Edit
Sergio Leone Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (29) | Personal Quotes (5) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 3 January 1929Rome, Lazio, Italy
Date of Death 30 April 1989Rome, Lazio, Italy  (heart attack)
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Sergio Leone was virtually born into the cinema - he was the son of Roberto Roberti (A.K.A. Vincenzo Leone), one of Italy's cinema pioneers, and actress Bice Valerian. Leone entered films in his late teens, working as an assistant director to both Italian directors and U.S. directors working in Italy (usually making Biblical and Roman epics, much in vogue at the time). Towards the end of the 1950s he started writing screenplays, and began directing after taking over The Last Days of Pompeii (1959) in mid-shoot after its original director fell ill. His first solo feature, The Colossus of Rhodes (1961), was a routine Roman epic, but his second feature, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), a shameless remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), caused a revolution. Although it wasn't the first spaghetti Western, it was far and away the most successful, and shot former T.V. cowboy Clint Eastwood to stardom (Leone wanted Henry Fonda or Charles Bronson but couldn't afford them). The two sequels, For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), were shot on much higher budgets and were even more successful, though his masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), in which Leone finally worked with Fonda and Bronson, was mutilated by Paramount Pictures and flopped at the U.S. box office. He directed Duck, You Sucker (1971) reluctantly, and turned down offers to direct The Godfather (1972) in favor of his dream project, which became Once Upon a Time in America (1984). He died in 1989 after preparing an even more expensive Soviet coproduction on the World War II siege of Leningrad.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Michael Brooke < michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Spouse (1)

Carla Leone (1960 - 30 April 1989) (his death) (3 children)

Trade Mark (8)

Frequently worked with Tonino Delli Colli and Ennio Morricone
Major characters' entrances are accompanied by variations of the theme music. [theme]
Invented the extreme close-up in western-style films. [close-up]
Showing ugly and violent acts with unglamorous simplicity
Long periods of silence followed by quick bursts of action
Characters in his films frequently play a musical device, with the music appearing also in the composer's score (Indio's watch chimes in For a Few Dollars More (1965), Harmonica's harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)).
Frequently used the "Mexican standoff," whereby three men each point a gun at each other at the same time (adopted later by John Woo and Quentin Tarantino).
Extensive use of wide-angle lens

Trivia (29)

