Budget breakdowns

Ok, I don’t really know if this is a proper title for my question, nor how I should explain it, but I’ll try;

Lately I’ve been entertaining my statistics-loving mind trying to analyze spaghetti western budgets as an attempt calculate how much money was spent on pure material matters such as sets, costumes, filming, etc. Let’s take For A Few Dollars More as the example, whose budget is reported to have been 600k dollars. Starting from there, I proceed to subtract the known salaries for the stars - Eastwood and Van Cleef’s reported salaries combined makes for 67,000, but Leones salary for the film, from what I’ve read, was a whopping 350,000 dollars PLUS 60% of the profits (well, Luciano Vincenzoni did remember him as “very greedy”. If he decided about this himself, I think it safe to say he… wasn’t shy on getting well paid). So we got approximately 180,000 left, and I’m trying to calculate how this remaining money was distributed (salaries for the producer, remaining cast and crew, constructing the sets, etc). The most interesting thing here would be trying to find out how much more many was actually spent on that one compared to Fistful if salary increases are subtracted. But I haven’t found any data concerning salaries for people such as Alberto Grimaldi and Carlo Simi, which I assume made up no small part of the budgets (at least not with the former).

Is there anyone here who has some related information to give?


That’s an interesting statistic … I’d say as unattractive as avarice is, Leone was worth every Lire and more! :wink:
Clint wasn’t exactly backward about coming forward when it came to payday either !! LOL


This would definitely be a subject worth looking into. I don’t know if much info could be scrounged up for the mid level films, i.e. the ones from the likes of Castellari and Alberto Cardone, but I’m sure the Leone films and some of other big scale ones would be easy to find if looked around hard enough.

Math has never been my strong suit, so statistics don’t interest me too much, but I do like hearing about how money was used in film budgets, smartly or poorly, in a sense of history.


I’ve always had a thing for figuring things out in my head (but that didn’t do much for my showings on the math tests in school as they were all about explaining how you figured the answer out), so I guess that’s why I start pondering about stuff like this in the first place.

There are some known budgets for non-Leones that would at least lay a ground for further speculation. For instance, Giuliano Gemma stated in an interview that A Pistol for Ringo cost 115m lire, equal to about 185,000 dollars, to make - that is, about 15,000 less than Fistful of Dollars. Assuming that the basic needs to make these both films were the same (building a western town, paying internationally unknown actors, etc), we could begin to speculate what made it slightly cheaper from there. For starters Gemma’s salary was presumably lower than Eastwoods 15,000 (they chose him because they couldn’t afford an American semi-star, I think?) which might reduce something between 5,000-10,000 from the budget. Or maybe it was shot faster, reducing weekly production costs.

Another example I’ve been wondering about is God Forgives… I Don’t!, reportedly made on a 300k budget. I doubt Hill, Spencer and Wolff’s combined salaries equalled Eastwood and Van Cleef’s 67,000$, and Colizzi’s salary certainly wasn’t 350,000. If I’m right, that would mean the production of the film would actually be more expensive than FAFDM. But it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Maybe the salaries for directors and domestic stars were higher than I thought?


Actually, I’m not really comfortable with such excessive salaries for anyone (considering the world situation, but also because he could have done even more spectacular films if he’d spent 3/4 of his salaries on other production measures), but yes, Leone was worth more money than some random guy who happens to have been lucky in business (he was a man of few films, of course, so the money was probably supposed to be spent over several years). Eastwood, I don’t know. But something tells me he’s always had a “businessman” attitude to his work when it comes to his paycheck, rather than the “idealistic artist who does art for the art”. Lee Van Cleef, from what I’ve read (I could be completely wrong) appears to have been less eager to maximize his salary and just happy to make plenty of money (Alex Cox quotes him as saying his salaries for GBU and TBG made for "A hundred and-a something [thousand dollars]). More unreflecting, perhaps. But as I said, I could be completely wrong about this.

But I suspect Alberto Grimaldi wasn’t ashamed of getting whopping salaries either. It’s rather frustrating how I can’t find any data concerning his earnings as it could be highly useful.

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… and yet it’s all ‘peanuts’ compared to what “actors” and directors receive these days … it also shows that throwing a ton of money into a film doesn’t make it a good one !! That point is proved on a near daily basis. :wink:


For FoD nothing was build, Leone just used an existing infrastructure.

And I think it was the same for Pistol for Ringo and all the other early Spags. They shot in Spain cause they could find there not only western-like-looking landscapes, but also pre-build studio towns and some natural towns and buildings they could use quite cheaply. So they used what was there, and according to Frayling for FoD even the costumes were taken from used stuff.

