He accepted it at the last moment. In fact I was supposed to do it with Franco Nero, but I didn't like the title. It had an ill-omened ring to it, and I wasn't wrong: the film didn't earn a lira.
I borrowed Tessari's favorite actor, Giuliano Gemma, for a Western called IL BIANCO, IL GIALLO, IL NERO (THE WHITE THE YELLOW AND THE BLACK, aka SAMURAI), putting him side by side with (Tomas) Milian and (Eli) Wallach; three giants!
Eli Wallach was born with the Western. Both Leone and I called him up after seeing him play the bad guys in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. He knew how to ride a horse, he was an great actor and an excellent collaborator, always a little surprised by the way Italians worked. From the start, he was taken aback by never knowing what he was going to say till the very last minute, and then he learned that with us the lines were the last things we write, and he adapted. He was stingy when it came to food, however; in the evening he brought a little lunch pail to his hotel room and ate there so he wouldn't spend money!
Gemma? According to me, Gemma is one of hte noblest actors of the '60s generation; a very serious lad who did everything himself without doubles or stuntmen. And he remained himself, with that fine face of his, so open, reflecting exactly what's in his soul. I only did one film with him, but I'd work with him anytime for free because he's a serious person in his life as well as his work; someone you can trust.
Telly Savalas is Greek. He has this half-friendly half-mean looking face. When we worked together he was hung up on the ladies. He had to have two or three around him at a time, he said, or he didn't feel up to par. We shot J&S CRONACHE CRIMINALI DEL FAR WEST (SONNY AND JED), a film that didn't do well, but is one of my best. Tomas Milian and Susan George were in it, and even Laura Betti. It was an offbeat story that didn't work out I believe because "She" was in it. The woman. It's very difficult trying to do something truly new, giving the woman the same importance as the man if not more, since, as we know, women only play marginal roles in Westerns. Even so, I chose George for this, who was famous in America and England. I wanted to do a BONNIE AND CLYDE type story, and, in my opinion, I succeeded. The film was very good and very romantic, but the public for Westerns wouldn't accept it, and it was a fiasco.