by Eli Wallach
Leone was a fine director - intelligent, innovative. He had assembled a great group of technicians - his cameraman, scenic artist, and composer had all worked together on his two previous Westerns. From time to time, he and I engaged in a sort of game. I'd try to outwit him with odd behaviors - for example, turning my back away from the camera. He'd retaliate by changing the lines I was supposed to deliver at the last minute to throw me off balance. In one scene he directed me to walk into a gun shop. He told me to take apart some of the guns, then put them back together using different pieces.
I hate guns, have never had any use for them. But I pretended to be an expert as I squinted through the barrel of a Colt pistol and stared down the owner of the gun shop. I then spun the bullet chamber of a Winchester and put it to my ear, finally putting the parts of the different guns together until I created a monstrous weapon. I loved the fact that Leone kept the camera running, figuring that I'd eventually run out of creative impulses. But I trumped his king by playing my ace: As I began walking out of the shop with my new gun, I spied an OPEN sign hanging on the door. I reversed the sign to read CLOSED and then ordered the bewildered gun shop owner to open his mouth wide and shoved the CLOSED sign into it. "Cut, cut!" Leone cried as he burst out laughing.
I used to joke with Leone about his directing methods and his nervous habits. He'd often open and close his fists or tear pieces of paper. I stopped once while filming and said, "Sergio, all I see are your hands; I can't concentrate on acting." He responded by stage managing some surprised to distract me. In the finale of the film, my character, Tuco, discovers the grave where some gold is supposedly hidden. Leone directed me to enter with reverence and gravity, and to walk on with hope and tension in perfect silence. And just as the camera began rolling, without warning me, he released a trained dog to start running toward my legs. Later on he told me that he wanted to break the dramatic tension and film my natural response of surprise. "This was my method," he said. "So our little game is even now."