Clint Eastwood denied chance to work with John Wayne after script snub: ‘Piece of s***’
Sixties musical ‘Paint Your Wagon’, starring Mr Eastwood, will be shown on BBC Two this afternoon at 2pm. Inspired by the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical, the happy-go-lucky Ben Rumson, played by Lee Marvin, meets and joins forces with Mr Eastwood’s character Pardner during the Gold Rush. Their friendship is tested however when Pardner falls in love with Elizabeth, a lady Ben had acquired from a polygamist Mormon at an auction.
Upon its release, the film reached number one in the US box office, while it was Paramount’s sixth largest success up to that point.
By the time ‘Paint Your Wagon’ hit cinemas in 1969, Mr Eastwood had propelled himself to international fame after starring as ‘Man with no Name’ in Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’.
He established himself as the decade’s leading actor of the Western genre, just as John Wayne had done during the Hollywood golden age of the Forties and Fifties.
The pair famously never worked together however, because Mr Wayne once snubbed an opportunity to star alongside Mr Eastwood.
According to the book ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’, Larry Cohen, who had previously worked with Mr Eastwood on ‘High Plains Drifter’, was to direct a new film called ‘The Hostiles’.
The film would be about a gambler, played by Mr Eastwood, who wins half of an estate belonging to an older man.
Mr Eastwood wanted Mr Wayne to play the older man and sent a draft of the script to the legendary actor.
He was rejected, and when Mr Eastwood pitched the film to Mr Wayne a second time the ‘True Grit’ star responded with a letter complaining about director Mr Cohen’s film ‘High Plains Drifter’ and it’s portrayal of the Old West as cruel and violent.
Mr Eastwood was the lead in High Plains Drifter (Image: Getty)
Mr Eastwood explained to Kenneth Turan: “John Wayne once wrote me a letter saying he didn’t like ‘High Plains Drifter’.
“He said it wasn’t really about the people who pioneered the West.
“I realised that there’s two different generations and he wouldn’t understand what I was doing.
“High Plains Drifter was meant to be a fable: it wasn’t meant to show hours of pioneering drudgery.
“It wasn’t supposed to be anything about settling the West.”
Later, Mr Wayne’s son Mike allegedly asked Mr Cohen for a copy of the script to give to his father.
However when Mike handed ‘The Hostiles’ to Mr Wayne while the pair were on a boat, the actor allegedly said “this piece of s*** again” and threw the script into the water.
According to ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’, when asked about why he disliked ‘The Hostiles’ so much Mr Wayne replied: “This kind of stuff is all they know how to write these days.
Mr Wayne labelled the script a piece of s*** (Image: Getty)
“The sheriff is the heavy; the townspeople are a bunch of jerks.
“Someone like me and Eastwood ride into town, know everything, act the big guys and everyone else is a bunch of idiots.”
According to the book ‘Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters’, the script for ‘The Hostiles’ was eventually made into the television film ‘The Gambler, the Girl and the Gunslinger’.
Mr Cohen was deeply critical of the film’s casting, while he was scathing of it’s director Anne Wheeler.
‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’ was written by Scott Eyman and published by Simon & Schuster in 2015. You can find it here.
‘Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters’ was written by Michael Doyle and published by BearManor Media in 2016. You can find it here.
Watch ‘Paint Your Wagon’ on BBC Two this afternoon at 2pm.