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Jean-Pierre Melville indicated that he had shot an alternate version of Costello’s death scene. In the alternative ending, which was the original version, Costello meets his death with a picture-perfect grin à la Delon. The scene was changed to its current form when Melville angrily discovered that Delon had already used a smiling death scene in another of his films. Still images of the smiling death exist.
Influence and legacy
Hong Kong director John Woo’s film The Killer was heavily influenced by Le Samouraï’s plot, with the pianist replaced by a singer. Chow Yun-fat’s character Jeffrey Chow (international character name for Ah Jong) was obviously inspired by Alain Delon’s Jef Costello.
Jim Jarmusch paid homage to Le Samouraï in the 1999 crime-drama Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, starring Forest Whitaker as a meditative, loner assassin who lives by the bushido code. Just as Costello has a huge ring of keys that enables him to steal any Citroën DS, the hitman
Hong Kong director Pang Ho-Cheung’s crime-and-filmmaking comedy You Shoot, I Shoot features Eric Kot as a hitman who idolizes Alain Delon’s Jef, dressing like the character, and speaking to him via a Le Samouraï poster in his apartment.
Johnnie To’s Vengeance is a homage to Melville’s gangster films. The main character is a retired assassin whose last name is Costello. He offered the role to Alain Delon, who turned it down.