Sergio Leone and Harry Grey

As many of you know Harry Grey was the author of the book The Hoods which is the very book that Leone adapted for his film Once Upon a Time in America, a book he was turned on to by Giuseppe Colizzi who already had made his adaptation of the book in his film Ace High. Leone became seemingly obsessed with the idea of making a gangster epic based on this book and the process of acquiring rights and so on before the idea finally materialized became a long a complicated one.

However, when it finally did - he was determined to meet this mythical character Harry Gray for interviews, something Harry wasn’t interested in to begin with but when he learned that Leone was the director of the Dollars Trilogy, films that he had seen and appreciated, he then accepted to meet him.

Now, here comes my question. I have somewhere, sometime read about these interviews were Leone talks about how the actual person of Harry Gray became more of an influence for the film rather than the book. That Leone instructed De Niro to act the way he experienced Harry during those meetings and interviews in New York and that some part of the dialogue came from these words he had with Harry, for example when Noodles responds to Moe after being asked what he’s been up to all these years, he answers “I’ve been going to bed early”. And also that we can’t know for sure what’s real or opium induced hallucinations, came from the fact that Leone himself couldn’t make out what was true or not from his storys.

Does anyone know where I might have read this or what interviews it might come from? I can’t find anything online, I think it might come from whoever Leone’s translator was during these meetings, but again - I’m really not sure.

Thanks for any help!

I think I read about this from Frayling’s Something to do with Death. I don’t have the book anymore so can’t check though.

I wish I could get my hands on that book for an affordable price…