“It Knocked Me Out”: The Best Clint Eastwood Movie Would Have Never Happened Without Martin Scorsese’S Trailblazer That Was Snubbed By The Oscars


While Clint Eastwood’s last outing was the box-office bomb Cry Macho, the legendary Hollywood actor had planned the denouement of his golden era of Westerns with 1992’s Unforgiven. The critically acclaimed feature – which deconstructs the quintessential perception of the American West – emerged triumphant with four Oscar wins from nine nominations at the 65th Academy Awards.

But it turns out that Eastwood’s magnum opus may not have existed had it not been for one of Martin Scorcese’s groundbreaking creations.

The Martin Scorcese Gem That Inspired Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven

In a conversation with Yahoo! Entertainment following the 30th anniversary of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, screenwriter David Peoples unveiled the cinematic masterpiece that impelled him to pen the script for the revisionist Western feature.

Martin Scorcese’s neo-noir tour de force Taxi Driver served as one of the most prominent sources of inspiration for Peoples, who was taken aback by the “powerful” and “poignant” character of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle. The 1976 crime thriller coupled with Glendon Swarthout’s The Shootist is what fuelled his imagination with Eastwood’s role as William Munny in Unforgiven.

“In the ’70s I was trying to write some screenplays and I had found that the way people died in movies really didn’t seem credible […] But then I saw Taxi Driver and I was like, “Holy sh*t!” It was an entertaining movie that also had a reality to it and a character in Travis Bickle who was so powerful and poignant. It knocked me out.”


Peoples – who is also credited with the screenplays for renowned works like Blade Runner and 12 Monkeys – had initially “resolved” to write comedies. But one screening of Scorcese’s Taxi Driver and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter ended up penning one of the most epic Western films ever.

It Took Clint Eastwood Over Two Decades to Make Unforgiven

Unforgiven, in a way, is an ode to Eastwood’s authentic career of Westerns, which signified both the zenith and end of his journey as far as traditional movies of the genre were concerned. It’s not shocking then that the Gran Torino star wanted everything associated with the film to a tee.

The film’s backdrop demanded the dark, debauched character of William Munny to be weathered by the cruelty of life, so Eastwood decided he must be and look older to play the notorious outlaw. Consequentially, the Dirty Harry star worked on the 1992 classic with such fastidious care that it took the crew more than twenty years to get it off the ground (via Collider).

Upon its premiere, Unforgiven not only witnessed widespread critical acclaim but also a phenomenal profit of over $159 million at the global box office against a budget of scarcely $14.4 million (via The Numbers). And let’s not forget the bouquet of Oscar nominations and wins it took home.