Clint Eastwood and John Wayne may come from different generations of Westerns, but that doesn’t mean Eastwood wasn’t a fan of his predecessor’s craft.
The actors famously had a supposed silent feud during their careers. With Wayne being 23 years Eastwood’s senior, he was a part of the classic American Western. Eastwood made a name for himself in the Spaghetti Western genre, which Wayne allegedly despised.
Despite any bad blood between the two, however, Eastwood still looked up to John Wayne as one of Hollywood’s most legendary stars. During an interview with DGA, Clint Eastwood detailed his admiration of John Wayne and shared which of The Duke’s 184 screenside projects he liked most.
Eastwood narrowed down Wayne’s best work to Red River and The Searchers. The first, which was released in 1948, was one of Wayne’s mid-career movies, and it earned two Oscar nominations. The second dropped in 1956 and won a Golden Globe. Both films were directed by the legendary John Ford.
In Eastwood’s opinion, Red River wasn’t Ford’s best work, but he believed Wayne made it more palatable with superior acting. Eastwood also noted that Wayne’s character, Thomas Dunson, was much older than Wayne was at the time. He said that made it harder to pull off the role, but he still nailed it.
Clint Eastwood Hoped to Star Alongside John Wayne
Clint Eastwood raved that The Searchers was John Wayne’s absolute best performance. Eastwood isn’t alone in that opinion, either. The movie had Wayne playing a former soldier obsessed with finding his kidnapped niece. The Searchers is one of the era’s darkest Westerns and shows a different side of Wayne. It has gone on to be one of his most celebrated works.
“He proved he wasn’t just a movie star but a really good actor,” said Eastwood.
As for the feud, either it was much tamer than fans were led to believe, or the two actors got over it. In Clint Eastwood’s 2012 book, Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western, he shared that The Duke wrote a scathing letter following the release of Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter, which seemingly confirmed the rumors.
“He said it wasn’t really about the people who pioneered the West,” Eastwood wrote. “I realized that there’s two different generations, and he wouldn’t understand what I was doing.”
However, during the DGA interview, Eastwood said he had tried to star alongside Wayne before Wayne died in 1979. Eastwood even set up a film just for them called The Hostiles, but it never made it to production.
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