John Wayne’s ‘True Grit’: Why a Stunt Double Performed Almost an Entire Scene for the Duke

by Katie Maloney
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If you’re a John Wayne fan and you haven’t watched “True Grit,” you’re going to want to make time for that soon.

The film is one of Wayne’s more endearing roles. Of course, he still has his signature grit but we also get to see a softer side of the Duke. The film follows a little girl named Mattie Ross who enlists the help of a drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal named Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) to help track down the man who killed her father. As you can imagine, Wayne is resistant to the connection at first but he eventually forms a bond with the girl. As a whole, the film is a thrilling western with hints of gentleness. In fact, the film earned John Wayne his first-ever Academy Award for Best Actor.

But John Wayne’s soft-side isn’t the only thing that made “True Grit” unique. There’s also an entire scene featuring Wayne’s character that the Duke isn’t actually in. How is that possible? Wayne’s stunt double performed the whole scene. During one of the most intense scenes of the movie, Rooster Cogburn takes off on horseback in a wild pursuit of outlaw Ned Pepper. The majority of the scene is actually performed by Wayne’s stuntman, Jim Burk. The only time Wayne actually acts for the scene is when the camera moves in for a close-up.

Elvis Presley Was Originally Supposed To Co-Star In ‘True Grit’ With John Wayne

The King of Rock and Roll was many incredible things. That said, it’s hard to imagine him starring alongside the Duke in “True Grit.” To have that much talent in one movie may have been too much. In fact, that’s actually what led Elvis to back out of the film. Elvis was all set to play Texas Ranger LeBoeuf but plans fell through at the last minute after his manager “Colonel” Tom Parker said that Elvis had to have top billing. With a star like John Wayne as the lead, producers couldn’t meet Parker’s demands. So, producers asked country music star Glen Campbell to fill the role instead. And now we can’t imagine anyone but Campbell in the role!

Glen Campbell also performed the title song for the movie. His performance earned him the first of two career Oscar nominations. Campbell co-wrote the song with Don Black, the lyricist behind multiple James Bond film songs. Additionally, Andrew Lloyd Webber and fellow songwriter and film score legend Elmer Bernstein collaborated on the song.

In conclusion, if you’re both a John Wayne fan and a country music fan, you’re going to want to watch (or rewatch) “True Grit.”

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