John Wayne’s Co-Star Paul Koslo Opened Up About Duke Feuding With Katharine Hepburn

by Allison Hambrick

Rooster Cogburn actor and costar of John Wayne, Paul Koslo, revealed that the Duke shared an interesting relationship with iconic actress Katharine Hepburn. The two were frequently at odds, Koslo said in an interview on A Word on Westerns.

“I mean, Kate and him, they were always like this,” said Koslo, mimicking two fists punching each other. One key cause of their disagreements was that Hepburn was a democrat, while Wayne was a republican. “It seemed like… in a fun way. I don’t know if it was for real. You know, she would be sitting on the hood of a truck going like a hundred feet down to the set where they were shooting, and how Wallis was having heart attacks. She was really a daredevil, and she was full of piss and vinegar.”

Koslo, however, didn’t share a lot of screen time with Hepburn. In fact, most of his interactions were with Wayne himself.

“We were moving this nitroglycerin to another location because we were going to rob the U.S. Treasury with it, and he’s about to ambush us. There in the rocks with Kate, she’s shooting. So I had this scene, she was something, and then the Duke had this little monologue. Maybe about fifteen lines or something.”

In addition, Koslo explained that he messed the scene up by delivering his line late. He was afraid of interrupting Wayne, something Wayne himself insisted was not possible. Koslo said this of Wayne: “The Duke, my impression of him was that if you did your stuff and you were right on top of it, he was your best buddy. But if you were like a slacker or you weren’t prepared, he could get on your case. So I think he was a really proud man.”

Koslo Talks First Time Meeting John Wayne

Koslo also shared the story of when he first met Wayne. While the actor was no stranger to westerns, working with Wayne on the sequel to True Grit was a whole different ballgame. After all, Wayne won an Academy Award for his first turn as Rooster Cogburn.

“My first impression of the Duke was the first morning of shooting the film,” Koslo answered. “The Duke and Kate were 50 feet away from me and all the bad guys were in the tent where you eat lunch. Then, the director and the rest of the cast came over to introduce Katharine Hepburn to all of the bad guys.” 

Koslo revealed that Wayne introduced himself, then the actors discussed which roles they were playing. Wayne had an interesting response to Koslo’s character.

“I told him I’m playing Luke the Duke,” Koslo said.

“No, you’re not,” Wayne replied. “You’re playing Luke the Puke because there’s only one Duke around here.”

“And yeah, that was my first impression,” explained Koslo. Needless to say, the two weren’t the best of friends, but they managed to put the movie first.