Rome, Jan. 9.
After three straight years of absolute boxoffice leadership with "For A Fistful of Dollars," "For A Few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Ugly, The Bad," Sergio Leone missed the marquee last Dec. 25 though indirectly represented by his ex-assistant Tonino Valeri, and a Leone-like western, "Days of Anger."
Prepared to abandon the school of Italoaters he brought to life, Leone last week discussed his return to coproduce and direct a $5,000,000 saga, "Once Upon a Time In the West," and explained his long absence since "The Good, The Ugly, The Bad" as a period filled with preparation to complete the screenplay commit a big cast and set locations in Arizona and Spain.
Partnering with Euro International Film, Leone signed Charles Bronson as the male lead (though billed below the title), Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards (above the title) and a supporting cast including Enrico Maria Salerno, Frank Woolf, Robert Hossein, Robert Ryan, Jack Elam and Woody Strode.
Europe International prexy Count Giuseppe Cicogna said "Once Upon a Time" would enter production April 1 near Guadix in southern Spain for a two-month location period, then move to Monument Valley for four more weeks of exteriors and wind on interiors in Rome either in Cinecitta or Dinocitta.
Budget, he said, was over 3,000,000,000 lire ($5,000,000) an investment totally financed in Italy - the biggest project of its kind backed entirely by national capital. However, the investment risk is considerably lighter since Cicoqua's recent deal with Paramount topper Charles Bluhdorn for Yank release worldwide, less Italy where Cicogna hopes Leone will climb back in the b.o. saddle with another of his shattering grosses for the Euro distrib banner.
Yarn deals with three bandits (Bronson, Fonda, Robards) and prostie Cardinale in the '60s of the last century who find the West closing out on them with advent of the chemin de fer and unity between East and West. Film will retain the violence and irony that characterized Leone's earlier trio of school-founding oaters. But the director said he hopes to incorporate a big social vista of mid-18th century America.
[Again, I've reproduced the original article with mis-spellings and factual mistakes; i.e. the film takes place during the 19th century - the 1800s, not the 18th century - the 1700s.]