Composer Ennio Morricone has said that Leone asked him to compose a film's music before the start of principal photography - contrary to normal practice. He would then play the music to the actors during takes to enhance their performance.
Was very insecure about the films he made and every film he made was almost his last. Between Duck, You Sucker (1971) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984) he produced several films and directed several commercials. He also did some uncredited directing work on some of the films he produced. Before his death he planned on making a film called The 900 Days about the siege on Leningrad. He was able to get $100 million in financing without even having written a script and he planned to cast Robert De Niro.
Started many feuds with his collaborators - Sergio Donati, for not being credited for co-writing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966); Luciano Vincenzoni; and Tonino Valerii, whom he usurped on the set of My Name Is Nobody (1973) by directing many scenes of that film.
Was working on a screenplay idea called "A Place Only Mary Knows", which was to star Mickey Rourke and Richard Gere, which involved a Union soldier and a Southern conman searching for a buried treasure during the American Civil War.
Claimed his lifelong ambition was to remake Gone with the Wind (1939).
Was often noted to embellish events that occurred on the sets of his films, as noted by many of his collaborators.
Although they did not work together until 1964, as children Leone and composer Ennio Morricone were classmates.
His last project was "Leningrad" about the siege of Leningrad during World War II. He died of a heart attack two days before he was to leave for Los Angeles to sign the contracts.
He had two daughters, Francesca Leone and Raffaella Leone, and a son, Andrea Leone. Francesca appeared in her father's For a Few Dollars More (1965) as a baby. Both girls were reportedly among the extras in Flagstone in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). For Leone's final film, Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Francesca was given a bit part and Raffaella was credited as Assistant Costume Designer.
Clint Eastwood was amused by Leone's on-set behavior during their collaborations, having called the short, heavy Leone "Yosemite Sam" for his over-the-top temper and attempts to act like a cowboy through his thick Italian accent.
Was voted the 41st Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly, having directed only 11 films.
When he made Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), his stylistic influence switched from the more frenetic pace of Hollywood westerns (which he put on hyper-drive for the "Dollars" trilogy with Clint Eastwood) to the slower, tenser style of Japanese samurai films, mainly those of Akira Kurosawa.
He controversially baited his former collaborator, Clint Eastwood, by claiming after making Once Upon a Time in America (1984) that Robert De Niro was a real "actor," unlike Eastwood. Eastwood seemingly brushed off the insult, which may have resulted by Leone's jealousy that Eastwood was a more successful director by that time than Leone himself.
He died at the age of 60 from a heart attack, which was most likely resulted from his eating habits. He had an infamous love for food and gained weight throughout his life until he was borderline obese in the 1980s.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945- 1985". Pages 577-581. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Son of director Roberto Roberti.
When his old friend Clint Eastwood - who was also close with Don Siegel - directed the Oscar-winning "anti-Western" Unforgiven (1992), Eastwood dedicated this film in memory of both Leone and Siegel.
Son of Bice Valerian, father of Francesca Leone, Andrea Leone and Raffaella Leone.
Famously feuded with director Peter Bogdanovich over the directing reigns of Duck, You Sucker (1971) - Leone claimed that Bogdanovich was fearful of such a large production and backed out at the last minute. Bogdonavich stands by the story that Leone hired him as a patsy, as he wanted to direct the film all along.
His favorite actor from childhood was Henry Fonda, who was offered a role in every one of Leone's early Westerns. After Fonda finally worked with him on Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), he returned the compliment, later citing that film as his favorite role.
His favorite movies were reportedly (in no particular order) Yojimbo (1961), Warlock (1959), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), and Vera Cruz (1954).
Aside from saying 'Goodbye', Sergio Leone never spoke a word of English and always relied on a translator when talking to American actors. According to an interview with Eli Wallach, he spoke to Sergio in broken up French and discovered he is fluent in the language. This is how he communicated to Sergio Leone when shooting The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) ("The Good, the Bad and the Ugly").
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.
Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1978.
Was sued by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa for remaking his Yojimbo (1961) as "A Fistful of Dollars" (A Fistful of Dollars (1964)) shot-for-shot without crediting him, and copyright infringement. The production of A Fistful of Dollars (1964) apologized, compensated Kurosawa with $100,000, and 15% of box office revenues.
His callous behavior towards his collaborators reached a high-water mark during the shooting of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) ("Once Upon a Time in the West"), when bit-part actor Al Mulock committed suicide on the set of the movie. Murlock, who also had appeared as the one-armed bounty hunter in Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), jumped from a hotel on location in Guadix, Spain. Production manager Claudio Mancini was sitting in a room in the hotel with Mickey Knox, an expatriate American who had been hired by Leone as a screenwriter; they both saw Mulock's body pass by their window. Knox recalled in an interview that while Mancini put Mulock in his car to drive him to the hospital, Leone said to Mancini, "Get the costume! We need the costume!" Mulock was wearing the costume he wore in the movie when he made his fatal leap.
Was approached to direct Clint Eastwood western Hang 'Em High (1968) , but he turned it down since he was working on Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) at the time.
He didn't learn to speak English fluently until he was preparing Once Upon a Time in America (1984), having made 5 previously films with American actors by broken attempts at English (by Leone), Italian (by the actors) or French.
There were a number of projects that Leone considered, turned down or couldn't get made over the years - The Godfather, Don Quixote, Gone With The Wind, Journey To The End Of Night, A Place Only Mary Knows, The Phantom, Leningrad: The 900 Days.

Personal Quotes (5)

[on Henry Fonda] I have never known an actor with such craft, with such professional seriousness; such a pleasant man, full of humor, so reserved and so keenly quick-witted.
[on Lee Van Cleef] His glance makes holes in the screen.
In my childhood, America was like a religion. Then, real-life Americans abruptly entered my life - in jeeps - and upset all my dreams. I found them very energetic, but also very deceptive. They were no longer the Americans of the West. They were soldiers like any others...materialists, possessive, keen on pleasures and earthly goods.
[on Clint Eastwood] As an actor, he has two expressions: with and without the hat.
[on Orson Welles] He was a hard man. He'd lose his temper. He broke telephones. He also drank. But he could also be sensitive. [...] At any rate, I found him fascinating. I had infinite admiration for his directing.

Salary (1)

Per qualche dollaro in più (1965) $350,000 + 60% of profits

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page