Clint Eastwood Beat Out All These Actors for Iconic Western Role ‘Man With No Name’

by Liz Holland
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Clint Eastwood portrayed “The Man With No Name” in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy. However, Eastwood was far from the studio’s first choice. A wide range of renowned actors was considered for the role, but eventually, Eastwood beat them out. 

The western trilogy released its first film, “A Fistful of Dollars” in 1964. The remaining two films, “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” were released in 1965 and 1966. Italian western, nicknamed “Spaghetti Westerns” by Americans, boomed in Europe throughout the 1960s and 70s. 

The popularity of “Spaghetti Westerns” is largely due to Sergio Leone, according to “Screen Rant.” Leone not only created the trilogy featuring Clint Eastwood but also over 600 films throughout the 60s and 70s. Despite Leone’s impressively packed catalog, Clint Eastwood’s role in the “Dollars” trilogy remains one of the most iconic roles from the time period. 

Clint Eastwood Played the Perfect Anti-Hero

The first film of the series, “A Fistful of Dollars”, introduced a ton of elements and ideas that would later be tied to Leone’s signature style. In the film, The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) enters a Mexican village in the middle of a power struggle between three brothers and the town sheriff. 

When the three brothers cause trouble for a group of gold-bearing Mexican soldiers, Eastwood’s character inserts himself into the drama. He goes on to sell fake information to both sides of the struggle for his own personal benefit. However, when he discovers that there’s innocent people among the conflict between these two rival groups, he offers them his help. 

When these films were being cast, Eastwood was not a prevalent film actor. At the time, Eastwood was known for his TV work–particularly for his role in the television series “Rawhide.” 

Leone’s first choice for the role was Henry Fonda. Fonda was known for playing heroes, and Leone felt it would be a strategic move to cast Fonda in a role that would antithesize what the public expected from him. Unfortunately, the film’s budget didn’t allow such a big name. A few years later, Fonda did star as a villain in a Leone western.  He portrayed Frank in the epic western “Once Upon a Time in the West.” The film did not perform well at box office. However, it’s now considered one of the best westerns of all time. 

Several Actors Turned Down the Role

Leone then offered the role to prominent support actor Charles Bonson, who declined. Bronson later rose to fame when he starred alongside Fonda in Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.”

Next on the list was Henry Silva. Silva rose to relevance in Hollywood portraying villain type roles. Therefore, Leone’s offer for the anti-hero role in the “Dollars” trilogy would make sense in the spirit of continuity. Silva turned down Leone’s offer. The star was also busy starring in “Johnny Cool.”

Rory Calhoun was also considered for the role. Calhoun led a troubled youth, so he may have been able to draw from personal experience in the role. However, it ultimately didn’t work out. 

Leone turned to bodybuilder Steve Reeves, and then action star James Coburn. His last attempt before Eastwood was Richard Harrison. All three actors declined Leone’s offer. However, Harrison actually recommended Clint Eastwood for the role. Eastwood went on to portray “The Man With No Name” for all three films.

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