Why John Wayne Exploded With Rage at Robert Duvall On Set of ‘True Grit’
When Robert Duvall was new to Hollywood, he had a hard time keeping his cool while filming his blockbuster hits. But when he carried that attitude onto the set of True Grit, John Wayne wouldn’t have it. And the two nearly came to blows.
Duvall is still notorious in Hollywood for having a hot temper. He uses that anger as a way of getting into character. In fact, before he was an Alister, he worked on the stage. When he performed, he’d pick one person in the crowd and pretend they hated him. And during each curtain call, he’d scream “F*ck you!” at them before storming to his dressing room.
That short fuse also carried into his silver screen career. Michael Caine once said that working with Duvall on Second Hand Lions was a “violent” endeavor.
So as one could imagine, Duvall was no different when he starred in True Grit alongside John Wayne in 1969. But while many stars enabled Duvall’s anger, The Duke didn’t accept the behavior.
John Wayne Was Ready to Defend the ‘True Grit’ Director’s Honor
Robert Duvall’s temper came into play when he was working with the film’s director, Henry Hathaway. Apparently, Hathaway was also a hot head. So when they disagreed on something, the simple matter would turn into an all-out fight.
As Duvall shared in 2015, he didn’t get along with many directors. But Hathaway was harder to survive than the rest. Apparently, Hathaway also used anger to fuel his creativity. And the role reversal didn’t sit well with Duvall.
“He’d say, ‘When I say, ‘Action!’ tense up, Goddam you,’” Duvall recalled. “It’s hard to work under that as a young actor.”
But John Wayne didn’t care about protecting anyone’s ego. Wayne was in the late stages of cancer, and he was passionate about leaving his legacy behind with his remaining films. So he didn’t have time for the senseless arguing. And he told Duvall that if he didn’t stop picking fights with the director, he was going to punch him. Luckily, Wayne never had to follow through.
Interestingly, despite his pride and anger, the confrontation didn’t cause Robert Duvall to hold any ill will over John Wayne. He later spoke of the Western legend, and he had nothing but admiration and respect for him.
“Wayne wasn’t as bad as some supposedly serious actors I’ve seen who trained at the Actors Studio and all that… Wayne was interesting to be around. He was pleasant and outgoing,” he said.
“He was an institution unto himself,” Duvall continued. “And that final film he did, The Shootist, it was wonderful what he did. So he was a good guy to work with, absolutely.”