12 Great Facts About The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

United Artists - MGM
United Artists - MGM

Though it has to forever compete with The Searchers and High Noon, few Western films will ever have the impact of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the final film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” and the most famous Spaghetti Western (that is, films in the American Western style made by Italian directors) of all time. It catapulted Clint Eastwood to super-stardom, changed the way countless directors thought about the genre, and continues to influence film to this day. So, in celebration of the film's 50th anniversary, here are a dozen facts about the legendary tale of gunslingers on the hunt for treasure.

1. THE FILM’S STORY WAS IMPROVISED IN A MEETING.

In late 1965, A Fistful of Dollars and its sequel, For a Few Dollars More, were not yet available in the United States, but their success in Europe was not lost on American film executives. Hoping to capitalize on the buzz and secure a lucrative American distribution deal, director Sergio Leone and writer Luciano Vincenzoni brought Arthur Krim and Arnold Picker—two United Artists executives—to Rome, where they were treated to a screening of the second film at a massive cinema where For a Few Dollars More was playing to enthusiastic crowds.

The American executives were interested, and agreed to pay $900,000 for the American rights (a huge amount at the time, particular considering the fact that Eastwood was not yet the massive star he’d become), but as the principals gathered to sign the deal, Picker asked if Leone, Vicenzoni, and producer Alberto Grimaldi had thought about what they’d be doing next, as he was hoping for yet another Western to package with the first two films. The three men hadn’t thought about it before, but Vincenzoni thought quickly, and improvised an idea.

“I don’t know why, but the poster came into my mind—Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,’” said Vincenzoni. “It’s the story of three bums that go around through the Civil War looking for money.”

Based on that short pitch, Picker agreed to fund the film, and the movie was on its way. Eventually, all three films were released in America over the course of a single year.

2. CLINT EASTWOOD’S SALARY DEMANDS DELAYED FILMING.

Eastwood initially agreed to return for a third film, but was disappointed when he read the script and discovered that he’d be sharing the screen with two other major players: Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef (who’d already co-starred with Eastwood in For a Few Dollars More). In Eastwood’s view, the increasing reliance on an ensemble was crowding him out of the movie.

“If it goes on this way, in the next one I will be starring with the American cavalry,” Eastwood reportedly said in response to the story.

Negotiations for the third film fell apart, and Eastwood’s agents and publicist worked hard to bring him back to the production. What’s most interesting about this was that, because the films still had not come out in America, Eastwood was not yet the huge star that we know him to be today, so he had less negotiating pull than you might expect. Still, his agents were ultimately able to get him a $250,000 salary for the film (more than the entire budget of A Fistful of Dollars), plus 10 percent of the profits when the film was finally released in America. As a cherry on top, he was also promised a new Ferrari. Of course, he ultimately accepted the job.

3. ELI WALLACH SAID YES AFTER SEEING ONLY MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS FILMS.

Eli Wallach in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'
United Artists - MGM

For the role of Tuco, a.k.a. “The Bad,” Leone initially wanted Italian actor Gian Maria Volontè, who’d played villainous roles in both previous films. When Volontè turned the role down, Leone turned to American actor Eli Wallach, who was at the time best known for his role in The Magnificent Seven. Wallach was skeptical of making a Western with, of all people, an Italian director, but a screening was arranged in an attempt to convince him. After watching just minutes of one of the first two “Dollars” films, Wallach told the projectionist that he could turn the movie off, and accepted the job.

4. SERGIO LEONE DID NOT SPEAK ENGLISH, AND THUS COULD NOT SPEAK DIRECTLY TO EASTWOOD.

By the spring of 1966, Sergio Leone had made two films with Eastwood, one film with Van Cleef, and was about to make a third film along with another American actor: Eli Wallach. Despite this, Leone did not speak English, and relied on an interpreter. Wallach, however, was able to communicate with Leone in French, in which the director was fluent.

5. LEONE DID COPIOUS RESEARCH.

Because the film was set during the Civil War, Leone wanted to preserve a certain sense of accuracy, and went to America to research the film. Among his inspirations were Library of Congress documents and the photographs of legendary photographer Mathew Brady. The film is not completely historically accurate, though. It features the use of dynamite before that particular explosive was invented.

