The task of an actor being to act, to move, to breathe life into an audience imagined or real, there is nothing more degrading than to snuff that movement out.
But deals with the devil will come due and UA's publicity machine must need devour its idols; so Leone takes the camera himself that afternoon, to capture his leads' disgrace as elegantly as may be. Other hands in the crew could do it, steadier or more insightful perhaps, those who would justly claim an expertise in photography just as sure as his own with film - and may they be damned for it, too. The niceties of art grow strict in certain proportion to their possible confusion.
All that he would explain to his leads in beautiful flowing Italian, if they could understand a particle of it. Instead- "Parlare. Talk some, vivere."
(The rhythms of English, he understands far better than he speaks.)
Eastwood understands first- he always does- "Guess he wants us to chatter about something. Ever read Hemingway?"
"You kidding? I rescued him once," Eli quips.
Snap. That half-turn Eastwood's done, a quizzical expression just short of rudeness, that's a very fine beginning.
"In a movie, I mean. I was playing an Italian soldier, of all things...Adventures of a Young Man, Richard Breymer was playing the lead. We had a good time."
"It strikes me you've said that about everything you've ever been in," Lee rumbles, in his subdued way- he's a quiet man, when the sour Spanish wine hasn't livened up his liver. "This desert? John Huston?"
Eli forgets himself in the part (makes the part his own), shrugs impatiently in a way that could mark equally the angry Mexican or impatient New Yorker. Snap. "Maybe I won't say that about this film. Almost getting my head chopped off, that's more method than I bargained for."
"Told you to be careful," Eastwood says.
"I was being careful, or I wouldn't be here to complain now." Snap. The mutual gaze there, sardonic in the young man and innocent in the old (and yet visa versa, just as much), that's too good not to record. Eastwood has been arguing that the balance of the film is off, a Don Quixote centered around Sancho instead of the Man of La Mancha. It's a justifiable concern, and one which Leone has no plans of redressing.
"I had him assigned in high school," his lead notes, fading out of one century and into the next. (His tact is of a peculiar quality, unostentatious yet highly attentive.) "For Whom the Bell Tolls. It suited me."
"Terseness would," Lee says, with a grin that will become an elegant snarl when captured in a photograph's frame. Snap. That's his Angel Eyes, the eyes he remembered a decade after last seeing them in celluloid, hot and cunning and willing to burn the world down for the right part.
Eastwood brings his own caution to his roles, and Eli's wife waits for him in the little Spanish village down the hill. If he was to make a thrice-damned choice among the three (fruit forbidden by the Church, which may go hang, and his Carla, who would not, and rather more importantly than either, the dignity of the art)- if he was to make that choice, surely the Dutchman. There is a certain kind of brokenness to him that makes the Spanish extras step softly around him- maybe subdued amazement that Americans have their own fraught fascisms, breeding men into victims the same as Franco's regime.
Fascism which has paid a million dollars for this film, Leone corrects himself; and smoothes over his conscience with the ease of inevitability.
Snap. That shot could have been anything. One poured out for the gods.
He'd make the joke to them, but to offer up the Latin tag and have it go- not unforgiven, but not understood- that fear of mistranslation is a steady withering ache in his chest. Knox would laugh at him for that, swear to give the Americans nothing but what the Italian script states, and those words are trustworthy enough from a refugee. All his writer's roads lead to Rome; there's nowhere else for a blackballed Communist to go.
So there's that much truth in Knox's claims, and there's also truth to it being a two-faced, lying pose that angers him obscurely- no translation is ever sufficient or complete. The film he makes must tell its story in its own image, faces and landscapes and dust, or else he can't trust it and then nobody else ever will.
(Gold, though. Gold, he can trust that to be the same in any language.)
It comes to Leone with a kind of cold, blinking dismay that he has stopped the whole magnificent machine of this film, actors and crew and god knows how many soldiers from the Spanish army- everything held up while he stands here fretting. A whole world stops while its god dreams.
"Sergio," Eastwood says again. "It's too damn hot out here. Either we quit soon or I'm getting my hat."
"You stay put," Leone growls, words and inflection drawn straight from the flickering images of his childhood- and the spell works just the same for him as it did so many years ago. The cowboy at the camera's center pauses dead.
Then, slowly smiles. He wants to be in on this joke, the young pup, and may god help whoever has the training of him when that day comes.
"We're done," Leone says. Puts the camera away.
"Already?" Eli questions. (Plenty of faith there, but it's always questioning.) Eastwood's already rising, brushing dust off with meticulous indifference.
So it's only Lee's eye to catch his- Lee, knowing to the bone the bitterness of being upstaged, and the careful resignation that comes from playing the divinely appointed parts and no other. Leone turns his back on all three of them, willing the Spanish dust to be the same as that an ocean away.
(Deus, but wouldn't he have made a wonderful Blondie!)