This film put to rest Clint Eastwood's longstanding statement why he would never win an Oscar. Eastwood reckoned he would never be in the running because "first, I'm not Jewish. Secondly, I make too much money. Thirdly, and most importantly, because I don't give a fuck". Since his double Oscar win for Unforgiven (1992), Eastwood has gone on to win two more Oscars, as well as an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, and has been nominated an additional six times.
Clint Eastwood's mother Ruth Wood toiled through an uncomfortable day (wearing a heavy dress) as an extra, filming a scene where she boards a train; but the scene was eventually cut, with her son apologizing that the film was "too long and something had to go." All was forgiven when he brought her to the Academy Awards and thanked her prominently in his acceptance speech.
The script floated around Hollywood for nearly twenty years, during which time, Gene Hackman read and rejected it, only to be later convinced by Clint Eastwood (who had owned the rights to the script for some time) to play a role.
In the early 1980s, Francis Ford Coppola got ahold of the script, and met with John Malkovich to offer him the role of William Munny. Malkovich recalled: "The offer was not very serious - thank God! I say that for myself and the poor public, and for Clint - absolutely! I would have been a total, total failure. Total! Who would've wanted to see that? I wouldn't! I would've just been acting-schmatching. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is."
Most of the rain in the film was specially created because Calgary, where it was shot, was experiencing a dry spell, though the snowfall that is featured when William Munny is recovering from his beating was unexpected (and unscripted).
The boots that Clint Eastwood wore in this film are the same boots that he wore in the television series Rawhide (1959). These boots are now a part of Eastwood's private collection and were on loan to the 2005 Sergio Leone exhibit at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, California. In essence these boots have book-ended Eastwood's career in the Western genre.
Deputy Clyde's line about why a one armed man needed to carry three pistols: "I don't want to get killed from lack of being able to shoot back" is sometimes attributed to lawman and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok, who usually carried two pistols around his waist, another in a shoulder holster, sometimes another stuck in the back of his belt, and usually had at least one Derringer hidden somewhere on his person. While working as a lawman, he usually carried a sawed off shotgun as well. Hickok also laughed at Ned Buntline's report about his killing twenty men with twenty shots, saying that his theory was start shooting and keep shooting, until the man you were shooting at was dead.
The film was shot in thirty-nine days, coming in four days ahead of schedule. The town had to be built very quickly, with a relatively short run-up time (two months) to the start of filming; the construction period was used by the Stunt Coordinator to work on actors' riding skills, and stunt choreography.
According to Clint Eastwood in a 2000 interview, Gene Hackman was very concerned about how they were going to show the violence in the movie, owing to the rising gun violence in American cities. Eastwood assured Hackman that the film wouldn't glorify gun violence.
Clint Eastwood joined a list of actors who have won an Oscar for directing but not for acting. They include Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Sir Richard Attenborough, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson.
With inflation, the one thousand dollar bounty on the cowboys, would be the equivalent to one hundred ten thousand dollars now, at a very liberal estimate. A more conservative estimate would be around thirty thousand dollars.
The windmill that appears in the backdrop through much of the movie was a real operating windmill, rather than a set piece, and to this day, pumps water to The Dow Wetlands Preserve in Antioch, California, where it was sent after shooting.
At the time of the Academy Awards ceremony, Frances Fisher was four months pregnant, but under strict orders not to tell anyone, including her closest friends. "I don't want that kinda thing taking attention away from my Oscar race!" Clint Eastwood said to her. When Eastwood's name was announced as the winner for Best Director, Fisher tried to hug him, but he quickly pulled away and walked onstage. In his acceptance speech, he thanked Fisher only in professional context along with many other members of the cast and crew, acknowledging no personal attachment to her whatsoever. Fisher finally announced her pregnancy two months before giving birth, and news outlets prefaced with "according to", "reportedly", et cetera, because Clint and his representatives declined comment and refused to confirm Frances's announcement. When Francesca Eastwood was born in August 1993, she was misreported everywhere as being the third child for sixty-three-year-old Clint. Francesca is at least Clint's seventh child.
By Clint Eastwood's own recollection he was given the script in the "early 80s" although he did not immediately pursue it, because according to him "I thought I should do some other things first." Biographer Patrick McGilligan specifies that it was presented to him in the spring of 1984 by Megan Rose, a story analyst at Warner Brothers, who Eastwood happened to be sleeping with at the time.
One of two times when the presenter handing Clint Eastwood an Oscar was Barbra Streisand. She later handed him the Best Picture Oscar of Million Dollar Baby (2004). Before giving the second movie award to him, she said, "I would be very happy to give you this again, Clint."
The character Corky Corcoran is the name of a cameraman that was filming a promotional spot for another Clint Eastwood movie. During a break in the interview, Clint Eastwood asked what the cameraman's name was, and when told it was Corky Corcoran, Clint did not believe him. His given name is John, but he went by Corky his whole life. Clint said that was a hell of a name.
The following guns were used in this movie. 1. William Munny used a 1859 Starr revolver double action, a Smith and Wesson Schofield revolver, a 12-gauge double barreled coach shotgun, and later a Spencer rifle. 2. Ned uses a Spencer rifle. 3. The Kid uses a S&W Schofield, and earlier he uses a Winchester 1873 rifle. 4. English Bob uses a Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" Single action Army and a Bulldog .32 caliber pocket pistol. 5. Little Bill used a Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" Single action Army. 6. The Cathouse owner has a Colt 1851 single action revolver. 7. Andy the deputy uses a Winchester 1866 "Yellow Boy" made to look like a Henry rifle by removing the for-end. 8. The one armed law man uses 3 revolvers one a Remington 1875 and 2 Colt 1873 "Peacemakers". 9. Various people stick to the famed "peacemakers" and Winchester '73 rifles.
The tavern in which the final scene takes place is called Greeley's. It is a reference to New York Tribune Editor Horace Greeley, who is often incorrectly attributed with writing the line "Go West, young man." That line was actually written by John B.L. Soule. The phrase "Go West, young man" is often attributed to New York Tribune founder Horace Greeley, and often misattributed to Indiana journalist John B. L. Soule, but the latest research shows it to be a paraphrase.
When Will notes that Ned is still using a Spencer rifle, it would imply that Ned carried it in the Civil War as a member of a U.S. Colored Troops cavalry regiment. Morgan Freeman also starred in Glory (1989), as a member of a U.S. Colored regiment.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the shoot-out in Greeley's, Will (Clint Eastwood) fires all six bullets from the Kid's (Jaimz Woolvett's) Schofield. When he tells the rest of the men to clear out the back, he is threatening them with an empty pistol.