Burt Lancaster ‘tried to kill director Michael Winner’ on set of Lawman

In 1970, Michael Winner directed his first Western starring 58-year-old Burt Lancaster, who had a notoriously short temper. The aging Hollywood star teamed up with a young Robert Duvall in the film Lawman, who managed to book a shoot in Durango, Mexico, just before John Wayne’s Río Lobo. The filmmaker says that the crews of both films met in the middle of the town of Chupaderos as in a Western confrontation, but without weapons. In the end, Duke’s production with Howard Hawks had to spend an extra million dollars to shoot near Los Angeles, while Winner went ahead with his revisionist film. However, it was not going to be easy given the heated discussions with the star of him, who, according to him, tried to kill him on several occasions.

Winner, who died in 2013, told Sense of Cinema: “Burt Lancaster tried to kill me three times… I mean, he grabbed me by the neck and shook me.”

A heated discussion was over what weapon Lancaster used in Lawman’s scene, which is on ITV4 today, where his character shoots a horse. In the first take, the star used a Colt 45, but later switched to a 73 Winchester rifle. When informed of this continuity error by the director, the actor threatened to kill him by throwing him off a 1000-foot cliff.

Winner told Vice years later: “We always argued. He threatened to kill me… when he got into a bad mood. He dragged me by the pelvis yelling, ‘You’re a c***-sucking British piece of shit!’, everyone. F*** me.”

In the end, Winner agreed to say that Lancaster had used the rifle on the first take, though the nightly runs proved otherwise. Despite these disputes, the director was happy to say of the star: “He was still a dear friend and he was a wonderful man, so who cares if he tried to kill me a couple of times?”

In fact, after the attack on Lawman’s set, Winner was comforted by someone who knew Lancaster well, saying, “It was a very good sign. Burt just threatens to kill his friends.”

Unbelievably, there was a moment on set that Winner found even scarier than this. It happened one night when he needed to pee.

READ MORE: Burt Lancaster’s brutal assessment of the movie he hated the most

Little did Winner know, but he was urinating on a sleeping Mexican crew member. The man woke up immediately and began screaming knife-wielding at the filmmaker, who wrote in his autobiography that this was the most terrifying experience of his entire career.



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