John Wayne furiously ripped into Kirk Douglas over role: ‘Shouldn’t play weak characters!’
JOHN WAYNE once lashed out at Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas over his celebrated portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh.
Western star John Wayne remains one of Hollywood’s most popular stars, having featured in nearly 150 films and TV shows across his illustrious career. His 1972 Oscar for Best Actor in True Grit was the highlight, with the star having been nominated a number of times throughout his time in Tinsel Town. It culminated in Wayne being hailed by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema in 1999.
Born in Winterset, Iowa, he achieved unrivalled success, and was once described as “personifying for millions the US’ frontier heritage”.
Away from the glare of the camera, Wayne was known for his sharp wit, and not being scared of sharing his opinion.
This was particularly true of those he was closest with, including screen legend Kirk Douglas.
Unearthed accounts show that Wayne was particularly critical of Douglas after watching him in the 1956 biographical flick, Lust for Life.
Well received by critics and film fans, Lust for Life holds an 85 percent positive rating on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
But Wayne was unhappy with Douglas and his decision to play the lead role.
During a discussion with James Bawden and Ron Miller, on their Conversations with Classic Film Stars, Douglas described the “famous story” of Wayne giving his own review of the film.
He said: “When I played Van Gogh in Lust for Life, we had a private showing of it, and John Wayne was there.
“We had a little supper party, and Wayne had a few drinks.”
“Afterwards, he motioned to me to go out on the veranda with him, and he berated me! He said, ‘How the hell could you play a goddamn character like that?’
“And I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m an actor. He’s a fascinating character.’
“And Wayne said, ‘No, no. We should never play those kinds of weak, snivelling characters. I don’t ever want to see you in a part like that again! They have no dignity!’”
It would not be the only time Wayne would criticise those who shared his profession, with the likes of Hollywood legends Gene Hackman and Clark Gable also on the receiving end.
Writing in her 1991 book John Wayne: My Father, the star’s daughter Aissa recalled the venom with which Wayne viewed Hackman, a double Oscar winner, with.
She wrote: “When it came to his contemporaries in film, I only heard him speak once with any real venom.
“Gene Hackman could never appear on-screen without my father skewering his performance.
“I wish I could tell you why he so harshly criticised Hackman, but he never went into detail.
“Although it’s pure speculation, had my father lived to see more of his work, I think his view of Mr Hackman would have changed.
“Back then, however, my father called Hackman ‘the worst actor in town. He’s awful’.”
Aissa also noted in the book that Wayne was no fan of Gone with the Wind star Gable, who he claimed was “extremely handsome in person” but an “idiot”.
She continued: “My dad called Gable handsome but dumb at least four or five times, and now I wonder if it had something to do with my father’s friend, John Ford.
“During the filming of Mogambo, Ford and Gable had clashed again and again and the subsequent feud had simmered for years. In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, support in any fashion for their enemies, was expressly forbidden.
“If Clark Gable took on John Ford, my father’s code demanded that John Wayne stand by his old pal.”