John Wayne dominated the world of film for several decades during his career. He led countless western and war films and rubbed shoulders with just about every major name Hollywood had to offer at the time.
One of the many war stories in his resume is 1968’s The Green Berets. The film follows a military team on assignment in South Vietnam. Wayne leads the team across a dangerous mission of protecting an American camp and kidnapping a North Vietnam General. It’s not one of The Duke’s most fondly remembered films, but it is quintessential John Wayne.
One of the many actors on set during the massive shoot was George Takei. A young actor at the time, Takei only played a minor role in the film. But he did already have his most famous role under his belt by then. The original Star Trek had already aired its first season when Takei got his role in The Green Berets. The show had already become hugely popular, and even a big star like John Wayne recognized Takei.
In Star Trek, Takei played Lieutenant Sulu, the soft-spoken pilot of the U.S.S. Enterprise. By the time he was on the set of The Green Berets, everyone knew him as Sulu, even Wayne. The iconic actor began calling Takei “Captain Sulu.” Even though Takei corrected him that Sulu was a lieutenant and not a captain, the nickname stuck.
Star Trek went on to become a major media franchise that carried over into a hugely successful film series. Takei’s Sulu continued to appear on screen for years to come, and eventually, in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Sulu was promoted to captain. More than 20 years after Wayne dubbed him Captain Sulu, the promotion played out in the character’s real life.
How Is The Green Berets Remembered?
A recent episode of “The John Wayne Gritcast” podcast featured real-life Green Beret, Tim Kennedy. He appeared on the show to pay tribute to John Wayne’s classic performance in the film.
John Wayne’s classic performance in The Green Berets was recently paid tribute to by real-life Green Beret, Tim Kennedy. The official John Wayne Instagram page posted a sneak peek of the interview.
The Green Berets remains a divisive film in John Wayne’s filmography. But Takei looks back on his experience working with Wayne fondly despite their opposing views at the time.
“And, so I told him – it took a lot of guts – but I told him that I’m campaigning for peace during the Vietnam War,” Takei said. “He squinted at me – and I recognized that squint as well – and he said, ‘Well, I want the best actor for this role and, yes, I know about the opposition to the Vietnam War. I’m supporting the war, but I like your candor and so we’ll select the best actor for the role.’ And, you know, I wound up with the role and when I came on the set, I said, ‘I’m really happy to be working with you. Why did you cast me when I’ve been campaigning politically against your interests?’ He said, ‘I said I was going to cast the best actor, and I did.”