Throughout his career, Clint Eastwood may have played various heroes in the cinema. But he’s also been a hero in real life as well. The actor once saved his “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” co-star Eli Wallach’s life.
The incident occurred while filming the third movie in the “Dollars” trilogy. Fortunately for Wallach, Eastwood was looking out for him during a risky stunt. Perhaps, Eastwood knew director Sergio Leone’s track record when it came to safety. Or perhaps, the stunt just seemed particularly hairy.
During the film, Eastwood’s and Wallach’s characters decide to blow up a bridge to separate the Union and Confederate armies from each other. The two are after buried gold, hidden in a cemetery near the battlefield. But in real life, the stunt could have ended them both in the cemetery. Beforehand, Eastwood urged his co-star to run and follow him to the safety of a nearby hilltop.
Due to a misunderstanding, production blew the bridge early. If the actors had been in their original position, both of them would have been killed. Leone signaled the start of the scene. But pyrotechnics misunderstood the director as signaling for the bridge to blow. Sometimes the life you save may be your own… and a very grateful co-star.
Clint Eastwood Almost Died On Set
The bridge scene proved to be potentially hazardous for Eastwood’s health. The actual bridge wasn’t some Hollywood set dressing. Production built a real bridge, using wood and construction materials. After the initial premature explosion, the director moved on to film other scenes within the movie. Meanwhile, production had to reconstruct the bridge from scratch.
When it came time to film the scene again, a large chunk of rock shot toward Eastwood. The shrapnel from the explosion struck the sandbag next to the actor’s head. If it would have hit Eastwood, it could have killed or seriously injured the actor. And actors today say they have it rough.
Fortunately, Eastwood and his co-stars escaped the scene unscathed without any injuries. But Wallach had several more brushes with death in the film as well. Ultimately, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” proved to be worth the risk as actors. The film helped launch both actors to even greater success. And it continues to be remembered among the greatest westerns of all time, no small feat.