A beautiful young woman named Jill McBain gets off the train at the station in Flagstone, a town in the American Old West. To her surprise, no one is waiting for her on the platform. After several anxious glances at her pocket watch, it becomes clear that her new husband will not be picking her up and Jill seeks help to get to Aguadulce, the place where she will settle as the wife and mother of ex-widower Brett’s children. McBain. When she shows up there, in a horse-drawn cart, she finds a scene that bears no resemblance to the festivities they were about to celebrate: Brett McBain and his three children have been murdered. What Jill finds upon her arrival is a mass funeral. She is now the new owner of those lands.
The powerful scene belongs to what has been defined as the most epic of all spaghetti western: until his time came (1968), directed by Sergio Leone after the success of his dollar trilogy (For a bunch of dollars, The dead had a price Y The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), starring Clint Eastwood and with music by Ennio Morricone. Until his time came was the penultimate spaghetti western de Leone, also the most colossal. Jill is played by Claudia Cardinale, sharing the bill with Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda in the role of the film’s villain.
Leone had carte blanche for filming and, with a budget of around five million dollars at the time (most of which was used to pay the actors), the director once again opted for the Almería desert, this time building a piece of the distant West in the town of Tabernas: a town western with the famous Red House, an original ranch or the Mexican town. Now the entire set of what is known as Western Leone is for sale for 2,800,000 euros. “I don’t think it’s an exaggerated price,” José Ruda, manager of the real estate company in charge of the sale, Grupo Rukasa, tells EL PAÍS, “the memory, the history and the feeling rooted in this place are priceless.”
Today, Western Leone works as a theme park with shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and as a set for filming series, short films, television commercials or even video clips. The British Mika recorded his music video here Boom Boom Boom. In Tabernas there are two other tourist attractions set in the Far West. The best known of all is the Oasys MiniHollywood, originally designed for the film The dead had a price (1965) and that the extras who participated in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) decided to buy it to turn it into a tourist attraction. It is currently managed by the hotel chain Senator Hotels & Resorts and has daily shows from cowboys and can-can dances. It also has an aquatic area and a zoo. The other one is Fort Bravo / Texas Hollywood, one of the original settings for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which in 1977 was bought by the film specialist Rafael Molina with the intention of renting it if they filmed in the area again. Starting in the eighties of the last century, Molina began to charge 25 pesetas to tourists who were curious to use it. Later the show, shootouts and Wild West-style bar fights were added, as well as a living room that offers food to its visitors.
Western Leone was the last to arrive: “Its owners are now elderly and this needs constant maintenance,” says José Ruda, “they bought Western Leone after the filming of the film and have been showing devotion to the project for 40 years.” It’s not just a set, its current owners live on the set: “They are deeply rooted in the place and they love it, for them it’s like living inside a movie.” Now they are tired, and they want someone to take up the project to continue giving it the life it deserves.
José Ruda admits that they have sold all kinds of properties, including luxury homes, but they had never sold something as special as the town western: “We are selling a piece of history from Tabernas and Almería and we have to treat it with great delicacy, great sweetness and great affection so that none of this is lost”. The Rukasa Group manager confirms that there are already people interested in Western Leone, both Spanish and foreigners who call from Germany, Holland or England.
Perhaps speaking of a piece of history is humility: the first film shot in Almería dates back to 1952 and was the Spanish The call of Africa. But it was in the 1960s and 1970s when the Andalusian province experienced its heyday thanks to the more than 300 westerns that were filmed there. Although through the screen we believed that those films could be shot in an undetermined place in the South of the United States, the truth is that the vast majority were located in Tabernas, which can be proud of having the only desert in all of Europe. The last great director to pass through those lands was Steven Spielberg to shoot Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1988) and show again the desert of Tabernas, the beach of Mónsul, in Cabo de Gata, or the town of Rodalquilar. after that, Almería experienced a dry season for big projects like those of yesteryear until Ridley Scott decided to shoot exodus (2014) in the area, repositioning Almería as a point of international film interest. Then came the power of Game of Thronesa series that managed to increase the interest of tourism in each setting it chose for its shoots. The rhythm of revenge (2020), starring Blake Lively and Jude Law, or Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), with Gal Gadot, have been some of the last great productions with these scenarios.
Now, Pedro Almodóvar has just announced that his next project, the medium-length film strange way of lifeIt will be a western starring the actors Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal and will be shot in Tabernas: “Almodóvar is going to come here… and it is possible that something will end up filming in the Western Leone”, José Ruda says mysteriously. Closing the circle that began with Sergio Leone at the hands of Pedro Almodóvar could be a nice ending for the town, something unusual in a spaghetti western. And, if possible, let Morricone sound.