by Woody Strode and Sam Young
In this country, Sergio Leone was known as the king of spaghetti westerns. He's the guy that made Clint Eastwood a star. And I remember him telling me, "I'm going to make a star out of Charlie Bronson." That's how he said it, no hemming and hawing. In the United States, Charlie couldn't get arrested, but when the Italians got a hold of him, with his beautiful character face, they made a star out of him.
Sergio Leone knew me through THE PROFESSIONALS and the westerns I made for John Ford. He offered me $7,500 for fourteen days' work; Sid Gold countered at ten grand. They finally settled at $8,000 because Sid knew that this would be an outstanding film for me.
When I met the production team they were staying at a big hotel about two-and-a-half hours from the location. I wanted to meet Sergio, so I asked the production manager where I could find him. He said, "Mr. Leone is staying in the little town of Guadix," which was about ten minutes from the job.
I said, "That's where my wife and I are going to stay," and they drove us over. We moved into this little joint with Sergio, and he picked up the tab. Sergio, who loved to eat and was pretty big as a result, bought us dinner every night. I remember him asking me in his thick Italian accent why Hollywood had never made me a star. The Italians could never understand why I wasn't a star at home.
I told him, "I don't think they've gotten used to me coming off the mountain on a horse with John Wayne by my side." But Sergio saw what I could do, and that was enough for him.