Why John Wayne Rejected Clint Eastwood’s Offer To Work Together on ‘High Plains Drifter’
There’s no dispute that John Wayne and Clint Eastwood ruled the Western genre in their days. But did you know that they almost starred in one together?
Talk about a dynamic duo and some serious star power. Unfortunately, the two men didn’t see eye to eye on what made a Western a good film, per The Digital Fix. So, the collaboration that could’ve been the greatest in history never happened.
According to Scott Eyman’s book, “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” Wayne and Eastwood almost starred in a film called “The Hostiles” together. Written by Larry Cohen, “The Hostiles” featured a young gambler who wins half of an old man’s estate. Eastwood snatched up the screenplay and asked Wayne to play the old man to his gambler. But Wayne rejected the idea.
This is likely due to the fact that John Wayne made no secret of his distaste for Eastwood’s other films. In the book “Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western,” Eastwood talked about a critical letter he once received from Wayne.
“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,” Eastwood said. “I realized 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 the hours of pioneering drudgery. It wasn’t supposed to be anything about settling the West.”
After receiving that letter, Eastwood never even bothered to respond. The line in the sand had been drawn, two generations of Western filmmakers on either side of it. A chance for collaboration between Eastwood and Wayne passed, with Wayne reportedly throwing a copy of “The Hostiles” script into a fire.
John Wayne Explained Why He Rejected ‘Petty’ Films
Based on the situation with Clint Eastwood above, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that John Wayne was rather picky about which films he starred in. In fact, in an interview posted by the John Wayne Estate’s Twitter page, he explained some of the issues he saw with “modern” Westerns in the 1970s.
“The whole idea of our business is illusion. And they’re getting away from that now,” Wayne explained earlier. “They’re putting electric squibs in livers and blowing them up in slow motion. And having blood all over everything. I mean, it’s not that there’s more violence in pictures today, it’s that it’s done with such bad taste that people turn their stomachs. Their emotional insides are affected. It turns their stomach.”
He added, “I just don’t want to play anything petty, or small, or mean. I don’t mind being rough, or tough, or cruel. But in a big way, no little, petty things.”