Shatrughan Sinha was initially considered for the role of Jai. It eventually went to Amitabh Bachchan who, it is said, lobbied for the role.
Dharmendra wanted to play the role of Thakur when he first heard the script, but then opted to be Veeru because he gets Basanti. Dharmendra was wooing Hema Malini at the time.
Danny Denzongpa was the first choice for the role of Gabbar, but he was committed to doing ‘Dharmatma’. Premnath, Ranjeeth and Prem Chopra were also discussed as possibilities. It was Javed Akhtar who proposed Amjad Khan’s name, having seen him in the play ‘Ai Mere Watan ke Logon’ several years before.
Amjad had very few films to his credit at the time. ‘Sholay’ would make him a legendary villain - but not before much heartache and struggle. When he began shooting for the role of Gabbar Singh, Salim-Javed found his voice ‘too weak’ and not menacing enough and even suggested he be replaced. The story goes that Amjad wept after the early days of shooting and then came back with a vengeance. The rest, of course, is history. Amazing, considering Gabbar has only 9 scenes in the entire film.
Mac Mohan’s character, Sambha had only one line in the film, but he is still remembered as Sambha.
When the movie was declared a hit, all the stars were gifted with gold bracelets and the cinematographer, Dwarka Divecha, received a Fiat from the producer.