John Wayne Pushed for His Daughter to Land Iconic Role in One of His Westerns: Here’s What Happened

by Katie Maloney
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Who wouldn’t want to watch a brave little girl team up with gritty cowboy John Wayne?

Well, the world was definitely a fan of that storyline when “True Grit” arrived in theaters in 1969. The film starred Wayne as the curmudgeonly U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn is enlisted by Mattie Ross, played by actress Kim Darby, to help track down the man who killed her father. Along the way, the two are joined by a young Texas Ranger played by Glen Campbell. The trio captured the hearts of people everywhere, so much so that the film was remade in 2010.

Part of the success of the film came from the stellar cast. Obviously, John Wayne was the perfect man to play Cogburn. But Darby was also well acquainted with westerns well before she ever set foot on the “True Grit” set. Before her time with the film, she appeared in both “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke.”

Although we can’t imagine anyone else playing Mattie Ross, the show’s producers auditioned countless girls for the role before landing on Darby. In fact, producers looked at Sally Field, Karen Carpenter, Sondra Locke, and Tuesday Weld for the role as well. Mia Farrow was the first actress to actually be cast in the role, but she eventually turned it down.

John Wayne even petitioned for his own daughter, Aissa Wayne, to play Mattie Ross. She auditioned but she didn’t get the role. It would have been pretty cool to see the real-life father-daughter duo team up for the movie. Nevertheless, many fans of the film would agree, Kim Darby did an incredible job.

Kim Darby and John Wayne in “True Grit”

John Wayne Wasn’t a Fan of Kim Darby’s Performance in ‘True Grit’

“True Grit” was unique for John Wayne in that it allowed him to not only portray the traditional gritty cowboy he was known for, but the role also required him to show a softer side. Wayne’s layered performance earned him his first Academy Award ever for Best Actor. And that award was well-earned because, in real life, Wayne wasn’t a fan of Kim Darby.

In fact, Wayne was pretty vocal about the fact that he didn’t believe Darby captured the spirit of Mattie Ross and was disappointed in the casting. The two rarely spoke to each other off-camera, according to IMDB.

Hard not to think that there was a little bitterness from Wayne because Darby beat out his daughter for the role of Mattie Ross.

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