Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly combine to form what’s become known as one of the greatest trilogies ever made, turning Clint Eastwood into the epitome of on-screen cool. And yet, the director never viewed them as being connected at all.
The similarities between the three roles Eastwood plays are there for all to see, but it was American distributor United Artists who came up with the ‘Man with No Name’ motif to create a thread between the trio, all of which are viewed in their own right as one of the greatest westerns ever made.
Of course, the intervening decades have seen it become widely accepted that Joe, Manco, and Blondie are the same person operating under different aliases. Leone may have approached them as three individual features, but in each one, Eastwood is the same approximation of an archetypal poncho-wearing, cigar-chomping, gun-toting outsider with a gruff and grizzled exterior.
It was standard practice for any self-respecting hero in the western genre to have a cigar or cigarette leaning out of the corner of their mouth, but it was a decision that Eastwood came to regret. The actor knew how it would come across on-screen, but as he revealed to The Independent, he underestimated how little he’d end up appreciating them: “I went out and bought a bunch of cigars that I thought would look good in a western. I had no idea they’d taste so vile,” he said. “But I brought those along with me and I gave them to props and we cut them all up.”
In the biography Clint: The Life and Legend, it’s even noted that Eastwood’s disdain for the cigars led to tense moments between him and Leone on set, when he reportedly told the director after multiple takes of the same scene that “you better get it this time, because I’m going to throw up”.
Of course, Hollywood has been using prop cigarettes for decades that don’t contain tobacco or nicotine, a luxury that evidently wasn’t afforded to three Italian productions that were made independently at a fraction of the cost of most American-backed Westerns.
Ironically, Eastwood has never been a smoker in his personal life despite how often he was seen lighting up and puffing away throughout the decades in a number of different films, which no doubt exacerbated his distaste for the sheer volume of cigars he ended up putting away across the duration of the Dollars trilogy.
It’s hard to imagine the Man with No Name without them, though, with Eastwood gutting through so many “vile-tasting” cigars only adding to the iconography of the justice-seeking gunslinger across his stint in the cinematic spotlight.