3 January 2016

Sergio Leone – film director

Distinctive style of  ‘Spaghetti Western’ creator

Italian film director, producer and screen writer Sergio Leone was born on this day in 1929 in Rome.

Leone is most associated with the ‘spaghetti western’ genre of films, such as the Dollars trilogy of westerns featuring Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood starred in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy
Clint Eastwood in a publicity shot for
Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars
He had a distinctive film-making style that involved juxtaposing extreme close-up shots with lengthy long shots.

Leone’s father was a film director and his mother was a silent film actress. He went to watch his father at work on film sets from an early age.

He dropped out of university to begin his own career in the industry at the age of 18 as an assistant to the director Vittorio de Sica.

He began writing screen plays and worked as an assistant director on Quo Vadis and Ben Hur at Cinecittà in Rome.

When the director of The Last Days of Pompeii fell ill, Leone was asked to step in and complete the film.

He made his solo debut as a director with The Colossus of Rhodes in 1961.

Leone turned his attention to making spaghetti westerns in the 1960s and his films, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly were big financial successes.

He turned down the opportunity to direct The Godfather to work on the gangster film Once Upon A Time in America. It was drastically cut by the film company and was initially a flop. But when the original, longer version was released it was hailed a masterpiece. It was to be his last film.

In 1988 he was head of the jury at the 45th Venice International Film Festival.

Leone died in 1989 at the age of 60.

Travel tip:

Cinecittà in Rome, the hub of the Italian film industry, is a large studio complex to the south of the city, built during the fascist era under the personal direction of Benito Mussolini and his son, Vittorio. The studios were bombed by the Allies in the Second World War but were rebuilt and used again in the 1950s for large productions, such as Ben Hur. These days a range of productions, from television drama to music videos, are filmed there and it has its own dedicated Metro stop.

Sergio Leone on the set of
Once Upon a Time in America

Travel tip:

The first Venice film festival was held in 1932 on the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior on the Venice Lido and was such a success it was held again in 1934. The 73rd Venice International Film Festival, organised by La Biennale di Venezia, will take place from 31 August to 10 September 2016 . The aim of the festival will be to raise awareness of, and promote, international cinema as art, entertainment and also an industry. For more information about the 2016 festival, visit www.labiennale.org.

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