The final screen credit reads, "Dedicated to Sergio and Don", referring to Clint Eastwood's mentors, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.
Although the score was arranged by Lennie Niehaus, the main theme was written by Clint Eastwood himself.
This film put to rest Clint Eastwood's longstanding statement why he would never win an Oscar. Eastwood reckoned he would never be in the running because "first, I'm not Jewish. Secondly, I make too much money. Thirdly, and most importantly, because I don't give a fuck". Since his double Oscar win for Unforgiven (1992), Eastwood has gone on to win two more Oscars, as well as an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, and has been nominated an additional six times.
Clint Eastwood's mother Ruth Wood toiled through an uncomfortable day (wearing a heavy dress) as an extra, filming a scene where she boards a train; but the scene was eventually cut, with her son apologizing that the film was "too long and something had to go." All was forgiven when he brought her to the Academy Awards and thanked her prominently in his acceptance speech.
The script floated around Hollywood for nearly twenty years, during which time, Gene Hackman read and rejected it, only to be later convinced by Clint Eastwood (who had owned the rights to the script for some time) to play a role.
Only the third western to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. The other two being Dances with Wolves (1990) and Cimarron (1931).
To maintain the authentic atmosphere, no motor vehicles were allowed on the Big Whiskey set.
Most of the rain in the film was specially created because Calgary, where it was shot, was experiencing a dry spell, though the snowfall that is featured when William Munny is recovering from his beating was unexpected (and unscripted).
The film was shot in thirty-nine days, coming in four days ahead of schedule. The town had to be built very quickly, with a relatively short run-up time (two months) to the start of filming; the construction period was used by the Stunt Coordinator to work on actors' riding skills, and stunt choreography.
The boots that Clint Eastwood wore in this film are the same boots that he wore in the television series Rawhide (1959). These boots are now a part of Eastwood's private collection and were on loan to the 2005 Sergio Leone exhibit at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, California. In essence these boots have book-ended Eastwood's career in the Western genre.
In the early 1980s, Francis Ford Coppola got ahold of the script, and met with John Malkovich to offer him the role of William Munny. Malkovich recalled: "The offer was not very serious - thank God! 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? I wouldn't! I would've just been acting-schmatching. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is."
Deputy Clyde's line about why a one armed man needed to carry three pistols: "I don't want to get killed from lack of being able to shoot back" is sometimes attributed to lawman and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok, who usually carried two pistols around his waist, another in a shoulder holster, sometimes another stuck in the back of his belt, and usually had at least one Derringer hidden somewhere on his person. While working as a lawman, he usually carried a sawed off shotgun as well. Hickok also laughed at Ned Buntline's report about his killing twenty men with twenty shots, saying that his theory was start shooting and keep shooting, until the man you were shooting at was dead.
Sir Richard Harris was watching High Plains Drifter (1973) on television when Clint Eastwood phoned him to offer the part of English Bob.
Ranked #4 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Western" in June 2008.
It took Clint Eastwood several years to actually get around to reading the script, as his script reader had initially told him that it wasn't very good.
Production Designer Henry Bumstead took only thirty-two days to have the Big Whiskey set constructed, the fastest in his lengthy career.
According to Clint Eastwood in a 2000 interview, Gene Hackman was very concerned about how they were going to show the violence in the movie, owing to the rising gun violence in American cities. Eastwood assured Hackman that the film wouldn't glorify gun violence.
One of the few changes that Clint Eastwood made to David Webb Peoples's original script, was to remove the opening voiceover and replace it with text.
Gene Hackman had turned down the part of Munny before the script came to Clint Eastwood.
Clint Eastwood said at the time that this would be the last movie that he would both act in and direct, but he went on to appear in quite a lot of movies he directed since then.
The windmill that appears in the backdrop through much of the movie was a real operating windmill, rather than a set piece, and to this day, pumps water to The Dow Wetlands Preserve in Antioch, California, where it was sent after shooting.
With inflation, the one thousand dollar bounty on the cowboys, would be the equivalent to one hundred ten thousand dollars now, at a very liberal estimate. A more conservative estimate would be around thirty thousand dollars.
Morgan Freeman came to know about the film from Kevin Costner while filming Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Morgan approached Clint Eastwood and received the role of Ned Logan.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #68 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Clint Eastwood joined a list of actors who have won an Oscar for directing but not for acting. They include Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Sir Richard Attenborough, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson.
The train sequences were filmed in Sonora, California, as there remained an operational nineteenth century standard-gauge railway track in the area.
None of the participants, least of all Clint Eastwood and writer David Webb Peoples, actively set out to make an anti-violence film. It was a natural by-product of the script.
This movie, and High Plains Drifter (1973) open and close with the same location, camera angle, and time of day.
Writer David Webb Peoples credits Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) and Glendon Swarthout's novel "The Shootist" as two of the major shaping influences of his screenplay.
