Katharine Hepburn Confronted This Controversial Co-Star at Their Movie’s Wrap Party
Katharine Hepburn isn’t one to hold back her opinions, including when it comes to her co-stars. After refusing to work with one famous actor during the 1950s, she eventually did do a movie with him in the ’70s. But, that didn’t mean that she suddenly approved of everything he did. After the movie finished filming—and she’d witnessed his behavior on set—Hepburn called out the actor at their movie’s wrap party. Read on to find out why.
Hepburn turned down a role opposite the star in the early ’50s.
By 1953, Hepburn had already been a hugely successful star for over 20 years. Reportedly, when she was approached about co-starring with John Wayne in the movie Hondo, she turned down the role, because she didn’t want to work with the Western star. According to Express, she turned down the part because of Wayne’s support of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated people, including Hollywood figures, for alleged ties to communism. The committee’s investigations led to the Hollywood blacklist.
They finally worked together years later.
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In 1975, Hepburn agreed to appear in the film Rooster Cogburn, the sequel to 1969’s True Grit, with Wayne. But it wasn’t the experience she was hoping for, evidently. Express reports that during filming, Wayne got into arguments with the crew, including director Stuart Millar. According to a 1974 Time report from the set, at one point he yelled at Millar, ” [Expletive], we can say these lines just so many times before they stop making sense.” When this took Millar aback and caused a pause in shooting, Wayne added, “Hey, Mister Director, you’re supposed to say ‘action,’ aren’t you?”
Hepburn called him out about his behavior.
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Hepburn reportedly confronted Wayne about the way he acted on set at the movie’s wrap party. She is said to have told him (via Express), “I’m glad I didn’t know you when you had two lungs, you must have been a real [expletive]. Losing a hip has mellowed me, but you!”
Wayne had one of his lungs removed following a cancer diagnosis. Hepburn’s comment about her hip refers to a surgery she had recently undergone.
She had changed her tune on Wayne.
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If Hepburn really did refuse to work with Wayne in the ’50s, by the time they made Rooster Cogburn, she had a better opinion of him—even though she did call him out for how he dealt with his colleagues. In the Time article about the production of the movie, then-65-year-old Hepburn said of working with Wayne, “I decided to grab him before it was too late—for me or for him.” She also talked about declining to use a stunt double, saying, “I haven’t waited all these years to do a cowboy picture with Wayne to give up a single moment of it now.”
Hepburn also spoke positively of Wayne in a later interview. According to Express, she said, “He has confidence in himself, which gives him enormous charisma. He’s quick, he’s sensitive. He knows all the techniques. I think he’s an awfully good actor—and a terribly funny man. We laugh all day. What a [expletive] fascinating personality!”