Brendan Wayne remembers when he was four years old, visiting his grandfather, iconic actor John Wayne, on the set of the 1976 Western “The Shootist.” It was the Duke’s final film of his career. He succumbed to cancer three years later.
“I remember him picking me up with one hand and smiling at me,” Wayne told me during an exclusive interview. “I didn’t even know I was on a movie set. I thought that’s where my grandfather lived.”
Thirty years later, Wayne has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and become an actor. Although Wayne admits he doesn’t have any allusions about becoming as famous as the man who starred in over 80 Westerns including “True Grit” and “The Searchers,” he still wants to give the best he can to an industry that has provided his family so much over the years.
“Everything is relative in life – my relative just happens to be John Wayne,”Wayne said. “That’s what I know. I want to live up to that.”
After earning small roles in films such as “Fast & Furious” and “Couple’s Retreat,”Wayne joined the cast of the sci-fi Western “Cowboys & Aliens.” In the film, he plays Charlie Lyle, a deputy sheriff in the Old West who must help fight off an alien invasion.
During our interview, Wayne talked about any responsibility he feels continuing his grandfather’s legacy and how he thinks the Duke would’ve reacted if alien spacecraft had landed in one of his movies.
What made you want to be a part of this film?
Well, first and foremost Jon Favreau was making the film. You always want to work with guys who are creative. Plus, it’s a Western. I grew up watching Westerns. It’s part of my American heritage. Then I saw there was sci-fi mixed with the classic Western and it looked awesome.
What were your initial thoughts when you heard the title “Cowboys & Aliens?”
My first thought was, “Hey, you mean Indians, right?” Then it was explained to me that I was completely wrong.
You grew up riding horses. Was it easy to transfer your real-life cowboy sensibility into your role as a deputy?
I grew up on horses, but not like the stunt guys working on this movie. I did my own stunts. I had such a good time running up and down hills on these horses. I’m sure I didn’t tarnish my grandfather’s legacy and make myself look stupid. Everyone made sure I looked damn good on a horse.
Do you feel like it’s your responsibility to continue where your grandfather left off or is that way too much to ask of anyone?
I don’t know if it’s way too much to ask. My grandfather was and is important not because he lived up to something, but because he was something and stayed true to that. He was who he was and lived his life that way. As far as feeling any responsibility, I do feel that. I carry that around as a good thing because I don’t know any other way.
What is your favorite film of his?
It changes all the time, but I think at the end of the day if someone asked me to pick one John Wayne movie it would be “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.” His character was such a human character. He wasn’t a good guy, but he did the right thing at the right time.
What did you think of the Coen Brothers remaking “True Grit” and are you open to more interpretations of your grandfather’s work?
You know, I think the good thing about the Coen Brothers’ movie was that it was their own story. I thought there had been enough time between the films where it didn’t feel like they were trying to challenge it directly.
How would your grandfather have handled an alien invasion in one of his movies?
(Laughs) He would’ve put the reigns in his mouth, loaded up his guns, ridden across the plane, shot as fast as he could and told one of those aliens, “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!”