This movie put to rest Clint Eastwood's longstanding statement why he would never win an Oscar. Eastwood reckoned he would never be in the running because "First, I'm not Jewish. Secondly, I make too much money. Thirdly, and most importantly, because I don't give a fu-ck." Since his double Oscar win for this movie, Eastwood has gone on to win two more Oscars, as well as an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, and has been nominated an additional six times.
The script floated around Hollywood for nearly twenty years, during which time, Gene Hackman read and rejected it, only to be later convinced by Clint Eastwood (who had owned the rights to the script for some time) to play a role.
Clint Eastwood's mother Ruth Wood toiled through an uncomfortable day (wearing a heavy dress) as an extra, filming a scene where she boards a train. But the scene was eventually cut, with her son apologizing that the movie was "too long and something had to go." All was forgiven when he brought her to the Academy Awards and thanked her prominently in his acceptance speech.
Most of the rain in this movie was specially created because Calgary, where it was shot, was experiencing a dry spell, though the snowfall that is featured when William Munny (Clint Eastwood) is recovering from his beating was unexpected (and unscripted).
The boots that Clint Eastwood wore in this movie are the same boots that he wore on Rawhide (1959). These boots are now a part of Eastwood's private collection and were on loan to the 2005 Sergio Leone exhibit at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, California. In essence, these boots have book-ended Eastwood's career in the Western genre.
In the early 1980s, Francis Ford Coppola got ahold of the script, and met with John Malkovich to offer him the role of William Munny. Malkovich recalled: "The offer was not very serious, thank God! I say that for myself and the poor public, and for Clint, absolutely! I would have been a total, total failure. Total! Who would've wanted to see that? I wouldn't! I would've just been acting-schmacting. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is." Malkovich worked with Eastwood on In the Line of Fire (1993) and Changeling (2008).
Clint Eastwood joined a list of actors who have won an Oscar for directing but not for acting. They include Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Sir Richard Attenborough, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson.
Deputy Clyde's (Ron White's) line about why a one-armed man needed to carry three pistols: "I don't want to get killed from lack of being able to shoot back" is sometimes attributed to lawman and gunfighter James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, who usually carried two pistols around his waist, another in a shoulder holster, sometimes another stuck in the back of his belt, and usually had at least one Derringer hidden somewhere on his person. While working as a lawman, he usually carried a sawed-off shotgun as well. Hickok also laughed at Ned Buntline's report about his killing twenty men with twenty shots, saying that his theory was start shooting and keep shooting, until the man you were shooting at was dead.
This movie was shot in thirty-nine days, coming in four days ahead of schedule. The town had to be built very quickly, with a relatively short run-up time (two months) to the start of filming. The construction period was used by the Stunt Coordinator to work on actors' riding skills, and stunt choreography.
Frances Fisher said that David Webb Peoples's original script was one of the most perfect she had ever seen, as it almost read like a novel. She illustrated this with the fact that while most scripts are full of later revisions marked by red ink in the margins, this one hardly had any. One of the few changes that Clint Eastwood made to Peoples' script was to remove the opening voice-over and replace it with text.
According to Clint Eastwood in a 2000 interview, Gene Hackman was very concerned about how they were going to show the violence in the movie, owing to the rising gun violence in American cities. Eastwood assured Hackman that this movie wouldn't glorify gun violence.
The character Corky Corcoran is the name of a cameraman that was filming a promotional spot for another Clint Eastwood movie. During a break in the interview, Clint Eastwood asked what the cameraman's name was, and when told it was Corky Corcoran, Clint did not believe him. His given name is John, but he went by Corky his whole life. Clint said that was a hell of a name.
At the time of the Academy Awards ceremony, Frances Fisher was four months pregnant, but under strict orders not to tell anyone, including her closest friends. "I don't want that kinda thing taking attention away from my Oscar race!" Clint Eastwood said to her. When Eastwood's name was announced as the winner for Best Director, Fisher tried to hug him, but he quickly pulled away and walked on-stage. In his acceptance speech, he thanked Fisher only in professional context along with many other members of the cast and crew, acknowledging no personal attachment to her whatsoever. Fisher finally announced her pregnancy two months before giving birth, and news outlets prefaced with "according to", "reportedly", et cetera, because Clint and his representatives declined comment and refused to confirm it. The birth of Francesca Eastwood on August 7, 1993 was kept secret for two weeks until her birth certificate, a public document, was filed. When news of Francesca's birth finally hit the papers, she was misreported everywhere as being the third child for sixty-three-year-old Clint. Francesca in fact is at least Clint's seventh child. Between 1996 and 2018, four additional illegitimate Eastwood offspring suddenly appeared as adults, and the people who know Clint best suspect there are even more families in his closet.
The windmill that appears in the backdrop through much of the movie was a real operating windmill, rather than a set piece, and to this day, pumps water to The Dow Wetlands Preserve in Antioch, California, where it was sent after shooting.
Though this movie, and some of his later ones, would be nominated and win Oscars, this was the first time Clint Eastwood was nominated for Oscars in his career. He had been a presenter before when he had to fill in for Charlton Heston who was late on account of a flat tire.
