John Wayne Thought ‘The Shootist’ Would Be a Failure: Here’s Why

by Joe Rutland
john-wayne-thought-the-shootist-would-be-a-failure-heres-why

Back in 1976, John Wayne was coming out with what would be his final move in The Shootist which also starred Ron Howard. Yet Wayne was concerned about the film. Not so much his own work in it, but how the movie was being promoted. His concern at the time was with Paramount, a studio that poured in a rather sizable amount of money into King Kong. Wayne did not like the fact that more of a focus was on the big ape and not his movie. In fact, it was even concerned that The Shootist would be a failure.

It’s hard to believe that someone with the film presence of Wayne would concern himself with such things. Yet this is the case and we get more information about this from a book selection. It comes from the Scott Eyman work John Wayne: The Life and the Legend. Reportedly, Wayne said to his former secretary and at-that-time companion Pat Stacy, “Those people are putting all their damn time into King Kong.”

Ron Howard Recalled His First Meeting With John Wayne

Yes, Wayne did understand that he was not the big-time star that he was at one time. This type of reflection, though, was not lost on the Western hero. In fact, he would have more words to say about The Shootist and King Kong going head-to-head. “They think the Wayne movie will make it on its own,” he reportedly told Stacy. “Well, it won’t. People don’t go to see a movie just because my name is on the marquee. Those b**tards don’t understand that. It used to be the case, but it’s not the case anymore.”

Speaking of Howard and Wayne, the then-young actor would recall the nerve-wracking experience of meeting The Duke. “That was kind of strange,” Howard told The Oklahoman in an interview. “I went into The Shootist expecting not to have a great time. Wayne was notorious for not getting along with young actors.” Howard would recall meeting Wayne alongside movie director Don Siegal.

“Somebody had given Wayne that week’s copy of TV Guide,” Howard said. “My picture was on the cover. He looked at it, looked at me, and said, ‘Ah, here’s the big shot.’ I thought, ‘Uh-oh, I’m in trouble.’ But he couldn’t have been nicer. He talked a lot about television, about how it’s such a good training ground sort of like the one- and two-reelers Wayne made when he was young.” Howard added that Wayne simply treated him like an equal. John Wayne would die in 1979 but The Shootist remains one of his most beloved pictures. The reviews were pretty good and the movie has stood the test of time.

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