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Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek and Clint Eastwood on the set of Unforgiven.
Photos 12/Alamy

Twenty years ago, Clint Eastwood had the last word on the American Western with Unforgiven,
a dark, meditative look at the outlaw West and the psychological ramifications of violence. The film won four Oscars, including Best Picture. Actor Saul Rubinek played W.W. Beauchamp, a professional writer drawn into the world of gunslinging who discovers the pen is not always mightier than the sword. Here, he reflects on making Unforgiven.

“As written, Beauchamp is a very nervous kind of fellow, in over his head and scared. And then, once the guns are trained on him, he pees his pants in public. I went to Clint with an idea. I said, ‘Maybe Beauchamp shouldn’t be nervous from the get-go. Can we make him really cocky when he comes into town, so then there’s this nice contrast when he actually gets guns pointed at him and he pees his pants?’ I felt good about the idea. We weren’t changing any dialogue, but it was giving a little extra dimension to the character. And Clint looked at me for a minute and he said, ‘You’re telling me all this because … ?’ I started explaining, ‘You’re the director, and I thought I’d run it by you first.’ And he said, ‘I cast you because you’re in charge of your character. Do what you do.’ He’s a collaborator. He loves to jam. He’s got the soul of a jazz musician. And he’s very, very quiet. If he wasn’t famous, and you came to the set, it would take you 15 or 20 minutes to figure out who the director was.”