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John Wayne

Director Tom Dey Thinks He Knows Why Jackie Chan And Owen Wilson’s Shanghai Noon Flopped

While Jackie Chan has always been an affable and comedic performer, even going back to his early martial arts films from the 1970s, something curious happened when he broke into the Hollywood mainstream in the late 1990s. Producers looked at Chan’s playful, heroic, somewhat goofy charm and shifted it into overdrive. Chan’s American films, as a result, tended to be incredibly broad, full of silly mugging, “culture clash” humor, and a general lack of stakes. Chan’s first major American hit was Brett Ratner’s “Rush Hour” in 1998, a serviceable but largely unremarkable police comedy wherein Chan played opposite Chris Tucker. That film was such a runaway success (it made over $244 million worldwide) that a pattern was immediately set for Chan. Pair him with an unlikely co-star, put him in generic action scenarios, and watch the money roll in.
The next few years saw such pieces of mainstream fluff as Kevin Donovan’s “The Tuxedo” (opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt), “The Medallion” (opposite Claire Forlani), “Around the World in 80 Days” (opposite Steve Coogan), two additional “Rush Hour” sequels, and, most notably for the purposes of this article, Tom Dey’s 2000 film “Shanghai Noon” and David Dobkin’s 2003 sequel “Shanghai Knights,” both opposite Owen Wilson.
The premise of “Shanghai Noon” is novel enough: Chan plays Chon Wang (it sounds like “John Wayne”), a royal guard of the Chinese Imperial city in 1881. When the Chinese imperial princess (Lucy Liu) flees the country and hides out in the Old West, Wang follows her to the American frontier. During his search for the missing princess, he forms a partnership with a laconic and friendly gunfighter named Roy O’Bannon (Wilson), and they will spend a great deal of “Noon” comedically bantering.
Martial arts master meets the gunslinger. So far, so good.
Jackie Chan, dumbed down

While “Shanghai Noon” ended up a modest hit — $99 million on a $55 million budget — it opened small. According to a 2000 article in EW, the film’s only earned a trim $19 million on its opening weekend, clearly not breaking any box office records, nor matching the financial glories of “Rush Hour.” Dey, in the same EW article, lamented the low numbers, having been utterly convinced that his film would at least cross the $30 million mark. He blamed Disney’s marketing department for the tepid response, pointing out that the previews for “Shanghai Noon” leaned into the film’s broader, more comedic moments and scenes of fish-out-of-water humor.
“Shanghai Noon” is a light, breezy film to be sure, but Dey did not think he was making a comedy. “I feel like it was misrepresented,” the director said. “The trailers really dumbed it down.” The usage of ZZ Top’s “La Grange” and Kid Rock’s “Cowboy” in the preview certainly didn’t help sell “Noon” as a straightforward Western adventure
Dey would go on to make bright, antiseptic Hollywood comedies like “Showtime,” “Failure to Launch,” and “Marmaduke,” but with “Noon,” his first feature, Dey was determined to make something richer and more nuanced than the average piece of commercial Tinseltown detritus. “I really tried hard to give it extra layers,” he said. “To make it about something: friendship, exploitation. These are real things that mean something.”
First time?

Dey, 31 at the time, had come to directing “Shanghai Noon” after several years in the world of TV commercials. He acknowledged what a big step this was in his career, only to be met with the horrors of a studio marketing department. Although he clearly knew from advertising, it was a step in the process he was not allowed to participate in. Dey lamented: “It was hard because here was the most important product of my life, and I was pretty much frozen out of any involvement in terms of how to sell it.” Eventually, “Shanghai Noon” found enough of an audience to warrant the above-mentioned “Shanghai Knights,” a sequel that saw the same characters travel to 1880s London, although Dey did not direct it.
Generally speaking, “Noon” is affable, if generic. It also received far more positive reviews than 2000’s other major blockbuster, John Woo’s chaotic and terrible “Mission: Impossible 2,” released the same day. The disappointing financials of “Noon” could merely be attributed to competition. “Mission: Impossible” was a higher-profile release, starred Tom Cruise — a bigger star than Chan in America — and came with a larger marketing push.
Dey’s most recent film was the 2022 Netflix film “Wedding Season,” so he still seems to be working, and is still living in the realm of “affable comedy.” It’s fun to imagine a parallel universe, however, wherein a filmmaker like Dey was recognized as being more nuanced, and that he was permitted to pursue his own creative projects. Perhaps Dey, along with any number of Hollywood commercial directors, has a dark heart of strange art waiting to burst out. While we speculate, we can rent “Shanghai Noon” online and stroll past it while we make dinner.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Explosive Encounter Standing Up for a Young Marine Against Heckling USC Students Inspired ‘The Green Berets’

The Green Berets actor John Wayne had an abundance of respect for those who put their lives on the line for the United States. This certainly became apparent in his movies, but it also bled into his personal life. Wayne once confronted some USC students heckling a young marine, which led to The Green Berets.

