John Wayne’s Son Patrick Discusses Visiting Irradiated Movie Set with Father

by Jon D. B.
(Photo by Bertrand LAFORET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

“I’m 13-years-old and I’m visiting my dad on a very scary location. Here’s how scary,” offers John Wayne‘s son, Patrick, of the uranium-laden set.

For the first episode of the official John Wayne podcast, Gritcast, three of The Duke’s children come together to discuss much of their life with their legendary father. Ethan Wayne hosts the show, with Patrick Wayne – third oldest child of their father – serving as the first guest. Their sister, Marisa Wayne, joins in, as well. It’s a lovely family affair in which heaps of untold Wayne legacy stories unfurl.

A shocking highlight of the episode comes around the 9-minute mark when Patrick (who starred in eleven films with his father) details a “very scary” filming location.

“There was a big craze about uranium. Mining uranium,” Patrick begins. “So we had these Geiger counters, and these Geiger counters were going off everywhere! ‘We’re sitting on a goldmine, here! We’re going to get all this uranium!” he recalls thinking.

At the time, a young Patrick was filming a truly misguided John Wayne epic: The Conqueror. Fans of The Duke know why this Utah-filmed misstep is, well, a huge misstep for the icon. How huge? Wayne plays Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan within. It’s as horrific as it sounds, for those who haven’t seen it. Yet Patrick’s story from shooting this dud with his father manages to make it even more unfortunate.

“Well as it turns out, it was fallout from the testing in the area,” Patrick reveals of the Geiger readings. “Which they didn’t tell anybody about. Anyone who lived there, worked there, any of that stuff!”

John Wayne’s ‘The Conqueror’: Cursed by Nuclear Testing

“Oh my God,” Ethan Wayne gasps. Oh my God, indeed. The entire St. George, Utah site was so heavily irradiated that cancer specialists have since theorized that The Conqueror was responsible for John Wayne’s death by cancer – alongside dozens of others from the cast and crew. In fact, 91 of the 220 individuals who worked on The Conqueror would contract cancer. According to a 1980 article from PEOPLE, 46 of those individuals would die from cancer – including John Wayne.

While the Gritcast episode remains lighthearted, it’s difficult not to fear for Patrick himself. That is a truly startling statistic.

“I was there for two weeks. Michael was there for six weeks,” Patrick says of his brother, Michael Wayne.

Patrick is currently 82-years-old and thriving, however, so we can hold off on that fear for now. Instead, hop on over to the first episode of the Gritcast, John Wayne fans, and enjoy these incredible stories from The Duke’s family themselves. Further tales include:

The three reflect on life with their father, John Wayne, and exchange fun stories! Including memories of filming the mudslide scene from McLintock!, Patrick’s first road trip with Ethan & Marisa’s mother, Pilar, and what happened when John Wayne dropped Ethan off to stay with Patrick while he was filming The Bears and I.

Check out the tweet above from The John Wayne Estate for a link to the first episode on your favorite streaming platforms.