John Wayne Was Particularly Unhappy with One Co-Star’s Performance in ‘True Grit’

by Matthew Wilson
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“True Grit” was one of John Wayne’s most beloved classics. But the Duke had his reservations about the film and one of his co-stars as well. In particular, Wayne wasn’t a fan of co-lead Kim Darby, who played Mattie Ross in the film.

Wayne didn’t think that Darby properly captured the spirit of Mattie from the novel. He didn’t like that the studio cast her in the role nor her performance during the film. In fact, the two never became close while on the set of the film. When the camera wasn’t rolling, the two actors barely ever said a word to each other, according to IMDb.

Their real-life relationship contrasts greatly with the one portrayed in the film. During the movie, Darby’s character Ross strikes up a father-daughter mentorship with Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn. Ross recruits Cogburn to help her track down her father’s killer. Across the movie, the two form a reluctant partnership that blossoms into mutual understanding and a friendship. It’s a shame that Wayne’s and Darby’s real-life relationship never thawed and blossomed into a friendship.

John Wayne Felt Hesitant About the Film

Reportedly, Wayne also felt hesitant about the overall film and his Oscar chances. Upon release, “True Grit” was a great success. But the actor felt the film didn’t live up to his expectations and that of the book. While doing press, he reportedly listed better movies he starred in such as “Stagecoach” for instance.

Likewise, Wayne didn’t think he had a chance of winning an Oscar. He had already started creating the narrative in the press of other great actors who never won the award prior to the award ceremony.

“Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance,” Wayne told Roger Ebert. “I’d be pleased to win one, of course, although I imagine these things mean more to the public than to us. There are a lot of old standbys who don’t have one. That comedian…what the hell is his name? Gary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business.”

After winning the Oscar, Wayne also approached Richard Burton, feeling the actor should have won instead for his portrayal as King Henry VIII in “Anne of the Thousand Days.” Despite his reservations, Wayne eventually starred in a rare sequel. Darby, however, didn’t reprise her role as Mattie Ross for the film, with only Wayne returning as a central character.

Outsider.com