Inside Clint Eastwood And John Wayne’s Rocky Relationship

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne have often been compared to one another. The comparison makes sense: Both are iconic cowboy movie stars who represent the rugged masculinity of the Wild Wild West on-screen and are politically conservative off-screen.

According to Richard Schickel’s biography “Clint Eastwood: A Biography,” when Eastwood got his first taste of success, he wondered, “Does this mean I’m going to be Rod Cameron or John Wayne? Or none of the above? Or does it mean that I’m going to be my own person, whatever that might mean?” In the summer of 1971, Life ran an article with the tagline “The world’s favorite movie star is — no kidding — Clint Eastwood.” This statement was based upon a Hollywood Foreign Press Association poll, which placed Eastwood one spot above Wayne.

Schickel’s biography also referenced a time when Eastwood was accused of trying to undermine Wayne by casting Billy Curtis, an actor with dwarfism, in the 1973 movie “High Plains Drifter” due to Curtis’ resemblance to Wayne. Eastwood reportedly was left asking himself, “Damn, does he really look like John Wayne?”

Needless to say, the two stars’ similarities made way for comparisons and competition between them. Here’s how the western icons clashed.

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne nearly co-starred as rivals

Fresh off the success of his 1973 movie “High Plains Drifter,” Clint Eastwood optioned a Larry Cohen script called “The Hostiles.” According to Scott Eyman’s book “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” the script told the story of a gambler who wins half of a ranch from an older man, forcing the two to become business partners despite the fact that they hate each other. Eastwood imagined himself in the role of the gambler, and John Wayne in the older man’s role.

Eastwood had the script sent to Wayne, who responded curtly with, “No, thanks.” Still, Eastwood did not give up. He optioned the script again and sent it back to Wayne. Wayne’s response this time was a bit more elaborate: He wrote Eastwood a bitter letter detailing his disapproval of the way Eastwood portrayed the townspeople in “High Plains Drifter.” According to Eyman, Wayne thought the movie did not “accurately represent the spirit of the pioneers who had made America great.”

“The Hostiles” was never made, and Eastwood and Wayne ultimately never worked together.

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