Edit
Sergio Leone Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (34) | Personal Quotes (6) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 3 January 1929Rome, Lazio, Italy
Date of Death 30 April 1989Rome, Lazio, Italy  (heart attack)
Height 5' 7¼" (1.71 m)

Mini Bio (2)

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>

Sergio Leone was an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter, credited as the inventor of "Spaghetti Western" genre.

Leone's film-making style includes juxtaposing extreme close-up shots with lengthy long shots. His movies include the sword and sandal action films The Last Days of Pompeii (1959) and The Colossus of Rhodes (1961), the Dollars Trilogy of Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)), the Western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), the epic buddy Zapata Western Duck, You Sucker (1971) and the epic crime drama Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

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 "Spaghetti Western", owing its origin to the American Western. His film A Fistful of Dollars (1964) was based upon Akira Kurosawa's Edo-era samurai adventure Yojimbo (1961). Leone's film elicited a legal challenge from the Japanese director, though Kurosawa's film was in turn probably based on the 1929 Dashiell Hammett novel, Red Harvest. The film is also notable for establishing Eastwood as a star. Until that time Eastwood had been an American television actor with few credited film roles.

In 1968 Leone directed Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 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. The film emerged as a long, violent, dreamlike meditation upon the mythology of the American Old West, with many stylistic references to iconic western films.

In 1971 Leone directed Duck, You Sucker (1971) (Giù la Testa) 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 turned down the opportunity to direct The Godfather (1972), in favor of working on another gangster story he had conceived earlier. He devoted ten 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 four-hour finished 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

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 (34)

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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
He was asked to direct Hang 'Em High (1968), but he turned it down in favour of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
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 towards the end of his life.
Leone was an avid fan of Margaret Mitchell's novel and the film Gone with the Wind (1939). 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.
He was asked to direct The Godfather (1972), but he turned it down in order to make Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
In 1987, Leone contacted his old collaborators Sergio Donati and Fulvio Morsella, pitching an idea for a TV miniseries about a Colt revolver that passed from owner to owner throughout the Old West, similar to Winchester '73 (1950). Donati indicated that Leone was interested in a more revisionist take on the genre than his earlier works, wanting to show the Old West "like it really was." Leone abandoned this project in favor of A Place Only Mary Knows, though Donati wrote a treatment and the project remained in gestation for years after Leone's death.
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 (1966) and Duck, You Sucker (1971) but his idea of adapting the novel itself never got past the planning stages.
Leone also started writing a screenplay based on Lee Falk's The Phantom, and scouted locations for the project. Despite this, he never got to make a movie based on the comic book hero. He declared he would have liked to follow his Phantom project with a movie based on another Falk-created character, Mandrake the Magician.
While finishing work on Once Upon a Time in America (1984) 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 (2001), the film opened in medias res as the camera goes from focusing on a Russian hiding from the Nazis' artillery fire to panning hundreds of feet away to show the German 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 Russia as the German Luftwaffe begin to bombard the city. Throughout the course of the film, he becomes romantically involved with a Russian 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 had been able to acquire $100 million in financing from independent backers, and the film was to be a joint production with a Soviet film company. 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 cancelled when Leone died two days before he was to officially sign on for the film.
Leone was an early choice to direct Flash Gordon (1980). Leone was a fan of the original Alex Raymond comic strip, but turned down the film because the script did not resemble Raymond's work.
In his later years, Leone had a falling out of sorts with Clint Eastwood. When Leone directed Once Upon a Time in America (1984), he commented that Robert De Niro was a real actor, unlike Eastwood. This may have been in response to Eastwood declining to play the Irish police detective in the aforementioned film, according to one biography. However, the two made amends and reconciled before Leone's death. When Eastwood when an Oscar for Unforgiven (1992), Leone was one of the two directors whom Eastwood dedicated his award to (the other was Don Siegel) and the film contains the dedication "To Sergio & Don" before the end credits roll.
In 1988, he was head of the jury at the 45th Venice International Film Festival.
Leone devised a western called A Place Only Mary Knows that he cowrote with 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. 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 - Edgar Lee Masters (Spoon River Anthology), Ambrose Bierce (An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge), Mark Twain (A Military Campaign that Failed), Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage), and Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind), of whose novel he had wanted to film a remake. Although the written treatment never got turned into a full screenplay, Leone's son Andrea had it published in a June 2004 issue of the Italian cinema magazine Ciak. It is unsure if the treatment's publication will ever lead to a full production in America or Italy.

Personal Quotes (6)

[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.
When I was young, I believed in three things: Marxism, the redemptive power of cinema, and dynamite. Now I just believe in dynamite.

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