Over the years, Bruce Dern has made quite a career in film. From acting to producing and just about every facet of the industry. One of his most notable roles, earlier in his career was when he killed John Wayne. That film, 1972’s The Cowboy, came up in his Goliath series.
Dern’s series, Goliath features Billy Bob Thornton and others in a legal drama, unlike many others. Throughout the series, the production crew has tried their best to incorporate some of the film legend’s old material into the show. A man who has worked with everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to John Wayne, Quentin Tarantino and more, has a lot to reflect on.
However, it was how they paid homage to that old John Wayne film that really surprised Dern. During the fourth and final season, Billy McBride has a dream in which Dern appears. Riding a horse and wearing a very familiar outfit.
“But what they did that I didn’t know, they went back to Western Custom and got the 1972 exact costume I wore in The Cowboys when I killed John Wayne,” Bruce Dern said.
“They did stuff like that. I was totally surprised. I said, ‘S***, I’ve seen this stuff before.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, you wore it in The Cowboys when you killed John Wayne.’ Oh, my God.'” He continued, “Each day they’d come up with little things like that particularly for me. I really appreciated that. And that is Larry Trilling and big-time Billy Bob Thronton. He’s all about what was there before. I mean, we’re not inventing the wheel, so to speak. We’re trying to find new ways to communicate things. And I enjoyed the opportunity to do that.”
Bruce Dern Made a Lot of Enemies Killing John Wayne
While the action was just part of a movie, The Cowboy had quite an influence on how many Western fans viewed Bruce Dern. Taking out The Duke is no small task. It comes with a lot of repercussions. Especially the way his character did it, shooting Wayne in the back after losing a fistfight…in front of a bunch of kids.
While the dramatics of the scene was a perfect example of those old classic Westerns, Dern never really shook the reputation with a certain generation of fans. However, while working with John Wayne, Dern received direct orders to disrespect Wayne on set.
“But right at the start, he says to me, ‘I want you to do us a favor.’ He was including himself, [director] Mark Rydell, and the scriptwriters.” Dern explained that during the pep talk, “He [Wayne] gave me carte blanche to just treat him like a turd.” All so the kids acting on set as the cowboys would be scared of the bad guys.
Bruce Dern got into the role and listened to the orders that Wayne gave him. Now, the movie is a Western classic, and infamous in the minds and hearts of John Wayne fans everywhere.