John Wayne plays Col. Mike Kirby in ‘The Green Berets’

John Wayne as Col. Mike Kirby in 'The Green Berets' in a military uniform holding a gun

John Wayne as Col. Mike Kirby | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

The Green Berets follows a cynical reporter named George Beckworth (David Janssen), who is against the Vietnam War. However, he is sent to cover the conflict and must tag along with a group of Green Berets. He meets a tough man named Col. Mike Kirby (Wayne), who leads the team through a top-secret mission. They intend to kidnap an important enemy commander, but nothing is as simple as it seems.

The Green Berets is a financially successful Wayne feature, but it didn’t settle as well with critics. The pro-war messaging offended a lot of reviewers. Nevertheless, his fan base continues to celebrate the passion that the actor had for veterans and the country overall.

John Wayne’s explosive encounter with USC students inspired ‘The Green Berets’

Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend takes a look at how The Green Berets came to exist. He explained that the “genesis” of the movie comes from an encounter that the actor had on the USC campus. The actor was on the college grounds to discuss a benefit for a children’s hospital and saw some students protesting the Vietnam War. However, an incident really got his blood boiling.

“What got my goat was that these students were heckling a young marine, a corporal, who was going by and heading for his car,” Wayne recalled. “He walked with his back straight as a rod, and he wore his uniform with pride. Then I noticed that where his right arm should have been there was only an empty sleeve which was neatly folded and pinned back.”

Wayne continued: “Turned out he was one of the Ninth Marine Brigade which were the first ground troops America sent to Vietnam. He had a chest full of medals and ribbons and said his drill instructor had taught him to ignore impolite civilians. He said, ‘You don’t give them the satisfaction of noticing them.’ I waved to him as he drove away.”

“And my blood was boiling,” Wayne said. “I ran over to the students and I was just so angry, I drummed my fists into their goddamn table and I said, “You stupid bastards! You stupid fing a**holes! Blame Johnson if you like, blame Kennedy. Blame Eisenhower or Truman or fing goddamn Roosevelt. But don’t you blame that kid. Don’t you dare blame any of those kids. They served! Jesus, the kid lost his arm. I mean what the hell is happening to this country?”

The actor wanted the movie to be ‘as American as apple pie’

John Wayne in The Green Berets. While visiting the troops in Vietnam, he was given a silver friendship bracelet presented by a Montagnard Strike Force unit. He wore the bracelet the rest of his life. More on his travels to Vietnam here: https://t.co/Kd7G2koaw7 pic.twitter.com/RNeiToDZEx— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) December 30, 2018

Eyman continued that the first “concrete sign” of Wayne’s The Green Berets was a letter written on December 29, 1965. The actor wrote to director George Stevens expressing his interest in making a feature film about the Vietnam War. He knew that Stevens’ son worked for the government and would need their help to make this picture possible.

“It will have the scope, integrity and dignity required by the subject matter,” Wayne wrote. “Our film about the exciting new unit fighting in Vietnam will be as American as ‘apple pie’ and as harshly against the ‘beard and sandal’ brigade as possible.”

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John Wayne

John Wayne Shouted a Gay Slur to Describe Kirk Douglas’ Costume Choice

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas didn’t see eye-to-eye throughout their time in the entertainment industry. They disagreed on politics, but it went farther than that point. Nevertheless, Wayne and Douglas ultimately were able to put their differences aside to work on a project, even though it originally got off to a rocky start.

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas co-starred in ‘The War Wagon’

John Wayne as Taw Jackson and Kirk Douglas as Lomax in 'The War Wagon' sitting on horseback in cowboy uniforms

L-R: John Wayne as Taw Jackson and Kirk Douglas as Lomax | Bettmann via Getty Images

Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend tells the stories of the legendary actor and those around him, including his co-stars. Wayne starred in a Universal movie called The War Wagon with Douglas. Wayne wanted Rod Taylor, but the studio overrode his decision and cast Douglas instead “for $300,000 plus 15 percent of the gross after break-even until he got a total of $675,000. After, he got 10 percent of the worldwide gross.

The War Wagon director Burt Kennedy explained how he was having a difficult time with Wayne hand-picking him. It didn’t help that the actor massively intimidated the director.

