John Wayne and Clint Eastwood bookend the better part of a century of Westerns in cinema, representing two kinds of gunslingers. However, the pair of Western icons never collaborated on a project, despite their careers overlapping.
As it turns out, Clint Eastwood was always game to collaborate with the Duke. Of course, the problem was that Wayne famously didn’t care for Eastwood’s take on the Western genre.
“John Wayne once wrote me a letter saying he didn’t like High Plains Drifter,” Eastwood was quoted as saying John Wayne: The Life and Legend. “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. It wasn’t meant to show the hours of pioneering drudgery. It wasn’t supposed to be anything about settling the West.”
The Script Clint Eastwood Would Be Perfect for a John Wayne Collaboration
Despite Wayne’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for Eastwood’s work, Eastwood still chose to send him a screenplay that caught his squint eyes. Moreover, he was keen on having Wayne join the project. The Hostiles was the script. It was penned by B-movie legend Larry Cohen, renowned for directing genre fare like The Stuff and It’s Alive.
The script centered around a gambler who unexpectedly inherits half of an older man’s estate. Despite their mutual dislike for each other, they are forced to collaborate. Eastwood had aspired to portray the gambler opposite Wayne, who would have played the role of the old man. However, Wayne, uninterested due to his previous perception of High Plains Drifter, declined the opportunity.
Reportedly, Clint Eastwood approached Wayne twice with the film proposal. On the second occasion, Wayne’s son Mike handed him the script, to which Wayne responded by discarding it in the toilet, exclaiming, “This piece of s–t again.”
The Life and Legend details Wayne as saying of the script, “This kind of stuff is all they know how to write these days.” He summed up the premise haphazardly, showing his disgust for many revisionist Westerns of the era. “This kind of stuff is all they know how to write these days,” Wayne reportedly said. “The sheriff is the heavy; the townspeople a bunch of jerks. Someone like me and Eastwood ride into town. [We] know everything, act the big guys, and everyone else is a bunch of idiots.”
However, the script for Hostiles was produced decades later. Of course, the final film lacked both Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. It was adapted into a TV movie in 2009 starring Dean Cain called The Gambler, the Girl, and the Gunslinger.
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