‘The Shootist’ Director Accused John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart of ‘Not Trying Hard Enough’ on Set
Actors John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart co-starred in The Shootist. The performances earned praises from audiences and critics, but director Don Siegel didn’t have the easiest time working with them. He accused Wayne and Stewart of “not trying hard enough” on the set of The Shootist. However, the Western star had a famous comeback that came from a John Ford quote.
John Wayne convinced Jimmy Stewart to join ‘The Shootist’ in a cameo role
According to IMDb, Wayne convinced Stewart to join The Shootist for a small cameo role as Dr. Hostetler. The 1976 Western movie follows the notorious shootist named J.B. Books (Wayne), who arrives in Carson City, Nevada. However, after a visit with the local doctor, he discovers that he has cancer and a short time left to live.
As a result, J.B. makes the decision to stay at a nearby boarding house run by Bond Rogers (Lauren Becall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). However, he soon realizes that he isn’t welcome there. Nevertheless, he seeks to die as painless a death as possible with the maximum amount of dignity left intact. J.B. establishes an unexpected bond with his widowed host and her son.
‘The Shootist’ director Don Siegel accused John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart of ‘not trying hard enough’
Wayne specifically requested that Stewart join The Shootist, which was a welcome reunion between the actors. They previously co-starred in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and How the West Was Won, but The Shootist would present its own challenges.
“He [Stewart] and Wayne muffed their lines so often in the main scene between them that director Don Siegel accused them of not trying hard enough,” IMDb wrote. “Wayne’s reply was a variation on an old John Ford line, advising the director, ‘If you’d like the scene done better, you’d better get a couple of better actors.’”
Wayne later told his friends that Stewart knew his lines on The Shootist. However, the issue was that he couldn’t hear his cues. As a result, Stewart messed up some of the scenes which caused Wayne to fumble his own lines.
Wayne frequently received criticisms on his performances over the course of his career. Many critics claimed that he couldn’t “act” and simply played the same character in every movie. Nevertheless, he finally won his Oscar for True Grit. Meanwhile, Stewart was praised for many performances, winning his only Oscar for 1940’s The Philadelphia Story.
The Western actor earned Oscar buzz for his final performance
The performance Wayne gave in The Shootist would be the final one of his career. However, it wasn’t by choice. The actor died from stomach cancer on June 11, 1979, which was only three years after the release of Siegel’s movie.
The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction, but it lost out to All the President’s Men. However, Wayne earned a lot of Oscar talk for his performance as J.B. in The Shootist. It was a deeply personal role for the actor, which brought some of his realities onto the silver screen.