Clint EastwoodJohn Wayne

Clint Eastwood blasted by John Wayne in angry letter: ‘He would not understand’


CLINT EASTWOOD once revealed he was blasted by John Wayne in an angry letter, although he dismissed his attack, saying the actor “would not understand” him.

Clint Eastwood’s film ‘Sully’ about the heroics of airline pilot Chesley Burnett ‘Sully’ Sullenberger aired on BBC One last night. Tom Hanks plays the man who famously ditched US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009. The heroic move, which came as both the plane’s engines were disabled by a bird strike, saved the lives of all 155 people onboard. Eastwood’s film also charts the fallout of the incident for Sully, who spirals into drink as he tries to cope with the media attention he receives.

The picture is one of the director’s most recent films from his legendary back catalogue, which includes classic Spaghetti Westerns such as ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.

However, not all the four-time Oscar winner’s Westerns went down well, and one – ‘High Plains Drifter’ – even sparked an angry letter from John Wayne.

The Hollywood legend, who was known for Westerns himself, hit out at Eastwood, over the film for not depicting the people who pioneered the West.

Eastwood explained the letter in an interview with film critic Kenneth Turan, which is quoted in Mary Lea Bandy and Kevin Stoehr’s book, ‘Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western’.

He said: “John Wayne once wrote me a letter saying he didn’t like ‘High Plains Drifter’.

“He said it wasn’t really about the people who pioneered the West.

“I realised that there’s two different generations, and he wouldn’t understand what I was doing.


“‘High Plains Drifter’ was meant to be a fable: it wasn’t meant to show the hours of pioneering drudgery.

“It wasn’t supposed to be anything about settling the West.”

Wayne was used to playing heroic cowboys in his own Westerns, as opposed to Eastwood’s more challenging portrayals of dark drifter characters.

The actor was lined up for a part in ‘High Plains Drifter’ but swiftly rejected the offer due to Eastwood’s involvement and the newer trends of the Western genre.

The film sees Eastwood play a wanderer who arrives in a small frontier town to deal out justice to its lawless residents.

‘The Stranger’ helps the townspeople and tries to restore order to the area, which thrives off an illegal gold mine.

However, the character is far from straightforward, and in one shocking scene rapes local woman Callie Travers.

In his interview discussing Wayne’s letter, Eastwood claims he never wanted to play the typical hero and preferred flaw characters.

The actor said: “I’ve never pictured myself as the guy on the white horse.

“I’ve always liked heroes that’ve had some sort of weakness or problems to overcome besides the problem of the immediate script.

“That always keeps it much more interesting than doing it the conventional way.”

Scott Eyman refers to Eastwood and ‘High Plains Drifter’ in his biography, ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’.

However, the writer says that Eastwood never replied to Wayne’s letter.


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