Once Upon a Time in the West (Italian: C’era una volta il West, “Once upon a time (there was) the West”) is a 1968 epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sergio Donati, based on a scenario by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Leone.
It stars Henry Fonda as the villain, played against type by Charles Bronson, Jason Robards as a robber, and Claudia Cardinale as a newly widowed homesteader. Tonino Delli Colli directed the widescreen cinematography, while Ennio Morricone composed the famed film soundtrack. After filming The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Leone chose to step away from Westerns and focus on producing his picture based on The Hoods, which became Once Upon a Time in America. However, Leone accepted an offer from Paramount Pictures to make another Western with Henry Fonda and a budget. In 1966, he enlisted the help of Bertolucci and Argento to develop the film’s premise, while also examining other Western films. After Clint Eastwood declined an offer to play the film’s lead, Bronson was approached. Due to scheduling constraints, Leone hired Donati to rework the script during production. When it was initially released on December 21, 1968, the director’s original version was 166 minutes long. This version was a box office triumph in European theaters. Once Upon a Time in the West was trimmed down to 145 minutes for its US premiere on May 28, 1969, and was a commercial disaster. The film is the first of Leone’s Once Upon a Time trilogy, which includes Duck, You Sucker! and Once Upon a Time in America, however, the films share no characters.