John Wayne played a tough-as-nails cowboy on film. But he had his moments of true grit in real life as well. The Green Beret star and Western legend once punched out a friend over a bet.
The story goes that he and his close friend, actor Ward Bond, loved practical jokes. They knew each other since they played football together at the University of Southern California. And they always were trying to prank each other. Bond was a frequent collaborator in Wayne’s westerns and later starred on “Wagon Train.”
One day, during some downtime on set, the two were talking. Ward bet The Duke that if he laid a piece of newspaper on the ground, and they stood on either side of it, Wayne would be unable to hit him. Wayne took the bet, according to Timeless Theatre.
Ward laid the piece of newspaper down across a doorway, acted as if he was preparing to dodge a punch, and then slammed the door in Wayne’s face.
“Try and hit me now!” he yelled through the door.
Not one to shy away from taking direction, Wayne did. He punched through the door and connected with Bond’s face, nearly knocking him out — depending on who is telling the story. It’s unclear if Ward ever paid up, but if someone just punched you through a wooden door, you probably want to stay on their good side.
John Wayne Enjoyed Playing Practical Jokes
According to the John Wayne Official website, the Duke knew how to have fun in between takes on his movies. But sometimes, his fun came at others’ expense. For instance, stuntman Terry Leonard was once on the receiving end of one of Wayne’s pranks. The two had worked together on the film “The Train Robbers” in 1973.
Well, Leonard went to the bar one Saturday night and he had an altercation while out on the town. As a result, the stunt man injured his knee. But Leonard had to film an intense stunt the next day for the movie. And he suspected that Wayne was going to be mad. The next day, an assistant director stopped by Leonard’s trailer and told him, “Mr. Wayne needed to see me right away.”
“I’m thinking, I’m going to get fired,” Leonard recalled. “I was petrified because I didn’t know him that well yet and was supposed to be conducting myself in a dignified manner. So, I go to see him and he says, ‘I hear you had a little trouble Saturday night.’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I was trying to defend myself.’ He looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘Sounds to me like you are the real John Wayne.’