award from the
|Year||English title||Italian title||Rotten Tomatoes||Metacritic||Notes|
|1961||The Colossus of Rhodes||Il Colosso di Rodi||56% (6.2/10 average rating)
|1964||A Fistful of Dollars||Per un pugno di dollari||98% (8.2/10 average rating)
|65 (7 reviews)||Dollars Trilogy|
|1965||For a Few Dollars More||Per qualche dollaro in più||92% (8/10 average rating)
|74 (8 reviews)|
|1966||The Good, the Bad and the Ugly||Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo||97% (8.8/10 average rating)
|90 (7 reviews)|
|1968||Once Upon a Time in the West||C'era una volta il West||96% (9.10/10 average rating)
|80 (9 reviews)||Once Upon a Time Trilogy|
|1971||Duck, You Sucker! (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite
and Once Upon a Time... the Revolution)
|Giù la testa||92% (7.40/10 average rating)
|77 (5 reviews)|
|1984||Once Upon a Time in America||C'era una volta in America||87% (8.50/10 average rating)
|75 (20 reviews)|
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