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.
The script floated around Hollywood for almost 20 years. Gene Hackman read and rejected it, only to be later convinced by Clint Eastwood (who had owned the rights for some time) to play a role.
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. However, the scene was eventually cut, with her son apologizing that the movie 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.
This movie laid 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 this movie, Eastwood has gone on to win two more Oscars, as well as a Irving Thalberg Memorial Award, and has been nominated an additional six times.
This is the third western to win the Best Picture Oscar. The other two are Dances with Wolves (1990) and Cimarron (1931).
Shot in Calgary, Canada, which was experiencing unusually dry weather. Most of the rain was created on-site. The snow that falls when William Munny is recovering from his beating was unexpected and unscripted.
The boots Clint Eastwood wore are the same ones he wore in Rawhide (1959). These boots are now part of Eastwood's private collection. In 2005 they were loaned to the Sergio Leone exhibit at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, CA. The boots basically book-ended Eastwood's career in Westerns.
In the early 1980s, Francis Ford Coppola got 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-schmacting. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is." Malkovich worked with Clint Eastwood on In the Line of Fire (1993) and Changeling (2008).
Richard Harris was watching High Plains Drifter (1973) on television when Clint Eastwood phoned him to offer the part of English Bob.
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.
To maintain the authentic atmosphere, no motor vehicles were allowed on the Big Whiskey set.
Frances Fisher said that David Webb Peoples's original script was one of the most perfect she had ever seen, as it almost read like a novel. She illustrated this with the fact that while most scripts are full of later revisions marked by red ink in the margins, this one hardly had any. One of the few changes that Clint Eastwood made to Peoples' script was to remove the opening voice-over and replace it with text.
The character Corky Corcoran is the name of a cameraman who 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.
Production designer Henry Bumstead took only 32 days to have the Big Whiskey set constructed, the fastest in his lengthy career.
Clint Eastwood said at the time that this would be the last movie that he would both act in and direct. He has since been actor and director in several other films.
Ranked #4 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Western" in June 2008.
(at around 1h 7 mins) When English Bob departs, cursing at the town, he speaks with a rough, lower-class cockney accent, confirming that Bob's refined, upper-crust persona was fake. In a 1992 interview Richard Harris revealed, "I read the script and I said to Clint Eastwood, 'You know, it would be great if I could play this man as a very sort of upper-class fake, and at the end of the picture--when he gets the hell beaten out of him--maybe all of that drops, and you see behind it all he's really sort of a low life'. And Clint said, 'Yes, great! Go for it!'."
Shot in 39 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 stunt coordinator used the construction period to work on actors' riding skills and stunt choreography.
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, concerned about rising gun violence in American cities. Eastwood assured Hackman that this movie wouldn't glorify gun violence.
Morgan Freeman learned about this movie from Kevin Costner while filming Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Freeman approached Clint Eastwood and got the role of Ned Logan.
(at around 37 mins) 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 James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok. He 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. 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 20 men with 20 shots, saying that his theory was start shooting, and keep shooting, until the man you were shooting at was dead.
This movie and High Plains Drifter (1973) open and close with the same location, camera angle, and time of day.
Gene Hackman had turned down the part of Munny before the script came to Clint Eastwood.
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.
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, CA, where it was sent after shooting.
Clint Eastwood asked Gene Hackman to model "Little Bill" Daggett on then-Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates.
Will's difficulty in mounting the horse was achieved by his holding the left rein close in, which makes the horse turn to the left.
The music for the trailer, which appeared in theaters and on some of the DVDs, was composed by Randy J. Shams and Tim Stithem in 1992. The main theme song, "Claudia's Theme", was composed by Clint Eastwood.
Producer / director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter David Webb Peoples didn't set out to make an anti-violence movie. Eastwood said that he was interested in deconstructing the myth of the Old West, with its clear distinction between heroes and villains, and wanted to show an inglorious depiction of death.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this 68 in its list of Greatest Movies of All Time.
The train sequences were filmed in Sonora, CA, as there was an operational 19th-century standard-gauge railway track in the area.
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." He later said that he waited purposely until he had the right age and he was in the right place of his career. 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.
In 2004 this film was added to the US National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"
The screenplay was written by David Webb Peoples, who debuted with the screenplay of Blade Runner (1982). Peoples had already written and sold the script for this movie sometime in the 1970s, but it took around 20 years before it got made into a movie. It was initially optioned as a project for Francis Ford Coppola and John Malkovich, but this fell through. It was subsequently bought by Clint Eastwood, but again, many years passed without anything happening (Eastwood was saving it for the right moment in his life). It was actually at a party that David and his wife Janet Peoples happened to meet Eastwood, and Janet boldly asked him if he was ever going to make this movie. Eastwood answered that he was just about to announce that.
The writer, David Webb Peoples, based his story partly on a western novel that impressed him greatly, This book was made into a movie, The Shootist (1976), which was the last film ever made by John Wayne. Like Eastwood's character in this film, Wayne's character was an aging former gunfighter who finds himself facing extreme odd, leading to a dark end. As with the pulp writer in this film, there is a younger character who is fascinated with the lethal reputation of the protagonist and who serves as witness to his last hurrah.
The concept for this movie dated to 1976, when it was developed under the titles "The Cut-Whore Killings" and "The William Munny Killings".
(at around 17 mins) The earlier scene when William Munny (Clint Eastwood) practices firing guns is reminiscent of Josey Wales (Eastwood) firing guns before the credits of The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
The railroad, used to film the train sequence, was also used for Pale Rider (1985).
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The rifle Deputy Andy Russell (Jeremy Ratchford) carries to arrest English Bob (Richard Harris) is a Winchester '66 "Yellowboy" with the fore-stock removed, to resemble a first-model Henry.
The second film Morgan Freeman was in that won an Oscar for best picture, the first being Driving Miss Daisy and the third one being Million Dollar Baby also directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.
Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman were both born in 1930; Clint Eastwood on May 31, and Gene Hackman on January 30.
The film makes multiple references to the vicious nature of the killings committed by Munny in his younger years. This nature is not seen in the man that he eventually became. At one point he reminisces with Ned about the drover who he had killed years before. This is reminiscent of the wanton and soulless viciousness seen in Gavan O'Herlihy's performance as Dan Suggs in his murderous hatred of sodbusters in Lonesome Dove (1989).
Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman later starred in Absolute Power (1997), also directed by Clint Eastwood.
Saul Rubinek (W.W. Beauchamp) and Anna Thomson (Delilah Fitzgerald) both appeared in True Romance (1993).
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman; and one Oscar nominee: Richard Harris.