Once Upon a Time in Rome ...

... specifically, January 3rd 1929, Vincenzo and Edvige Leone had their only child, Sergio.

Vincenzo Leone, had been an actor by the stage-name 'Roberto Roberti', who went on to direct many Italian films of the silent era - Edvige Valcerenghi was an actress who used the pseudonym Bice Walerian.

So it was that Sergio was introduced to the world of cinema from an early age. And hanging out on film sets with his father, it was inevitable that he would seek out a career in the movies. His on screen debut was as an extra in 'The Madman of Marchechiano'. Between 1945 and 1959 he worked as assistant for over 50 features, including Vittorio De Sica's acclaimed 'The Bicycle Thief' (1948), where he also appears as an extra.

In the late 50's and early 60's the Sword and Sandal epics where big business in Italy, a genre that soon enticed Leone. His first major break came when he took over as director, albeit uncredited, of 'The Last Days of Pompeii' (1959). Leone was to act as assistant director to his mentor, Mario Bonnard, but Bonnard's health forced him to quit the project early. The film was a huge success worldwide.

Interestingly, it was this film that first brought together future big names of the Spaghetti Western. Sergio Corbucci took over as assistant director, Enzo Barboni (E.B.Clucher) worked as cameraman, and Corbucci and Duccio Tessari worked with Leone on the script.

Following the success of this movie Sergio Leone was offered the chance to make his official debut as director. The film was the 'Colossus of Rhodes' (1960) starring Rory Calhoun. Although the film is enjoyable, it gives little hint of the characteristics that define Leone's future work.

After his directorial debut he surprisingly worked on scripting and returned again to second unit direction on 'Sodom And Gomorrah' (1963).

Then came the turning point when Leone saw Akira Kurosawa's Samurai film 'Yojimbo'.