John Wayne turned down the chance to work with Clint Eastwood on a Western simply because he hated Eastwood’s much darker takes on the old west.
Two figures stand tallest among the history of American Western cinema – John Wayne and Clint Eastwood both have storied careers in the genre, but when they had an opportunity to work together on a film in 1970, Wayne unfortunately vehemently denied the opportunity and turned it down. In justifying his response, the reason behind Wayne’s decision lay with both Eastwood’s star persona, as well as the changing landscape of the Western film genre, as well as the particular film in question.
John Wayne is famous for being one of the first huge stars of the Western genre of cinema. Finding his start in the 1930s, just as movies that had synch-sound replaced silent films, he was the face of an entire era of Western cinema during a time when the genre dominated the cinema landscape. Films like John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy glorified certain ideals of that time, including black and white morality, American Exceptionalism, and a positive view of Manifest Destiny. More nuance came into Wayne’s persona with later releases such as The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but he never strayed far from these ideals. The 1960s and ’70s and brought a new era, heralded by movies like Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, which were a darker and more violent form of Western. These newer types of Western began to feature more moral ambiguity and, at times, their themes and concepts would challenge closely held American beliefs. Clint Eastwood, the American face of this new era, became almost as big a star as John Wayne was himself at the peak of his career.
Related: Dollars Trilogy Movie Order & Connections Explained