April 26

Here Are 10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About John Wayne’s True Grit

True Grit went down in history as one of the most successful and most iconic Westerns ever made but did you know: Trivia facts revealed that lead actor John Wayne who starred as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, wasn’t actually satisfied with the film and even said (according to IMDb) that he starred in much better films. Though he did reprise his role six years later in the character-titled sequel Rooster Cogburn and just like the first, it scored big at the box office, proving how phenomenal Wayne’s acting was. In 2010, True Grit inspired a remake which then earned an impressive amount of nominations at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture. 

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Want to know more about the behind-the-scenes and trivia that you probably didn’t know about John Wayne‘s True Grit? Scroll on! 

1969 True Grit

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Set in 1880 Dardanelle, Yell County, Arkansas, True Grit stars teenage girl Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), who is on a mission of ‘justice’ to avenge her father’s death. And in her search for her father’s killer, Mattie recruits the eyepatch-sporting, tough, old marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (John Wayne), who has a reputation for getting the job done. They are then joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), who looks for the same man who has a big bounty on his head for killing a senator. They journey from Fort Smith, Arkansas to the depth of the Indian territory (present-day Oklahoma) to find him and bring him to justice. 

The film was adapted from the same-title novel by Charles Portis, published in 1968.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know (But Should Know) About John Wayne’s True Grit

Aside from John Wayne not liking the film, what else is there to know about the film’s behind-the-scenes? 

1. The film was written by a formerly blacklisted writer. 

If you know John Wayne, then you know that he ascribed to extreme right-wing politics, and so, it was a point of contention for many that he would work with Marguerite Roberts, a formerly blacklisted writer (due to her left-wing politics). People said that he shouldn’t, but Wayne ignored all of the calls, and he actually knew about it before he read the script. After reading, he thought the screenplay was magnificent and even wrote to Roberts to say that and was hoping that she might write another one with him in mind. 

2. John Wayne earned the first and only Academy Award of his career as Rooster Cogburn.

Yes, you heard it right. In John Wayne’s decades-long celebrated career, he had never received any Academy Award before True Grit. And he had been nominated only once before in 1949, for Best Actor at the 22nd Academy Awards for his role in Sands of Iwo Jima

Twenty years later, his talent was finally acknowledged. And in his acceptance speech, John Wayne said, “Wow. If I’d have known that, I’d have put that patch on 35 years earlier.” 

3. John Wayne personally thought that Richard Burton should have won Best Actor.

John Wayne earned his Best Actor award, beating Richard Burton for his role as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days and Peter O’Toole for his role as Arthur Chipping in Goodbye Mr. Chips

Personally, Wayne didn’t think much about winning. In an interview with Roger Ebert, Wayne said, “Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance, Wayne said. “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.” And when he won, he expressed his sentiment that he thought Richard Burton deserved the award more than him. 

Additionally, critics also saw Wayne’s win largely as a sentimental choice citing his performance in the film as over-the-top and hammy.

4. John Wayne didn’t initially want to wear the signature eye patch. 

Wayne’s eye patch on the left eye definitely created his character’s signature look that even those who haven’t really watched True Grit could identify Rooster Cogburn. But Wayne didn’t really liked the idea of it. Additionally, in the book, Cogburn didn’t wear an eye patch, although he does only have one eye. But thankfully, he did and won himself an Academy Award. 

5. John Wayne pushed for his daughter for the role of Mattie. 

In the book Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne, Ronald Davis said that Wayne pushed for his daughter Aissa to get the role of Mattie, but Director Henry Hathaway didn’t cast her. Multi-awarded actress Mia Farrow was given the role, but she turned it down (after a co-actor in a previous film told her that the director was impossible to work with), and so Kim Darby ended up as Mattie. 

According to IMDb, John Wayne was disappointed by the casting that he hardly spoke with Darby at all off-camera. But Darby always spoke high praises about Wayne, saying that he was a pleasure to work with onset. 

6. Rooster Cogburn’s most intense scene was not actually filmed by John Wayne. 

When Rooster Cogburn took on a wild horseback pursuit of the notorious outlaw Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) and his gang, it was actually Wayne’s stunt double Jim Burk who performed the role. He did majority of the scene, and Wayne only showed up for one brief close-up, and he was riding a trailer, not a horse. 

7. John Wayne almost hit Robert Duvall during filming. 

Wayne’s character and Duvall’s were enemies in the film, and it seemed that that relationship translated into real life. Reports said that Duvall allegedly had a temper on the set as his acting preferences did not align with Hathaway’s direction. And one specific direction sparked a heated argument as Hathaway told Duvall, “When I say, ‘Action!’ tense up, Goddam you.” Wayne grew tired of the fighting on set, and he threatened to punch Duvall if he didn’t stop arguing with Director Henry Hathaway.

8. Elvis Presley almost played Texas ranger La Beouf. 

Elvis Presley was in the original cast line-up that the producers wanted, and they did get him as Texas ranger La Beouf. Unfortunately, those plans fell through after Presley’s manager, ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, said that Presley had to be the top-bill. But with a superstar like John Wayne playing the lead character, the producers couldn’t meet the demand. And we all know what happened, country music star Glen Campbell ended up with the role. 

9. The original book was in Mattie’s perspective, but the film focused on Rooster Cogburn. 

Charles Portis wrote the book in the first person (Mattie), and Rooster Cogburn and La Beouf were actually supporting characters. 

10. Rooster was 40, but Wayne was 61. 

While it’s common practice in the movie industry that actors do not have the same age as the character they’re playing, the usual difference isn’t actually that big. But in the film, 61-year-old John Wayne played the role of Cogburn, who was originally written as 40. 

Though the most striking age difference was between actress Kim Darby and her character Mattie Ross. Darby was already a 21-year-old when she played 14-year-old Mattie. 

Well, there you have it. And now you are 10 times richer with facts about John Wayne’s True Grit, and who knows? These may come in handy in the future!


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glen campbell, John Wayne


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