Stars That John Wayne Couldn't Stand

You would think two icons of the American Western would naturally get along. However, Wayne never quite took a liking to Clint Eastwood, nor the morally dubious spaghetti Westerns that made him a star. Wayne had made a career off of playing valiant heroes; even the washed-up characters in his later films had codes of honor. Eastwood, on the other hand, often portrayed staunch antiheroes, driven by their own selfish, violent means, with little care for law and order.

Wayne and Eastwood’s careers often intersected, however Wayne was always trailing behind. He turned down the lead role in “Dirty Harry,” leaving Eastwood the chance to scoop it up and become a doubly-successful movie star. When he attempted to replicate its success with his own cop actioner, “McQ,” the film performed poorly at the box office and made it clear Wayne couldn’t pull off Eastwood’s natural murkiness.

Things came to a head when Eastwood sent Wayne the script for “High Plains Drifter.” Both parties were interested in working together, however, according to film historian Mary Lea Bandy’s book “Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western,” Wayne sent Eastwood a letter claiming his script “did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that had made America great.” Eastwood didn’t balk. “I realized that there’s two different generations, and he [didn’t] understand what I was doing.” As Eastwood continued rising to genre glory, Wayne’s career slowly went on the decline.

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