The Shootist, lobbycard, John Wayne, 1976. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)
Movies - TV
John Wayne Fought A Constant Battle Behind The Scenes Of The Shootist
Although John Wayne and Hollywood were unaware of it, 1976's "The Shootist" would be the western icon's last movie. Wayne was nearly 70 and suffering from several health issues, but behind the scenes, the actor frequently clashed with director Don Siegel over aspects that he thought affected his built-up image and the different way of filming than he was used to.
Script Changes
Per Wayne’s contract for "The Shootist," the actor had final script approval, and he used that power to ask for a rewrite of the original ending in order to uphold his image. In the final version, his character J.B. Books does not shoot an assailant, and instead of Ron Howard’s Gillom taking Books out of his misery, he shoots the bartender who had fatally wounded Books.
Multiple Takes
While Wayne was used to working with directors like John Ford who required only one take and welcomed improvised dialogue, Siegel had come from television where multiple takes and following the script were the norm. This led to an argument where Siegel got frustrated when James Stewart had difficulty hearing his cues and led to Wayne also missing his timing.
Camera Angles
In another instance of Wayne trying to maintain his image, he requested to have a camera setup that was aimed upward at him changed because it would unflatteringly reveal his nose and jowls. He signaled for the camera operator to shift the camera, then shouted it, and only when he was satisfied with the new viewpoint did he huff at Siegel to continue with the action.