Why did you decide to become a filmmaker? SL: My mother was an actress. My father was an actor and a director. I am the son of filmmakers. I was born with this bow tie made of celluloid on my collar.
And why did you decide to make westerns? SL: I had never thought of making a western even as I was making it. I think that my films are westerns only in their exterior aspects. Within them are some of my truths, which happily, I see, belong to lots of parts of the world. Not just America. My discussion is one that has gone all the way from Fistful of Dollars through Once Upon a Time in America. But if you look closely at all these films, you find in them the same meanings, the same humor, the same point of view, and, also, the same pains.
Which filmmakers influenced you, and what were your favorite films? SL: I must be honest and say that I was under the fascination of films. I was fascinated by all films, even the words of them. If I was to do a more-precise analysis of the situation, I have to admit that I was more entertained by the bad films than the good ones. Because when something is beautiful, it is there; it is finished; it is done. It doesn’t have to be touched or be worked upon. But if it is badly realized and not completely expressed, sometimes that is more provocative and interesting than when you see something that is perfectly and beautifully done. But if there is an auteur who influenced me—and there is only one—that is Charlie Chaplin. And he never won an Oscar. —Interview with Sergio Leone (1987)
This is a fantastic footage. Film history right there: Gianni Minà with Sergio Leone and Robert De Niro on the set of Once Upon a Time in America.