Upon finishing his Dollars Trilogy, Sergio Leone wanted to make Once Upon a Time in America, but Paramount Picturesdemanded that he helm a western for them first. So, Leone decided to direct a new trilogy, entitled Once Upon a Time. On the director’s insistence, Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento researched many American westerns and devised a story that pays tribute to the majority of them. Then Leone wrote his film’s first draft—one that was 436 pages long. After beginning production and fearing that he would have time limitation problems, Leone called in Sergio Donati to rewrite and shorten the screenplay.

The very successful European version of Once Upon a Time in the West ended up with a runtime of 166 minutes, whereas the American edit was 145 minutes long and ultimately flopped at the box office. The movie is well known for featuring Henry Fonda, the cinematic “good guy”, as the film’s main villain, Charles Bronson in the role of the enigmatic Harmonica and Claudia Cardinale as the widow. The film’s score, composed by Ennio Morricone, was based on the first draft of the screenplay, so when the script was shortened and production started, Once Upon a Time in the West was shot to that score. The end result is a film preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, as a work of art of enormous cultural and historical importance.