Once Upon a Time in the Revolution (1971) Poster


When James Coburn (who had been offered roles in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)) was offered the role of John Mallory by Leone, he was initially reluctant. He had dinner with Henry Fonda (star of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)) and asked him what he thought of Leone. Fonda told him that he considered Leone the greatest director he ever worked with. Coburn then took the part. (Similarly, Fonda himself had been reluctant to take the part Leone offered hims, but was persuaded by his friend, Eli Wallach.)
The film was initially planned to have been directed by Leone's assistant Giancarlo Santi, but both Rod Steiger and James Coburn demanded that Sergio Leone direct the picture, so Santi was out.
Sergio Leone offered the role of Juan Miranda to Eli Wallach, but Wallach had already committed to another project. After Leone begged Wallach to play the part, he dropped out of the other project and told Leone he'd do his movie. However, the studio already had Rod Steiger signed. Leone offered no compensation to Wallach, and Wallach subsequently sued.
George Lazenby was originally chosen to play the lead role in this film and accepted, but he ultimately declined the role.
According to Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah agreed to direct this film after Peter Bogdanovich had turned the project down, but for financial reasons was turned down by United Artists. Leone's collaborators (especially writers Sergio Donati and Luciano Vincenzoni), noting the director's frequent embellishment of the facts concerning his films, claim that Peckinpah did not even consider it - Donati claimed Peckinpah was "too shrewd to be produced by a fellow director".
Juan and Seán both mean "John" in Spanish and Irish respectively. When John Mallory is asked his name by Juan Miranda, he says "Seán", but retracts it, and says "John", possibly thinking the name would confuse people. (It is not uncommon for Irish nationalists and republicans to use both the English and Gaelic forms of their names.) It has also been speculated that "Seán" was the name of his friend from Ireland whom we see in the flashback sequences, who is otherwise not mentioned by name in the film and only referred to as "Nolan" in the screenplay.
In the flashback scenes, Irish republicans can be seen selling a paper called "Freedom", written in an Irish Celtic script. This is probably a reference to Fenian newspaper "Saoirse", which is "Freedom" in Irish. The original "Saoirse" first appeared in November 1910 and continued as a monthly publication until December 1914, when it was suppressed by the British authorities. A separate newspaper of the same name, has been published by Republican Sinn Féin (a splinter group of the main party) since the 1980s.
The chanting of "Shon shon shon" in Ennio Morricone's soundtrack were the suggestion of Carla Leone who thought it would sound better than the original "Wah wah wah" chants. Contrary to popular belief Morricone himself has said in interviews the chants do not represent the names of characters but are just part of the soundscape like the chants in all the other Leone westerns.
Jason Robards and Clint Eastwood were both considered for the role of John; John's friend (David Warbeck) was to be played by Malcolm McDowell.
Rod Steiger demanded that his scenes be filmed with natural sound if possible. This was virtually unheard of in Italian cinema and led to much tension between Steiger and the crew.
The character of John Malloy was written for Jason Robards while Eli Wallach was first choice for Juan Miranda but the studio wanted bigger names for the two leads so Rod Steiger and James Coburn were recruited.
Sergio Leone was not interested in directing and gave Giancarlo Santi the opportunity to helm the film, but actor Rod Steiger got furious and demanded that Leone directed it.
Impressionist Will Jordan's agent took out a quarter page ad in Variety just after the film was released stating that Jordan had dubbed the voice of Rod Steiger in the film.
Comedian/impressionist Will Jordan did much of Rod Steiger's dubbing in this film according to an ad his agent placed in Variety that year.
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