John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are Hollywood’s most iconic film cowboys, so it makes sense the two actors might have shared a rivalry at one time. However, while both actors have made their mark in the Western genre, Wayne, who was more than 20 years, Eastwood’s senior, once had some harsh words for the “Gran Torino” actor.
According to Express, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood pursued rather divergent themes and formats in making iconic American Westerns. The outlet reports that Eastwood primarily worked in television during the early part of his career, on works including “Rawhide” from 1959 to 1966. Simultaneously, The Duke could be found occupying American big screens and demonstrating humanity’s most iconic morals.
However, by 1973, both Eastwood and Wayne were presented with a prime opportunity to work together. In 1973, Clint Eastwood directed his first film, after seeing success with his Dollars Trilogy, as well as with “Play Misty for Me.”
That same year, Clint Eastwood, immersed in the world of directing, received the script for a new film, “The Hostiles.” Thinking the film would be a perfect fit for both himself and John Wayne, he sent the script to The Duke himself.
Clint Eastwood was Persistent in His Efforts to Star Alongside John Wayne
Overall, the outlet states the film followed a young man who won half of a ranch. The second half was owned by an older cowboy and rancher. While at first, they find themselves head to head, they unite in partnership to drive attackers from their land.
In attempting to attract John Wayne to the role, Eastwood sent him a revised script several times.
Eastwood’s second revision of “The Hostiles” script saw John Wayne pen him a highly critical letter. He first turned down the role a second time. But what he said afterward holds higher significance—he outlined everything that was wrong about Eastwood’s film, “High Plains Drifter.”
“John Wayne once wrote me a letter saying he didn’t like High Plains Drifter,” the now-91-year-old actor shared. “He said it wasn’t really about the people who pioneered the West. I realized that there’s two different generations, and he wouldn’t understand what I was doing.”
When Eastwood sent The Duke the script a third time, Wayne had been out sailing with his son, Mike. The outlet states Mike handed his father the letter, to which he replied, “This piece of s—t again,” throwing the script overboard.
Contrasting Values Put the Actors at Odds
John Wayne’s criticisms of Clint Eastwood might seem harsh now. However, it simply came down to a contrasting set of values and preferences that put the actors at odds.
During his career, John Wayne became known for avoiding films that lacked what he saw as a “clear moral code.” The outlet reports he was also “infamously conservative.” Altogether, he refused to partake in films and roles that “dishonoured” his nation’s “heroic” past.
On the other hand, Clint Eastwood boasted a more open-minded approach. While he also saw success in American Westerns, he preferred roles that saw the character with a conflicted kind of morality, with more shady traits.