"I came into this town in a stage play called Mister Roberts
. Stanley Kramer saw it and put me in a picture called High Noon
. The first time I went into his office he told me to go fix my nose and I told him to go fuck himself.
A lot of actors think that the more words they have, the more attention they get. That's bullshit. I make people look at me. I don't have to say a lot of words."
One of the first faces that come to mind when you think of the phrase "western
villain". He started out as one of the villain's henchmen in High Noon
(a bit part he apparently got because the director thought he had an evil-looking face) and went on playing mooks
in various westerns and films noirs during the 1950s. Then his career gradually fizzled out, partly because he'd injured his leg badly in a car accident but likely also because he had a drinking problem. In the mid-60s, Sergio Leone
resurrected Van Cleef's career by giving him major supporting roles in For a Few Dollars More
and The Good The Bad And The Ugly
, which brought him to stardom in Europe. He continued to star in spaghetti westerns
for much of his subsequent career.
Van Cleef reportedly claimed to be faster on the draw
than Clint Eastwood
in real life. A sequence at the climax of For a Few Dollars More
shows him drawing, cocking and firing a gun in three frames of footage, which translates to roughly one-eighth of a second. He's also one of relatively few actors to appear in more than one movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000
(he was in both It Conquered the World
and Master Ninja
). He was missing most of his middle finger on his right hand
, as a result of an attempt to make a playhouse for one of his daughters.
Of course, while he's known for playing villains, he's also played heroic (or at least sympathetic) characters on more than a few occasions, including For a Few Dollars More
and most of the other spaghetti westerns he appeared in.Characters based on Van Cleef's appearance and/or the type of character
he tended to play include Revolver Ocelot
, Old Snake
, Lee Scoresby
, Cad Bane
, Rattlesnake Jake
, Jayne Cobb
and Marshall Nathan Van Cleef
This actor provides examples of: