Movies - TV
John Wayne's First Role After McLinktock! Had Him Feeling Like a 'Fraud'
A few months after John Wayne wrapped on "McLintock!" at the beginning of 1963, The Duke jumped into his next project. But this was no ordinary project and no ordinary circumstances for a Hollywood icon. In the first-century epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told" Wayne played a Roman Centurion who ushers Jesus as he carries the cross to Calvary.
Wayne was more of a publicity pawn than anything else. As the enormous production grew, United Artists wanted big names attached to the project to ensure a box office draw. Scenes with late additions that included Wayne and Sidney Poitier could only be pigeonholed into the last 15 minutes of the lengthy production.
The experience left Wayne feeling like a fraud. He said: "I really was nothing more than an expensive extra. I had no lines to say, just like Sidney Poitier [...] And there was Carroll Baker with no dialogue. We were all fu**ing extras. I only did two days' work."
Wayne only had one awkward line of dialogue, recorded in post-production. Wayne resisted saying, "I've got nothing to react to, so if I screw this up, don't blame me." Nonetheless, they recorded the dialogue, and in the movie, you hear The Duke — in his Southern drawl — saying of Jesus, "Truly this was the son of God."
Wayne knew while filming that his placement in the movie was fraudulent and that his presence added nothing to the movie. Perhaps Charlton Heston, who played John the Baptist in the film, said it best, "There are actors who can do period parts and there are actors who can't. God knows Duke Wayne couldn't play a first-century Roman."