Legend of Cool – Lee Van Cleef

“Do guys come up and say, ‘Are you as tough as you play in the movies?”
“The last one I had was in a bar down on Sunset Boulevard and a Texan about 6 feet 5 was pullin’ that jazz. I knew what was happening, so I accidentally knocked my change off the bar. Then I went down to pick it up, came up and ‘Boom!’ Almost tore his head off. So they carried him out the back and I walked out the front. Adios.”

As good as Django Unchained is, what Tarantino doesn’t have, what his film doesn’t have and what he would salivate over his Hawaiian shirt for, are three golden words. A trio of perfectly formed, legendary and slightly sinister, yet still almost omnipresent coolness that form the words ‘Lee’ ‘Van’ and ‘Cleef’.

Also known as Clarence, Van Cleef was such an impressive villain that on his headstone he has inscribed ‘Best of the Bad’.

“Bad guys have always been my bag . . . I look mean without even trying. Audiences just naturally hate me on screen. I could play a role in a tuxedo and people would think I was rotten. You can do much more with a villain part. Movies are full of leading men, most of whom aren’t working. It’s much harder to find a good villain.”

During filming on For a Few Dollars More, an argument broke out with Clint Eastwood over who was the faster draw, and using the cameras on set they discovered that it was Van Cleef.

“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.”

Tip your hat to the late great Mr Lee Van Cleef. The personification of composed badassery.