Over the years, Clint Eastwood’s name has become synonymous with some of the best Westerns of all time. This is partially due to the fact that the star rose to international fame after being cast in Sergio Leone’s iconic Dollars Trilogy in the 1960s – which was comprised of the following spaghetti Westerns: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Eastwood famously played the sharpshooting anti-hero The Man with No Name in the flicks – but it turns out that he wasn’t Leone’s first, second, or even third choice for the part. Eastwood, who before 1963’s A Fistful of Dollars was best known for his work in the TV series Rawhide, was, in fact, the seventh star that Leone approached for the role.
Leone obviously had a particular image for The Man with No Name in mind. The director wanted an All-American-looking type, that would break expectations as the morally dubious gunslinger went about on his way in the trilogy. The filmmaker and studio were eyeing up a number of already established stars. And the first actor Leone originally thought of, according to ScreenRant, was Henry Fonda.
The director wanted Fonda, who was known as a classic good guy, to play against type as a villain with a questionable sense of justice. Fonda would later fulfil Leone’s wish in the 1968 drama movie Once Upon a Time in the West – but didn’t sign onto the Dollars trilogy.
Other actors up for the part before Eastwood, in the order of their consideration, were: Charles Bronson (who would later also appear in once Upon a Time in the West), Henry Silva (a known villain actor appearing in films like The Tall T), Rory Calhoun (as seen in Leone’s flick The Colossus of Rhodes), James Coburn (a comedy star), and Richard Harrison (who appeared in one of the first spaghetti westerns, Gunfight at Red Sands).
At the end of the day, we are glad the role of The Man with No Name went to Eastwood, as it would launch the actor into the western spotlight, and be the beginning of the star becoming one of the greats of the genre. Leone himself has even acknowledged that Eastwood was ultimately the right choice.
The filmmaker is quoted in Patrick McGilligan’s book – Clint: The Life and Legend – commenting on why Eastwood was perfect for the character. “At that time, I needed a mask rather than an actor,” he explained. “And Eastwood had only two facial expressions: one with the hat and one without it.”