John Wayne’s Co-Star Remembered Awkward Moment With Casting Director Who Didn’t Know Who the Duke Was

by Liz Holland
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John Wayne’s co-star, Chris Mitchum, worked closely beside the Duke (a nickname Wayne went by) before his passing. In a 2019 interview, Mitchum shared all sorts of anecdotes from his time working with the legend. He even says he has John Wayne to thank for getting him a role in “Rio Lobo.”

The film ended up being Wayne’s last. However partly in thanks to his kindness, Mitchum was able to continue to get roles. While the two were working on the film “Chisum”, Wayne opened the door to an unforgettable opportunity for Mitchum. Mitchum describes how exactly it went down. “He [John Wayne] said, ‘Howard Hawks is coming down to talk to me about my next film, I’d like to introduce you to him.’ That’s how I got the part in ‘Rio Lobo.’ I went up and met with Hawks, it was about an hour meeting. He read me, then we talked awhile. Then he totally did a 180 on the character to see if I could take direction.” 

Mitchum Has John Wayne to Thank For His Role in “Rio Lobo”

Mitchum adds, “I see why he did that, ‘cause he totally changes things when you’re shooting. I did the reading again, he said ‘Can you come in in 2 days on Thursday and screen test?’ I said ‘sure.’ I actually went in for the part that Jorge Rivero ended up playing, and they switched the roles. [Hawks] was there, he’s a very hands-on guy.”

However, casting for actors now is worlds different than what Mitchum experienced in his youth. The actor shared that years later, he went in for an interview for a role. He learned quickly that the casting director didn’t really know who John Wayne was. “When you grow up with that kind of experience, where you’re interviewed by the director, and then years later you go in and [it’s different],” Mitchum explains.

Casting Looks Different These Days

 “The last interview I had…there was a chair on one side and a camera and a chair on the other side with two kids that looked younger than my children. They said ‘sit in the chair, here’s your lines.’ I said ‘okay.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna read here off camera’, and I said ‘okay.’ He says ‘Slate yourself.’ I said, ‘Slate myself?’ [He said] ‘Yeah, say ‘I’m Chris Mitchum for the part of..’ So we did that, I go through the line. He’s looking at my resume, He said, ‘Oh, you were in a couple of films with a guy named John Wayne, was he any relationship to THE John Wayne?’,” the actor shares.

“I realized, Duke [John Wayne] had died before these kids were born! I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’,” the actor laughs. He adds, “I basically just dropped out, I couldn’t deal with that kind of thing. Now, you don’t even meet the would-be second or third casting director, you send it in on the internet.”

Mitchum’s last project was his role of Harald Rosenberg in the 2018 movie “Goy.” However, his newest project has been announced. Although there is no release date set quite yet, the film is titled “Mainland to Oahu”. We can’t wait to see it!

Outsider.com