John Wayne Wanted To Make a Film With Ron Howard Just Before His Death

by Samantha Whidden
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While they worked together in the 1976 film “The Shootist,” John Wayne reportedly was looking into teaming up with Ron Howard once again for another film project shortly before his death in 1979. 

In his book “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” Scott Eyman revealed that Duke was hoping a film project about Beau John would be his last. Although his wish was granted with a contract in 1978, it was less than a year before the actor would pass away. He was then able to get director and friend, Peter Bogdanovich to consider the film he was proposing. 

Bogdanovich stated at the time, “It’s kind of a half-western thing, it’s not cowboys and Indians, you know, it’s — oh, the humour and the wonderful relationship between this grandfather and the son and the son-in-law and the grandson. Wayne said, ‘I hope to hell I live to do it. Just a wonderful story.’”

John Wayne then reportedly reached out to Ron Howard to be a part of the project. He told Howard, “I found a book. I think it’s a movie. It’s you and me or it’s nobody.”

Unfortunately, John Wayne passed away on June 11, 1979 and nothing was started for the project. Howard claimed that it never even got past the verbal stage. “And at that point, he was showing signs of not being well. I was a little doubtful.”

Ron Howard Says He Always Admired John Wayne as a Movie Star 

During a 2020 interview with Huffington Post, Ron Howard spoke about what it was like to work with John Wayne in “The Shootist.”

“I always admired him as a movie star, but I thought of him as a total naturalist,” Howard stated about John Wayne. “Even those pauses were probably him forgetting his line and then remembering it again, because, man, he’s The Duke.”

Howard then recalled a moment on the set with John Wayne. “But he’s working on this scene and he’s like, ‘Let me try this again.’ And he put the little hitch in and he’d find the Wayne rhythm, and you’d realize that it changed the performance each and every time. I’ve worked with Bette Davis, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda. Here’s the thing they all have in common: They all, even in their 70s, worked a little harder than everyone else.”

According to IMDb, “The Shootist” follows a dying gunfighter who spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity. Howard and Wayne starred in the film with Lauren Bacall and James Stewart. The film earned a nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration from the Oscars. Ron Howard also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture. 

Outsider.com