Actor John Wayne (1907 -1979) as 'Jacob McCandles' in 'Big Jake', 1971. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
John Wayne Wasn't Going To Let His Age Hold Back His Stunt Work On Big Jake
By the time Western legend John Wayne was filming 1971’s violent and bloody “Big Jake,” he was in his mid-60s and in failing health. He couldn’t run and had trouble breathing, but the actor still insisted on doing his own stunts for the movie’s many action scenes.
According to Richard Boone, who played the antagonist John Fain, Wayne had to have an oxygen tank nearby while filming. Boone stated that Wayne did not want the public to know about it, but that “it wasn't vanity. He just didn't want to let his fans down, so no one was allowed to take photographs of him using his oxygen."
Wayne’s insistence on doing his own stunts was in line with his desire to keep playing the tough guy in classic Westerns despite the genre’s slow decline in the 1970s. Even with a new era of blockbusters approaching for Hollywood, Wayne carried his new image of an aging cowboy with dignity, and “Big Jake” was one of the six westerns he filmed at the end of his illustrious career.