“The only reason The War Wagon was a hard time was that Duk started me,” Kennedy said. “[He] picked me up off the street. Kirk Douglas said in his book that I was afraid of Duke. Hell, everybody was afraid of him.”

John Wayne shouted a gay slur to describe Kirk Douglas’ costume choice

John Wayne: The Life and Legend explained how The War Wagon production didn’t start off on a great note. Actors Wayne and Douglas certainly didn’t get along when Douglas showed up on the set with a costume that included a “flamboyant ring worn over a black leather glove.” Eyman stated that this was his attempt at stealing the scene and acted as a test for the director.

However, Wayne wasn’t willing to play around with Douglas. He suddenly shouted a gay slur about him to Kennedy, telling him that if they didn’t get him off the set, he would quit the picture immediately. The director wanted to make peace, so he obediently spoke with Douglas. He said, “Don’t you think the ring is a little much, Kirk?” The actor responded, “No, I think it’s just fine. What do you think?”

Wayne responded to Douglas, “It’s great, just great.” He had no issue with shouting at Kennedy but had some reservations about shouting at actors on the same level as him. Wayne ultimately sidled up to Douglas and asked, “You’re going to play it in that effete fashion?”

“John, I’m trying not to let my effeminacy show,” Douglas responded.

The actors later shared a volatile relationship

Eyman touched on the fact that Wayne and Douglas had a complicated relationship. However, they were ultimately able to work together, despite their differences. Nevertheless, there was always a tension between the two.

One of the primary signs of this is how Douglas always refused to call Wayne “Duke,” which his friends and colleagues always called him.

Their performances ultimately did well for The War Wagon. The movie opened to favorable reviews, especially praising Wayne and Douglas for their performances.

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John Wayne

John Wayne and Steve McQueen Peed on a ‘Wall or Curtain’ Together Backstage at the Golden Globes

Actors like John Wayne and Steve McQueen are icons that continue to represent the movie industry to this day. Their cultural mark on entertainment will never disappear from the history books or the minds of their fans. Additionally, Wayne and McQueen certainly won’t be forgotten by the individual who had to clean their pee off the wall or curtain at the Golden Globes.

Steve McQueen and other movie stars respected John Wayne

Writer Jeremy Roberts interviewed McQueen’s biographer, Marshall Terrill. He wrote several books about the actor, including both his career and his personal life. Terrill wrote about his opinions of several movie stars, including Wayne. He had a great amount of respect for him. Not all actors felt the same way, but Hollywood as a whole respected the impact that he had on their field.

McQueen and Wayne had a friendship that also carried away from the glamor of Hollywood. This is true with several folks in Hollywood, including his frequent collaborator, John Ford. In particular, he loved playing Bridge with anybody willing to join him.

John Wayne and Steve McQueen peed on a ‘wall or curtain’ together backstage at the Golden Globes

John Wayne & Steve McQueen sharing a laugh at a party in 1969. Did you see our Instagram Stories from yesterday? Find out how Duke reacted when a young fan wrote in and confused him with Steve McQueen 😂 pic.twitter.com/HfxHutOdPQ— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) September 6, 2019

Roberts asked Terrill to expand on how Wayne and McQueen got along. He explained that McQueen had a great amount of respect for the Duke. He recalled a hilarious story between the two actors when they both were set to present at the Golden Globes.

“I remember hearing a story most recently from Barbara Minty McQueen,” Terrill said. “She was looking over pictures in Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool and spotted the two pictures of McQueen and Wayne. She chuckled and then told me this great story.”

Terrill continued: “She said the two legends were at an awards ceremony in the 1960s and were either presenters or co-presenters. They were hanging out backstage, waiting to go on, when Wayne didn’t feel like going to the restroom or there wasn’t enough time to find a restroom, and so Wayne took a leak against a wall or curtain.”

However, McQueen didn’t object to Wayne relieving himself there. Rather, he decided to join in.

“She said that Steve started laughing and joined in, also relieving himself. Barbara said Steve remembered the encounter with a huge smile,” Terrill said.” After we both finished laughing, I said, ‘Oh, why did you have to tell me that story after the book was published?’”

The Duke regularly attended award shows

Wayne and McQueen are both widely celebrated actors who attended many award ceremonies, including the Golden Globes and Oscars. Wayne regularly presented awards and honorary awards, which were met with thunderous applause.

However, he also nearly stormed the Oscars stage to pull off actor Sacheen Littlefeather for making a speech in place of Marlon Brando. It took six security men to hold him back and he ultimately made statements after the ceremony to express his frustration at the situation.

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