6. THE FAMOUS BRIDGE EXPLOSION HAD TO BE SHOT TWICE.

For the scene in which Blondie (Eastwood) and Tuco (Wallach) decide to blow up the bridge that leads to the cemetery where they believe the gold they seek is buried, the production hired hundreds of Spanish soldiers to stand in for Civil War fighters. The shoot was complicated. The soldiers all had to be in the right, safe place, and Leone set up several cameras to film the moment while waiting for the perfect light to capture it.

As Eastwood and Wallach watched from a nearby hilltop (where Eastwood apparently practiced his golf swing), Leone watched the sky, waiting for the right light. The signal to blow up the bridge was supposed to be the word “Vaya,” and the crew gave a Spanish officer the honor of igniting the blast. Unfortunately, a member of the crew, while trying to hurry a cameraman, said “Vaya” too quickly. The officer heard the word and blew up the bridge.

The special effects expert who accidentally triggered the explosion with his words fled the set quickly, while Leone simply said, “Let’s go eat.” The bridge was rebuilt, and the scene was re-shot, driving up the budget of the film.

7. EASTWOOD HATED HIS CIGARS.

Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” character is easily identified by the little cigarillos he’s almost constantly smoking. Unfortunately for Eastwood, he didn’t really have a taste for them, and Leone was a fan of multiple takes. So Eastwood had to smoke quite a bit, and sometimes he felt so bad that he had to lay down an ultimatum.

According to Wallach, Eastwood would sometimes tell the director: “You’d better get it this time, because I’m going to throw up.”

8. WALLACH WAS ALMOST SERIOUSLY INJURED THREE TIMES.

Of all the stars of the film, it seems Wallach had the hardest time while shooting. For the scene in which he’s about to be hanged while sitting atop a horse (the idea was that the horse would be ushered away, thus leaving him to hang), Eastwood was supposed to fire a rifle at the rope. A small explosive charge in the rope would then detonate, thus freeing Wallach. What Leone didn’t count on was that the horse would be spooked by the sound of the rifle, and take off at a dead gallop with Wallach on its back, his hands still tied.

“It took me a mile before that horse stopped,” Wallach recalled.

For the scene in which Tuco escapes Union captivity by cutting his handcuffs under a moving train, Leone wanted to make sure the audience saw Wallach himself, and not a stuntman, lying beside the train as it sped by. Wallach agreed, then realized after the first take that a metal step affixed to one of the cars had missed his head by inches.

“I realized that if I had raised my head four or five inches I’d be decapitated,” Wallach said.

His troubles still weren’t done, though. During the film’s climax, when Tuco unearths the gold hidden in the cemetery, the crew applied acid to one of the bags of gold, so that when Wallach hit it with his shovel it was guaranteed to split open on cue. What the crew didn’t tell Wallach was that they were keeping the acid in a bottle that once held a brand of lemon soda that he enjoyed. Wallach saw the bottle and, thinking it was his favorite drink, took a sip. Luckily, he realized his mistake before it was too late.

9. IT’S TECHNICALLY A PREQUEL.

Careful viewers of the “Dollars Trilogy” will note that, though it’s the final film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly actually takes place prior to the other two films. Among the clues: Eastwood acquires his iconic poncho, worn in both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, in the final minutes.

10. “THE UGLY” AND “THE BAD” ARE REVERSED IN THE FIRST TRAILER.

In the final film, Tuco is designated as “The Ugly,” while Lee Van Cleef’s character, Angel Eyes, is “The Bad.” In the original trailer for the American release, though, Angel Eyes is “The Ugly” and Tuco is “The Bad.”

11. EASTWOOD TURNED DOWN A FOURTH FILM.

By the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Eastwood was done working with Leone—a famous perfectionist—and had resolved that he would form his own company and start making his own movies. Leone, on the other hand, wasn’t necessarily done with Eastwood. He even flew to Los Angeles to pitch him the role of “Harmonica” (ultimately played by Charles Bronson) in Once Upon a Time in the West. Eastwood wasn’t interested.