Clint Eastwood asked Gene Hackman to model his character of Little Bill Daggett on then Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates.
At the time of the Academy Awards ceremony, Frances Fisher was four months pregnant, but under strict orders not to tell anyone, including her closest friends. "I don't want that kinda thing taking attention away from my Oscar race!" Clint Eastwood said to her. When Eastwood's name was announced as the winner for Best Director, Fisher tried to hug him, but he quickly pulled away and walked onstage. In his acceptance speech, he thanked Fisher only in professional context along with many other members of the cast and crew, acknowledging no personal attachment to her whatsoever. Fisher finally announced her pregnancy two months before giving birth, and news outlets prefaced with "according to", "reportedly", et cetera, because Clint and his representatives refused to confirm. When Francesca Eastwood was born in August 1993, she was misreported everywhere as being the third child for sixty-three-year-old Clint. Francesca is at least Clint's seventh child.
The earlier scene when William Munny practices firing guns is reminiscent of Josey Wales firing guns before the credits of The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
Though this movie, and some of his later ones would be nominated and win Oscars, this was the first time Clint Eastwood was nominated for Oscars in his career. He had been a presenter before.
By Clint Eastwood's own recollection he was given the script in the "early 80s" although he did not immediately pursue it, because according to him "I thought I should do some other things first." Biographer Patrick McGilligan specifies that it was presented to him in the spring of 1984 by Megan Rose, a story analyst at Warner Brothers, who Eastwood happened to be sleeping with at the time.
One of two times when the presenter handing Clint Eastwood an Oscar was Barbra Streisand. She later handed him the Best Picture Oscar of Million Dollar Baby (2004). Before giving the second movie award to him, she said, "I would be very happy to give you this again, Clint."
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman; and one Oscar nominee: Sir Richard Harris.
The following guns were used in this movie. 1. William Munny used a 1859 Starr revolver double action, a Smith and Wesson Schofield revolver, a 12-gauge double barreled coach shotgun, and later a Spencer rifle. 2. Ned uses a Spencer rifle. 3. The Kid uses a S&W Schofield, and earlier he uses a Winchester 1873 rifle. 4. English Bob uses a Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" Single action Army and a Bulldog .32 caliber pocket pistol. 5. Little Bill used a Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" Single action Army. 6. The Cathouse owner has a Colt 1851 single action revolver. 7. Andy the deputy uses a Winchester 1866 "Yellow Boy" made to look like a Henry rifle by removing the for-end. 8. The one armed law man uses 3 revolvers one a Remington 1875 and 2 Colt 1873 "Peacemakers". 9. Various people stick to the famed "peacemakers" and Winchester '73 rifles.
Perhaps due to winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Gene Hackman would appear in three other westerns in supporting roles a year apart: Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), Wyatt Earp (1994), and The Quick and the Dead (1995).
The character Corky Corcoran is the name of a cameraman that was filming a promotional spot for another Clint Eastwood movie. During a break in the interview, Clint Eastwood asked what the cameraman's name was, and when told it was Corky Corcoran, Clint did not believe him. His given name is John, but he went by Corky his whole life. Clint said that was a hell of a name.
The tavern in which the final scene takes place is called Greeley's. It is a reference to New York Tribune Editor Horace Greeley, who is often incorrectly attributed with writing the line "Go West, young man." That line was actually written by John B.L. Soule. The phrase "Go West, young man" is often attributed to New York Tribune founder Horace Greeley, and often misattributed to Indiana journalist John B. L. Soule, but the latest research shows it to be a paraphrase.
One of two Best Director and Best Picture Oscar winners featuring Clint Eastwood as actor and director, with Morgan Freeman co-starring. They would later re-team for Million Dollar Baby (2004).
Three of the main actors were born in 1930: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Sir Richard Harris.
The concept for the film dated to 1976, when it was developed under the titles The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings.
When Will notes that Ned is still using a Spencer rifle, it would imply that Ned carried it in the Civil War as a member of a U.S. Colored Troops cavalry regiment. Morgan Freeman also starred in Glory (1989), as a member of a U.S. Colored regiment.
One of three Warner Brothers movies in a row, where the Best Picture winner co-starred Morgan Freeman. The other two are Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Million Dollar Baby (2004). The Departed (2006) would be the first Warner Brothers Best Picture Oscar without Freeman since Amadeus (1984).
With this film being an Oscar-winning western, Clint Eastwood went on to direct and star in A Perfect World (1993). Eastwood and Kevin Costner had something in common, as Costner had also directed and starred in an Oscar-winning western, Dances with Wolves (1990).
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The railroad, used to film the train sequence, was also used for Pale Rider (1985).
The rifle Deputy Andy Russell (Jeremy Ratchford) carries, to arrest English Bob (Sir Richard Harris), is a Winchester '66 "Yellowboy", with the fore-stock removed, to resemble a first-model Henry.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.