‘True Grit’: John Wayne Threatened to Punch Robert Duvall Over a Heated Argument With Henry Hathaway


True Grit is one of the most iconic western movies of all time starring legendary actor John Wayne, who personified the genre itself. He brought the 1969 film to life in ways that would influence filmmaking moving forward. However, Wayne nearly threw punches at co-star Robert Duvall over a heated argument the actor had with True Grit director Henry Hathaway on the set.

John Wayne and Robert Duvall star in ‘True Grit’

'True Grit' John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in article about fight with Robert Duvall with an eye patch on
John Wayne as U.S. Marshal ‘Rooster’ Cogburn | Paramount/Getty Images

True Grit is the first film adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel by the same name. Hathaway directs a screenplay written by Marguerite Roberts. The story follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), who hires U.S. Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn (Wayne) after a hired hand (Jeff Corey) murders her father. The unlikely duo pursues him to bring justice to the killer. However, they aren’t the only ones searching him out.

Wayne plays the lead, who has an ex-wife and son. He once served the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Meanwhile, Duvall plays Ned Pepper, who is a notorious outlaw. He leads a Gang of Outlaws, whose crimes are widespread. He nearly kills the Marshal but doesn’t quite get the chance.

John Wayne threatened to punch Robert Duvall over an argument with director Henry Hathaway

Express reported that Wayne nearly punched Duvall over an argument with Hathaway while filming True Grit. Duvall allegedly displays quite a temper on sets. He’s a Method actor, who is very particular with the way that things should be done. As a result, Duvall had intense arguments with Hathaway.

“The director and I didn’t get along — I don’t get along with a lot of directors,” Duvall said. “Henry Hathaway … we won’t talk about him.”

However, Hathaway’s direction and Duvall’s acting preferences didn’t align. One particular direction from Hathaway started a heated argument.

“He’d say, ‘When I say, ‘Action!’ tense up, Goddam you,’” Duvall said. “It’s hard to work under that as a young actor.”

Wayne grew tired of Duvall and Hathaway’s fighting on the True Grit set. It was a disruption that he didn’t welcome. Wayne and Duvall argued, with the legendary western actor threatening to punch Duvall if he didn’t stop fighting with Hathaway.

‘True Grit’ earned an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role

The initial hardships were all ultimately worth it. Wayne won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role and the film earned a nomination for Best Music, Original Song for the song “True Grit.” Wayne also won a Golden Globe for playing the same character. His performance in True Grit remains one of the most iconic roles of his career.

1975’s Rooster Cogburn brought audiences back into the True Grit world with a sequel. However, critics refer to it as a rehash. Meanwhile, 2010’s True Grit adaptation directed by Joel and Ethan Coen brought the material right back to the Academy Awards.

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