Eli Wallach


  1. Frank Sinatra, From Here To Eternity,  1952.
  2. Rod Steiger, Oklahoma, 1955.    He saw both but director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers. Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Paul Newman, Dale Robertson,Robert Stack, plus singers Vic Damone and   Howard Keel, as Curly… Ann Blyth, Ailene Roberts, Eva Marie Saint, Joanne Woodward and singers Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell… or even Piper Laurie for Laurey… and Wallach, Ernest Borgnine, Marlon Brando or Lee Marvin as poor Jud Fry – “a bullet-coloured, growly man,” as Curly called him. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval – Rodgers and Hammerstein, agreed only about Steiger.  And  Oklahoma was played by Arizona!
  3. Anthony Franciosa, A Hatful of Rain, 1957.      It was Franciosa’s wife, Shelley Winters (and not her weak husband), who argued director Fred Zinnemman out of  using Eli – for the drug-addict role created by Tony on Broadway and in years of  Actor Studios sessions long before the Michael Gazzo play opened. Shelley fought so much, she forgot  to push to repeat her role of Cecily.
  4. Robert Evans, The Fiend Who Walked The West, 1958.   A real loser also known as Enough Rope, The Hell-Bent Kid, Quick Draw AtRed Rock, Rope Law.
  5. Horst Buchholz, The Magnificent Seven1959.    Wallach was keen, very keen. He’d seen the Kurosawa original and presumed he was  to re-play Toshiro Mifune’s  role.  “But they told me that character was the love-interest and had to go to Horst Buchholz!” (Actually, Isao Kimura as Katsushiro was the samurai in love with the village girl).  Wallach said he then  accepted the bandito and created Calvero his way. “It struck me that in Westerns the villain holds up the bank, robs the train or steals the cattle – but you never see what he does witthe money. So I went to a Mexican dentist and got him to put in two gold caps, wore silk shirts, got a great horse with a beautiful saddle… For me, it was a way of defining the character’s objective and giving him reality ”
  6. Al Mulock, C’era una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West), Italy-US, 1968.     Wallach and Lee Van Cleef were willing. Clint Eastwood, not so much. About spaghetti Western king Sergio Leone’s plan of using the pistolieri from The Good, TheBad and The Ugly as three gunmen waiting for Charles Bronson at the railroad station in the memorable opening stanza.. . Mulock committed suicide by jumping from his hotel window in full costume after a day’s shooting as Knuckles in  that scene.  Production manager Claudio Mancini and screenwriter Mickey Knox saw the body pass by their hotel window. As Mancini put Mulock in his car for the hospital, Sergio Leone heard himself yelling: “Get the costume!  We’ll need the costume!”
  7. Jason Robards, C’era una volta il west/Once Upon A Time in the West, Italy-US, 1968.     Keeping the faith with his Il cattivo, Sergio Leone first asked Wallach to be Cheyenne. But he did not feel like undertaking a long haul star role.
  8. Tony Musante, A Professional Gun, Italy-Spain, 1968.     When director Sergio Corbucci (the other great spaghetti Western Sergio ) took over Gillo Pontecorvo’s tortilla Western, he immediately switched The Mexican… and wished he hadn’t. Musante was a Method disciple and very much an American Gian Maria Volonte… as in over the top! Corbucci kept Franco Nero and Jack Palance butreplacedMusantewith Tomas Milian in hisre-make, Compañeros, 1970. 
  9. Rod Steiger, Giù la testa (UK: A Fistful of Dynamite; US: Duck You Sucker), Italy, 1971.   When the suits were anti-Jason Robards,producer Sergio Leone suggested another of his previous stars as Miranda. Wallach, however, was due in another movie.Leone begged. Wallach agreed.  By which time, Paramount has signed Steiger -who, flushed with his recent Oscar, threw his not inconsiderable weight around, turning his peasant bandito into Pancho Villa and Zapata combined until Leone (only directing because Steiger insisted) exploded in Almeria. “I don’t care if you’re called Rod Steiger and you won an Oscar by some mistake… you’re a sack of shit!”  James Coburn cooled him down.  After three days directing him via an assistant (with a sack of horse manure always near the actor!), Steiger became a pussycat… Leone still put him through 25 takes if necessary yto get what he wanted.  And when he didn’t, the scenes were later dubbed by New York impressionist Will Jordan!
  10. David Kelly, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004.     Among Tim Burton’s Grandpa Joe choices… Two passed before passing: Gregory Peck and Peter Ustinov. Also in the loop: Richard Attenborough, Michael Caine, George Carlin (yes, not Carlin), Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Richard Griffiths, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lloyd (favourite of author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy), Ron Moody, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole, Max von Sydow, David Warner.   Burton finally gave the role to Kelly (“in three minutes”) on running into him at Pinewood studios on another film.








 Birth year: 1915Death year: 2014Other name: Casting Calls:  10