12. JOHN WAYNE WAS NOT A FAN OF EASTWOOD.

Before Leone’s Westerns hit America, heroic gunfighters were almost always portrayed as men who waited for the villain to draw their guns first, the idea being that these were men who wouldn’t kill unless they had to. Among these heroes was John Wayne, whose career was winding down just as Eastwood’s was heating up. According to Eastwood, director Don Siegel (who made several films with Eastwood, including Dirty Harry) once tried to get Wayne to be more like the “Dollars Trilogy” star during the filming of Wayne’s final film, The Shootist. Wayne, it turns out, was not a fan of Eastwood’s more ruthless Western style.

For a scene in The Shootist in which Wayne was originally supposed to sneak up behind a man and shoot him in the back, Wayne declared “I don’t shoot anyone in the back.”

Siegel, according to Eastwood, replied: “Clint Eastwood would’ve shot him in the back.”

Wayne’s response: “I don’t care what that kid would’ve done.”

Additional Sources:
The Leone Style (2004)
Clint: The Life and Legend by Patrick McGilligan (1999)
American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood by Marc Eliot (2009)
Inside The Actors Studio: “Clint Eastwood” (2003)

The Psychology Behind Kids' L.O.L. Surprise! Doll Obsession

Jack Taylor, Getty Images
Jack Taylor, Getty Images

Isaac Larian, the founder and CEO of toymaker MGA Entertainment, is an insomniac. Fortunately for him, that inability to sleep forced him to get up out of bed one night—a move that ended up being worth $4 billion.

Larian’s company is the architect of L.O.L. Surprise!, a line of dolls with a clever conceit. The product, which retails for about $10 to $20, is encased in a ball-shaped plastic shell and buried under layers of packaging, forcing children to tear through a gauntlet of wrapping before they’re able to see it. The inspiration came on that highly profitable sleepless night, which Larian spent watching unboxing videos on YouTube. It resulted in the first toy made for a generation wired for delayed gratification.

The dolls first went on sale in test markets at select Target stores in late 2016. MGA shipped out 500,000 of them, all of which sold out within two months. A Cabbage Patch Kid-esque frenzy came the following year. By late 2018, L.O.L. Surprise! (the acronym stands for the fancifully redundant Little Outrageous Little) had moved 800 million units, accounted for seven of the top 10 toys sold in the U.S., and was named Toy of the Year by the Toy Association. Videos of kids and adults unboxing them garner millions of views on YouTube, which is precisely where Larian knew his marketing would be most effective.

A woman holds a L.O.L. Surprise doll and packaging in her hand
Cindy Ord, Getty Images for MGA Entertainment

The dolls themselves are nothing revolutionary. Once freed from their plastic prisons, they stare at their owner with doe-eyed expressions. Some “tinkle,” while others change color in water. They can be dressed in accessories found in the balls or paired with tiny pets (which also must be "unboxed"). Larger bundles, like last year’s $89.99 L.O.L. Bigger Surprise! capsule, feature a plethora of items, each individually wrapped. It took a writer from The New York Times 59 minutes to uncover everything inside.

This methodical excavation is what makes L.O.L. Surprise! so appealing to its pint-sized target audience. Though MGA was advised that kids wouldn’t want to buy something they couldn’t see, Larian and his executives had an instinctual understanding of what child development experts already knew: Kids like looking forward to things.

Dr. Rachel Barr, director of Georgetown University’s Early Learning Project, told The Atlantic that unboxing videos tickle the part of a child’s brain that enjoys anticipation. By age 4 or 5, they have a concept of “the future,” or events that will unfold somewhere other than the present. However, Barr said, they’re also wary of being scared by an unforeseen outcome. In an unboxing video, they know the payoff will be positive and not, say, a live tarantula.

