Twenty years ago, City Slickers struck box-office gold with the tale of three middle-aged men who embark on a Western adventure. Director Ron Underwood admits to being initially intimidated by the late Jack Palance, who was cast as Curly, the tough ranch hand, after Charles Bronson turned down the role. Underwood shares with American Way a behind-the-scenes story that proves he had good reason.
“We were at a ranch we’d built in Abiquiu, N.M., getting ready to shoot Jack’s character’s introduction to the boys, Billy [Crystal; pictured with Palance], Daniel [Stern] and Bruno [Kirby]. During our first rehearsal, Jack didn’t give a look over to Billy, which was needed to motivate Billy’s dialogue. When I asked Jack to glance over at Billy, Jack curtly responded, ‘I don’t do glances.’ I said, ‘Just a look will do,’ and he lashed out at me. The cast and crew edged out of the corral, leaving Jack and me alone to work out our differences. It was like high noon or something. When we finally shot the scene a little while later, Jack gave the look to Billy, and the scene turned out great. I think Jack was just testing to see how I would react to him. Later in the day, when we were sitting together, he nudged my leg with his cowboy hat and said, ‘First-day jitters.’ We were fast friends from that day forward.”