The Cinema Behind Star Wars: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Bryan Young | December 17, 2012

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Western films have long served as inspiration in the course of film history. Orson Welles reportedly watched John Ford’s film Stagecoach repeatedly while preparing and editing Citizen Kane. Akira Kurosawa was said to have worshiped the work of John Ford and applied the Japanese sensibilities of samurai to a uniquely western genre of storytelling. Kurosawa made epic western-like films like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro.

One of his films in particular, Yojimbo, inspired one of the most influential directors of westerns, Sergio Leone. Leone turned Yojimbo, a samurai film inspired by westerns, into an Italian-made “spaghetti western” called A Fistful of Dollars. Seriously, it’s a direct remake with many of the same shots and lines directly paying homage.

A Fistful of Dollars is incredibly important to the Star Wars universe for a lot of reasons. According to Jeremy Bulloch, his entire portrayal of Boba Fett was based on Clint Eastwood’s performance as “The Man With No Name” in A Fistful of Dollars. The minimal movement and menacing demeanor of Clint Eastwood can be seen in every movement (or lack of it) in everyone’s favorite Mandalorian bounty hunter in the classic trilogy.

Even Jango Fett gets in on the action, spinning his gun into his holster in Attack of the Clones (after the untimely death of Coleman Trebor) just like Clint Eastwood in this trio of Leone’s films.

The similarities even come down to costume choices. Eastwood spent much of the movies in a poncho that seems incredibly reminiscent to the one worn by a young Boba Fett on Kamino, but also Luke in Episode IV and Qui-Gon in Episode I.

Through the entire “Man With No Name” trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the desolate wastelands of the desert is paid much attention. The heat of the desert can be seen in the same oppressive fashion every time Tatooine is shown on-screen, but there are many touchstones to these movies in particular that can be seen in Star Wars. Aside from bits of architecture that are reminiscent of locations like the Lars homestead and Mos Eisley. These films are full of scum and villainy, and it feels like the entirety of Tatooine. You have the benevolent farmers like the Lars, the bandits like the Tusken Raiders, and bounty hunters like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. Which brings us to Lee Van Cleef’s character of Angel Eyes.

The third film in Leone’s trilogy involves itself primarily with bounty hunters and their chase for money, blowing people away in any situation during their quest for it, and it feels like the basis of so much in Star Wars: Not only the bounty hunters chasing Han through The Empire Strikes Back, but every bounty hunter-centric episode of The Clone Wars. In fact, according to Pablo Hidalgo in this StarWars.com blog from 2009, George Lucas specifically cited Lee Van Cleef’s ruthless bounty hunter Angel Eyes when they were developing Cad Bane for the first season of The Clone Wars. The homage couldn’t be more apparent. Bane, like Angel Eyes, is no one to be trifled with and will kill coldly and quickly without a second thought. They both share the desire to disguise themselves as enemy forces (Angel Eyes as a Union Soldier, Cad Bane as a clone trooper), and they both wear iconic, wide-brimmed hats. Both Bane and Angel Eyes speak with a knowing arrogance that comes from being lethal and intelligent. Aside from the fact that he’s a Duros, Cad Bane would fit right into Leone’s world, just as easily as he’s found himself in the Star Wars universe.

For those who love the bounty hunters and their adventures, both in The Clone Wars and the Star Wars films proper, they’d do well to give Leone’s spaghetti westerns a try. They’re fun and exude the same attributes and feelings you get when you watch Cad Bane and his crew in action, or Boba or Jango Fett taking care of business. It’s just dripping with cool, and inspired Star Wars in many obvious ways and plenty of not-so-obvious ways.

Bryan Young is an author, a filmmaker, journalist, and the editor in chief of BigShinyRobot.com!

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