John Wayne Called ‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon a ‘Rebel’: Here’s Why

by Joe Rutland

Everyone knows that John Wayne had somewhat of a rebellious nature in him. Yet there was a time he called “NCIS” star Mark Harmon a “rebel.”

Harmon, back in 1973, won a National Football Foundation award for his play at quarterback for UCLA. At the same event, Wayne was going to receive the Gold Medal from the NFF.

As Harmon said in a 2019 interview with Parade Magazine, he had to quickly get a tuxedo as he was unaware of the formal dress code. Harmon rented one in a shop across the street from the event. The tux was a dark grey suit with a frilly shirt, so Harmon went with it. He said that he wore it “and John Wayne called me ‘rebel’ all night.”

John Wayne Also Played College Football as Offensive Tackle At USC

One could be called worse things by “The Duke” himself. Yet John Wayne had a presence to himself that awed many people. Harmon definitely was one of those in awe. Nevertheless, all those years later, it’s being called a “rebel” by Wayne that sticks in Harmon’s memory.

While Harmon played at UCLA, John Wayne, under his birth name of Marion Morrison, was an offensive tackle at crosstown rival USC. So Harmon and Wayne have two career paths that cross each other, one in sports and the other in front of a camera.

Harmon playing football isn’t surprising as his father was Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon.

Mind you, this was years before Harmon started his acting career. Besides “NCIS,” he’s starred in “St. Elsewhere” and “The West Wing.”

Wayne Played Firefighting Icon Red Adair In ‘Hellfighters’

John Wayne, while comfortable in a horse saddle, also could play other roles on film. He famously portrayed a Texas firefighting legend, Red Adair, in the 1968 film “Hellfighters.”

Adair’s name became synonymous when his company stamped out a 450-foot fire flame known as the Devil’s Cigarette Lighter. The flame was in the Sahara desert, burning for six months prior to being put out. His business partners Boots Hansen and Coots Matthews, known as “Boots and Coots,” also worked on the movie. Adair had an advisory role.

In the movie, John Wayne plays Chance Buckman, which is loosely based on Adair.

Were fans interested in this Wayne flick? It earned $3.75 million at the box office, meaning in 2021 it would have done $29 million. Critics weren’t fond of it.

But John Wayne reportedly took home a $1 million check for making the movie.

That gave “The Duke” some play money for a while.