Clint Eastwood Was Strongly Advised Against Making His Classic Western ‘Unforgiven’: Here’s Why

by Samantha Whidden

Although his film “Unforgiven” earned him Best Director and Best Picture at the 1993 Oscars, Clint Eastwood was advised against making the film originally. 

According to the Clint Eastwood Archive, a memo from January 1984 was sent out about “Unforgiven” from Warner Bros’ Sonia Chernus. To Eastwood, the memo reads, “We would have been far better off not to have accepted trash like this piece of inferior work. It is completely lacking in believable and valid characterizations; it is so full of four-letter words that a longshoreman would be blushing at the thought of using, and the language makes one wonder whether the writer had any vocabulary to begin with.”

Cherus also advised Clint Eastwood that the “Unforgiven” writer to go back to school and learn simple vocabulary and basic principles of dramatic writing. “I won’t even attempt to do a decent summary of this piece,” Cherus declared. “It doesn’t deserve my time or yours.”

However, Cherus admitted to Clint Eastwood to only skimming most of the “Unforgiven” script, and reading only the first 40 pages. “But these first 40 pages made me so sick, I’m [having] trouble putting the essence of them down on paper. But, to make it as brief and painless as possible. [It’s] 1881, and a man who is having relations with a prostitute gets furious at her; calls wherever name in the book; then proceeds to slice her up, ruining her face, her body, but leaves her still living. Then a group of her friends decide to go after they who ruined her. And the story becomes a chase with endless pages of exposition. I don’t know what the resolution of the pilot is, and I don’t care. Neither would you.”

Despite Cherus’ criticism, Clint Eastwood decided to do the “Unforgiven” anyway. The film was released in 1992 and became a success in the box office. The film won seven awards, including two Golden Globes, one BAFTA Award, and four Academy Awards. 

Before Clint Eastwood Signed on, Another Actor Was Offered His ‘Unforgiven’ Role

Clint Eastwood Archive also reported that before Clint Eastwood signed for his role in “Unforgiven,” the film’s previous owner, Francis Ford Coppola, actually met with John Malkovich to offer him the role of William Munny.

“The offer was not very serious, thank God!” Malkovich stated about Ford Coppola’s conversation. “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? Iw wouldn’t! I wouldn’t just been acting-schmacting. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is.”

Along with the conversation with Malkovich, Clint Eastwood stated that Malpaso Productions had acquired the film after the rights had expired. This made him put the project in a drawer as he was working on other projects at time. Eastwood ended up starring and directing the film.