L.O.L. Surprise! is engineered to prolong that anticipatory joy, with kids peeling away wrapping like an onion for up to 20 minutes at a time. The effect is not entirely novel—baseball card collectors have been buying and unwrapping card packs without knowing exactly what’s inside for decades—but paired with social media, MGA was able to strike oil. The dolls now have 350 licensees making everything from bed sheets to apparel. Collectors—or their parents—can buy a $199.99 doll house. So-called “boy toys” are now lurking inside the wrappers, with one, the mohawk-sporting Punk Boi, causing a mild stir for being what MGA calls “anatomically correct.” His tiny plastic genital area facilitates a peeing function.

Whether L.O.L. Surprise! bucks conventional toy trends and continues its popularity beyond a handful of holiday seasons remains to be seen. Already, MGA is pushing alternative products like Poopsie Slime Surprise, a unicorn that can be fed glitter and poops a viscous green slime. An official unboxing video has been viewed 4.2 million times and counting.

The 8 Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2019

Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Michele K. Short, Universal Pictures

Between Hereditary, A Quiet Place, and Halloween, 2018 was a killer year for horror moviesand 2019 is shaping up to be just as impressive. While remakes seem to be dominating the schedule in the coming months, there are plenty of sequels, adaptations, and even a few promising original titles coming out as well. Here are some of the scary movies we're most looking forward to seeing this year.

1. Us

In 2017, Jordan Peele revolutionized the horror genre with Get Out. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker plans to do the same again with Us, which features a predominantly black cast—a rarity for a horror movie. "I dedicated a lot of myself to creating a new horror mythology and a new monster," Peele said of the film. "I think that monsters and stories about monsters are our best ways of getting at deeper truths and facing our fears as a society ... It’s also important to note that this movie, unlike Get Out, is not about race. It is instead about something I feel has become an undeniable truth. That is the simple fact that we are our own worst enemies." Us, which stars Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong'o, arrives in theaters on March 22, 2019.

2. IT: Chapter 2

Stephen King fans were thrilled with 2017's IT, the second adaptation of the horror master's beloved 1986 novel. Andy Muschietti is sitting in the director's chair again for the second chapter, which will follow the Losers Club as they return to Derry, Maine in their adult years. While Bill Skarsgård will reprise his role as Pennywise, impressive new additions to the cast include Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James McAvoy. The film debuts on September 6, 2019.

3. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

If you’ve been a horror fiend since childhood, you’ll no doubt remember Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series. The books included memorable illustrations by Stephen Gammell, some of which no doubt haunted many children’s nightmares. The film adaptation will be released on August 9, 2019.

4. Zombieland 2

Venom director Ruben Fleischer's feature debut, 2009's Zombieland, was an instant hit with both horror and comedy fans. And they've been waiting 10 years for a sequel. Finally, we’ll be getting a second film this year with Fleischer directing and Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and even Bill Murray all confirmed to return. Zombieland 2 is set to hit theaters on October 11, 2019.

5. Happy Death Day 2U

The hilariously bad-but-fun Happy Death Day (2017) surprised audiences with how flat-out entertaining it was, so much so that fans were thrilled to hear there were plans for a sequel. Much like the original movie, the second film will follow protagonist Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) as she’s killed every single day. But this time, the killer is coming for her friends, too. Happy Death Day 2U premieres on February 14, 2019.

6. Pet Sematary

Though Mary Lambert's original Pet Sematary (1989) was not met with much critical acclaim, fans of the Stephen King novel were pleased with the adaptation, and are excited to see the story come to life again. The remake, which is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and stars John Lithgow and Jason Clarke, debuts on April 5, 2019.

7. Child’s Play

When rumors began swirling that there was going to be another Chucky movie, and that it would be a remake of the original Child’s Play at that, people—including the original series creator Don Mancini—didn't initially seem too excited.

But as more details—including a cast list that includes Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry—were made public, interest in the project seemed to grow. Child’s Play hits theaters June 21, 2019.

8. The Prodigy

Creepy kids will never fail to make terrifying horror movie villains. In The Prodigy, Taylor Schilling’s character discovers something supernatural might be happening to her son when he starts acting as if he’s possessed. (Spoiler alert: He probably is). The film will be released on February 8, 2019.

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