‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:’ Why the Infamous Bridge Explosion Scene Had to be Filmed Twice

by Charles Craighill

If you have watched the scene The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, you undoubtedly remember the scene where Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach blow up the bridge. What you may not know is that the bridge had to be blown twice due to a bit of a false start. Here’s the full story of how the bridge-blowing scene cost The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly thousands of dollars.

We all know the scene in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Clint Eastwood’s character Blondie and Eli Wallach’s character Tuco decide to blow up the bridge leading to where they believe the treasure is buried. The scene, obviously, costs quite a bit in the production department. Sergio Leone hired hundreds of Spaniards to act as Civil War soldiers, and obviously, safety precautions were strict. The timing had to be absolutely perfect to get the lighting right for the shot.

Leone knew he only had one shot to get this right. Leone designated one word to signal the explosion of the bridge: Vaya. When Leone yelled “Vaya,” the explosion team was to blow the bridge. It was the perfect plan assuming everything worked out.

The Mistake That Cost The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Thousands of Dollars

Obviously, the bridge-blowing scene in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly cost a lot of money and resources to pull off. Unfortunately, due to one mistake, that price almost doubled. As Leone, Eastwood, and Wallach watched from a nearby hillside waiting for the perfect light, one of the crew members yelled “Vaya” to some of the actors to get in place. The explosives team mistook the order for the signal to blow the bridge. You can guess what happened next.

As the bridge prematurely blew, Sergio Leone apparently turned around and said “let’s go eat” to his fellow cast. The construction team rebuilt the bridge and drove the production cost astronomically up. However, Sergio Leone got his bridge-blowing bridge scene, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly made it to completion.

With the help of the bridge-blowing scene and Oscar-worthy acting from Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly saw tons of box office success. Most critics consider it one of the best “Spaghetti Western” films in American cinema history. However, due to the bridge-blowing incident, they did not gross as much as they could have.