Two figures stand tallest among the history of American Western cinema – John Wayne and Clint Eastwood both have storied careers in the genre, but when they had an opportunity to work together on a film in 1970, Wayne unfortunately vehemently denied the opportunity .
In justifying his response, the reason behind Wayne’s decision lay with both Eastwood’s star persona, as well as the changing landscape of the Western film genre, as well as the particular film in question.
John Wayne is famous for being one of the first huge stars of the Western genre of cinema. Finding his start in the 1930s, just as movies that had synch-sound replaced silent films, he was the face of an entire era of Western cinema during a time when the genre dominated the cinema landscape.
More nuance came into Wayne’s persona with later releases such as The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but he never strayed far from these ideals. Clint Eastwood, the American face of this new era, became almost as big a star as John Wayne was himself at the peak of his career.
Larry Cohen, a director known for B-movies such as The Stuff and Q: The Winged Serpent, wrote a script for a Western titled The Hostiles. The script focused on a gambler who won half the estate of an older man, and the idea was that Eastwood would play the gambler and Wayne the older man.
Eastwood was interested, but Wayne outright rejected the part. He didn’t like the script . After Eastwood tried again to pitch the film to Wayne, Wayne responded with a letter explaining his reasoning. In the letter, a major point of contention was how much Wayne hated Eastwood’s recent film High Plains Drifter.