Believe it or not, actor Clint Eastwood and the “Dollars” trilogy director Sergio Leone never actually had a conversation while filming the classic westerns. A language barrier was to blame.
They don’t call the trilogy “Spaghetti westerns” for nothing. Leone was Italian and spoke very little English. Meanwhile, Eastwood accepted to film the trilogy in Italy. But he spoke little to no Italian at the time. The two communicated through a series of hand signals and also an interpreter.
“Sergio spoke very little English. And I didn’t speak any Italian at that time,” Eastwood told The Independent. The actor remembered the Italian auteur fondly. “So we got together with an interpreter when I reached Rome. And through the interpreter – plus a lot of hand signals – we kind of got the idea.”
Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone Communicated Through Food and Film
Despite the language barrier, both Eastwood and Leone had a fruitful partnership. The director trusted the actor to figure out the character, even down to the wardrobe. While Leone hired Eastwood because he was cheap, the two ended up being successful when the film was a hit. After “A Fistful of Dollars,” Leon invited the actor back twice more to complete his trilogy.
Eastwood remembered the director as being very visual. Through film and the camera, Eastwood often knew exactly what Leone wanted to do.
“Sergio was visual from the very beginning,” Eastwood said. “He had an interesting approach. He tied things up very well. I was used to filming where the shooting was on a much smaller scale, and he seemed to shoot things in a fairly large scope, which I liked. He was a big fan of John Ford, people like that. He wanted to be a director of size, so to speak. But I was always amazed that Sergio was never very prolific after that.”
As for how they spent their downtime, Eastwood doesn’t remember any awkwardness from the language barrier. He said that Leone was a funny guy, and they would often have lavish production lunches.
“And he loved food. He loved food,” Eastwood said. “The first day we filmed, we were shooting in a studio outside of Rome, and we sat down for lunch. We had this huge meal. Spaghetti. I love spaghetti, so I loaded myself up. And then they served wine. Everybody was having wine. So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll have a few glasses of wine, too.’ Well, we went back to work, and suddenly I realized, ‘I’m not going to be able to do this.’ For that first hour or two after lunch, everything was pretty much done in slow motion!”