Over the years, many Metallica members have spoken about films and have been involved in the world of cinema in various ways. The most prominent example of that is Kirk Hammett who has developed a reputation for being a connoisseur of horror films. When it comes to the cinematic tastes of frontman James Hetfield, he prefers a different domain of cinema.
Hetfield has made appearances in several productions himself, including the relatively recent Ted Bundy biopic starring Zac Efron and The Simpsons in addition to multiple documentaries. For Hetfield, there was one early cinematic experience that shaped his image of himself and played a vital part in the evolution of his artistic career.
That film was none other than Sergio Leone’s iconic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which had a definitive impact on the genre. Leone’s opus presented a highly engaging vision of violence and disorder through the absolutely brilliant cinematography of Tonino Delli Colli, accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s game-changing score.
“I don’t remember the first time I saw it,” Hetfield said during a screening of the film while talking about the impact it had on him. “I became a Clint Eastwood fan early on in my life, and it’s one of those films that… [Clint’s character was] one of the early mentors on screen that I kind of wanted to emulate… the tough, cool, quiet guy.”
He explained that the film stayed with him through the years because of the infinitely rich subtext that had a lot of philosophical meditations. “I actually identified with each person in the movie — the ugly one, the good and the bad,” Hetfield added. “Without getting too deep, but, yeah, metaphorically, we all have that in us, we all have the potential to be each one of those.”
Leone’s Dollars Trilogy played a huge role in both the director’s career as well as the trajectory of Clint Eastwood who was exposed to unprecedented fame and stardom. The actor believed in the project as well and claimed that the stories deviated from what had been achieved in the genre before, offering something new in a radically different style.
The image of Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly definitely influenced a lot of young audience members when they watched it for the first time and Hetfield was no different. While describing the film, Hetfield said that he conceptualised the desert as the labyrinth of life and that Eastwood’s journey through that was remarkable.
This fundamental struggle that was essential to the human condition resonated with Hetfield. He said: “What I liked about the movie, for me, was that each one of [the characters] had their own survival technique — how they navigated the desert, the war, just struggling through life… they all had their own way of doing their thing. And, you know, Clint was the coolest.”