With inflation, the one thousand dollar bounty on the cowboys, would be the equivalent to one hundred ten thousand dollars now, at a very liberal estimate. A more conservative estimate would be around thirty thousand dollars.
None of the participants, least of all Producer and Director Clint Eastwood and Screenwriter David Webb Peoples, actively set out to make an anti-violence movie. It was a natural by-product of the script. Eastwood stated that he was interested in deconstructing the myth of the Old West with its clear distinction between heroes and villains, and wanted to show an inglorious depiction of death.
By Clint Eastwood's own recollection, he was given the script in the "early 80s" although he did not immediately pursue it, because according to him "I thought I should do some other things first." He later said that he waited purposely until he had the right age and he was in the right place of his career. Biographer Patrick McGilligan specifies that it was presented to him in the spring of 1984 by Megan Rose, a story analyst at Warner Brothers, who Eastwood happened to be sleeping with at the time.
One of two times when the presenter handing Clint Eastwood an Oscar was Barbra Streisand. She also handed him the Best Picture Oscar for Million Dollar Baby (2004). Before giving the second movie award to him, she said, "I would be very happy to give you this again, Clint."
The following guns were used in this movie. 1. William Munny (Clint Eastwood) used a 1859 Starr revolver double action, a Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver, a 12-gauge double barreled coach shotgun, and later a Spencer rifle. 2. Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) used a Spencer rifle. 3. The "Schofield Kid" (Jaimz Woolvett) used a Smith & Wesson Schofield, and earlier he used a Winchester 1873 rifle. 4. English Bob (Richard Harris) used a Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" Single action Army and a Bulldog .32 caliber pocket pistol. 5. "Little Bill" Daggett (Gene Hackman) used a Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" Single action Army. 6. Cathouse owner Skinny Dubois (Anthony James) had a Colt 1851 single action revolver. 7. Deputy Andy (Jeremy Ratchford) used a Winchester 1866 "Yellow Boy" made to look like a Henry rifle by removing the for-end. 8. Deputy Clyde (Ron White) used three revolvers: one a Remington 1875, and two Colt 1873 "Peacemakers". 9. Various people stuck to the famed "peacemakers" and Winchester '73 rifles.
The screenplay was written by David Webb Peoples, who debuted with the screenplay of Blade Runner (1982). Peoples had already written and sold the script for this movie sometime in the 1970s, but it took around twenty years before it got made into a movie. It was initially optioned as a project for Francis Ford Coppola and John Malkovich, but this fell through. It was subsequently bought by Clint Eastwood, but again, many years passed without anything happening (Eastwood was saving it for the right moment in his life). It was actually at a party that David and his wife Janet Peoples happened to meet Eastwood, and Janet boldly asked him if he was ever going to make this movie. Eastwood answered that he was just about to announce this movie.
When Will notes that Ned is still using a Spencer rifle, it would imply that Ned carried it in the Civil War as a member of a U.S. Colored Troops cavalry regiment. Morgan Freeman also starred in Glory (1989), as a member of a U.S. Colored regiment.
The music for the trailer, which appeared in theaters and on some of the DVDs, was composed by Randy J. Shams and Tim Stithem in 1992. The main theme song, "Claudia's Theme", was composed by Clint Eastwood.
The last theatrical movie of Anthony James (Skinny Dubois), who retired from acting and focused on his career as a painter. James essentially bookended his feature film career by appearing in movies that won the Oscar for Best Picture, with his debut in In the Heat of the Night (1967) and ending with this movie.
William Munny (Clint Eastwood) and "Little Bill" Daggett (Gene Hackman) share certain similarities that manifest in different ways. Whereas Munny would be vicious when drunk, Bill would be vicious when sober. Also, when W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) says he's a writer, Bill and Munny but ask if he writes letters (something common in places where illiteracy was common, such as in the old west). The idea that W.W. Beauchamp would be a writer of books does not immediately occur to them.
While the story is set in 1878, the last Spencer rifle was made nine years earlier, in 1869, which was when the Spencer company went out of business under the ownership of Winchester. Manufacture of cartridges continued for a long time, including from specialty sources in the present day. During the nine years it was in production, approximately two hundred thousand Spencer rifles were made.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the shoot-out in Greeley's, William Munny (Clint Eastwood) fires all six bullets from The "Schofield Kid"'s (Jaimz Woolvett's) Schofield. When he tells the rest of the men to clear out the back, he is threatening them with an empty gun.
There is another version of the scene where William Munny kills "Little Bill" Daggett: on-set, Clint Eastwood fires the gun at the prone Gene Hackman, someone off-camera screams and Eastwood smiles at Hackman, saying "Take that!" This was screened when Clint Eastwood was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986) in order to promote The Bridges of Madison County (1995).
Throughout this movie, William Munny (Clint Eastwood) continually declines to drink alcohol when it is offered to him or made readily available to him. When he first learns of Ned Logan's (Morgan Freeman's) death at the hands of "Little Bill" Daggett (Gene Hackman), he immediately begins drinking whiskey and continues to do so for the rest of this movie, an indication that he may return to his old ways.