John Wayne: Bruce Dern still receives hate mail for what he did to Duke on The Cowboys

Bruce Dern’s character had to kill John Wayne’s in The Cowboys (Image: GETTY)Over 50 years and Dern has said he still receives hate mail after his character Asa Watts killed Wayne’s Wil Andersen in The Cowboys. But he knew it was coming and so did Duke.Asked if he still runs into fans who are upset about it, the actor said: “No question. But I knew that would happen. I knew on the day when I had to shoot him, when we did that scene, that he had never even had a bullet squib put on him before in his career. You know, he got shot in Sands of Iwo Jima. I think he got killed by some sniper. But this was the first time he actually had a squib put on him, where it was going to be close to his skin and everything else. [Laughs.] I remember he leaned into me at about 8:15 am that morning, reeking of Wild Turkey 101.”
Dern continued: “[Wayne] said, ‘Is it gonna hurt?’ And I said, ‘Duke, they’re gonna blow your [bleeping] chest off. Get a metal protector to put underneath those squibs so the squibs aren’t next to your skin.’ ‘Oh, how do I do that?’ I said, ‘How do you do it? Order the effects man, like you order everybody else, to go ahead and do that for you.’
“Then, after he got all fitted up, he told me: ‘Oh, I want to remind you of one thing. When this picture comes out, and audiences see you kill me — they’re gonna hate you for this.’ I said, ‘Maybe. But at [UC] Berkeley, I’ll be a [bleeping] hero!’ He laughed at that. And then put his arm around my neck, turned me to the crew — there’s about 90 people there where we shot the thing, getting ready to do the scene — and he said, ‘That’s why this [bleep] is in my film. Because he understands that bad guys can be funny. If they weren’t, why would we be talking about them 150 years later?’”

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