John, where did you get this figures for Leone’s salary for FaFDM? Seems very unlikely to me. I doubt that he got more than Eastwood, at least not that much more. Your example of God Forgives already shows that there must be something wrong with he figures.

It was then for FaFDM that a town set was build, the so called El Paso town set. Of course with the success of the Spags in Europe the need to build more studio sets increased, cause there were enough films produced to get the investment back.

One side note, if the reported budgets for the Leone films are true, than FoD was not really a cheap film with its 200.000 $ compared to the 600.000 of FaFDM and the 1.200.000 GBU, considering that both had a longer runtime, more actors, and that after the success of FoD everybody involved got a much better payment, especially the lead actors. And considering that for both special sets were build and GBU also included mass scenes.
But of course compared to contemporary Hollywood films all Leone westerns, and all European westerns, could be made and were made for a lot of Dallars less.

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I think a fairly reasonable guess that most of the SWs made, with the exception of the latter Leone films, the eye-sore films of Fidani, and the other ultra low buck efforts, had mainly six digit figures in terms of a budget.

A good thing to remember is there were tons of of Western villages between Italy and Spain in that period, Rome having 10 and Spain having 20, (according to the mini documentary Western, Italian Style), so, as @stanton said, there wasn’t much of a worry of sets. The only set construction most of the crews engaged in was in building sets that were to get blown up or really wrecked in action scenes. Like Hollywood, every set was genuinely the same for the most part, save for minor changes here and there to fit the project.

The money I’m assuming was mainly used in paying studio bosses for the use of the villages, the salaries of the cast and crew. With many of the films being co-productions with Spain, Germany, France, and sometimes Israel, I’m certain some of the budget went to getting transportation for the actors and crew from those countries.


Oops, I forgot that, sorry (I wrote this like 12pm so I was a little too tired to think and formulate myself clearly). What I meant was the costs for the sets, not necessarily for building them. But while I’ve seen “San Miguel” in earlier films, I can’t recognize seeing the town from Pistol in an earlier western. But It could be I’ve seen to few early SWs to make a theory. If it’s a prebuilt studio town (and it certainly looks like one) it can’t have been built long before the shooting of the film (Italian/Spanish film studios didn’t prepare western sets for several years before they knew they would be useful, did they?). Again, I’m too new in the SW community to have enough knowledge to be certain.

I originally read it at his IMDB site and I thought the Vincenzoni interview confirmed it, but I re-checked it now and there’s no mention of any sum. As I tried to get other sources, I finally found some other articles which mentioned that salary. It seems, however, that the money the studio gave him was not entirely a salary for himself but a budget. But in that case, I don’t know where the other 250,000 came from (if the reports of a 600,000 budget are correct, that is).

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Milian revealed in an October '67 interview that in the first half of the Sixties he earned little money working in intellectual films directed by Visconti, Bolognini and Maselli and only in 1965, with westerns, things had changed.

For his first western he was paid the equivalent of about $15.000, around the time of Sentenza di morte and Corri uomo corri his salary was $80.000.

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Can I find that entire interview somewhere? It would be very interesting reading (I suppose it’s in Italian but I think I can translate it).

The $15,000 figure is particularly interesting, as it was Eastwood’s reported salary for FOD as well. It might have been about standard for non-star leading actors.

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Does not say much else on this subject but sure, go to the site below, enter the words Milian incendiavo mobili in your search request and in a few seconds you’re done!


It is worth noting that the article talks about seven westerns, but including Run Man Run only six can be counted (Tepepa and O’ Cangaçeiro came much later). Maybe they also counted La lunga notte di Tombstone, the crime film with Claudio Camaso and Fernando Sancho…

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Considering that at the time the movie was presented as ‘urban western’ and ‘western in modern clothes’, in all probability my guess is correct.


If you can find a copy of Rafael Heredero García, La censura de guión en españa, Valencia, 2000, it gives some budgetary information on the films as well as, obviously, censors reports. Many of the films it covers are westerns, but only for the late 60s to the mid 70s. I think the budgets are the proposed costs, which may be different, of course, from the actaul amount spent.

This is an interesting topic, as it does seem to none of the stars etc. became really wealthy out of these movies.

In this interview Nero describes Django as “It cost less than a hundred thousand dollars.” - Franco Nero interview — THE FLASHBACK FILES

I also saw or read an interview with Nero lately where he describes earning a tiny amount of for Dajngo, something like €1,000. I will try find it. It made me think he must have dropped a zero or is confused about Lira exchange rates over 50 years!

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