‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ Actor Almost Died Multiple Times While Filming The Western

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Wild West was a dangerous place full of outlaws, bandits, and a hostile frontier. But sometimes filming westerns can be just as dangerous. Take “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” for instance. Eli Wallach, who played Tuco on the western, was not having a good time. He almost died multiple times on set during production for the film.

Director Sergio Leone wasn’t exactly known for his safety practices. There were several instances where Wallach almost went to that great frontier in the sky. According to Vintage News, Wallach complained about the less than safe conditions on the western in his autobiography.

Wallach almost accidentally hanged himself during a pivotal scene in the film. He was on horseback filming with a noose around his neck. The horse became excited during filming and took off into a full gallop. The rope fortunately snapped like production had planned. But Wallach became victim to an out of control animal.

With his hands tied behind his back, the actor held on for dear life by his knees. In total, the horse took Wallach about a mile away from the set before wranglers calmed it down.

Eli Wallach’s Brushes With Death on the Western

Another time, Wallach accidentally drank acid on set. A film technician placed the bottle, which was similar to one of Wallach’s sodas, nearby. The acid was used during one of the film’s scenes for an effect. Not realizing it, Wallach took a sip. Fortunately, the actor quickly realized his mistake and spat out the mixture without swallowing. Wallach used quantities of milk to sooth his mouth. But multiple sores formed on his gums as a result.

Finally, Wallach almost decapitated himself during a train scene. His character Tuco tried to remove a chain binding himself to a dead man. To accomplish this scene, Wallach had to place himself near the train tracks. But what production didn’t realize was the train had a set of step protruding from it. If Wallach had moved a couple of inches higher, the steps would have taken his head off.

During another scene, co-star Clint Eastwood saved Wallach from an explosion and almost met the Grim Reaper himself. Fortunately, all actors involved lived to see the final product. And the western ended up being one of Wallach’s most remembered roles. The actor lived to the ripe age of 98, where he died from natural causes instead.