Even the most demanding Hollywood stars can’t always be satisfied. John Wayne, a true legend of Tinseltown, was practically a guarantee of success for any film he was a part of. However, there’s a notable instance where meeting his demands didn’t quite pan out as expected.
During the first half of the 1900s, John Wayne became synonymous with some of the finest Westerns ever produced. He was a prolific actor in the genre, with several of his films standing as contenders for the greatest movies ever made. There was, however, one project he came close to, “The Dirty Dozen,” where things didn’t quite align, and this was more on Wayne than anyone else.
In the book “John Wayne: American” by James S. Olson and Randy Roberts, a somewhat lukewarm negotiation is detailed. According to the account, Wayne was approached by MGM and Ken Hyman for the role of Major Reisman in the film. Wayne took issue with the character’s adulterous nature and requested alterations to the script. The producers acquiesced to his demands, only for Wayne to ultimately decline the role. It was a surprising turn of events.
According to the book, Wayne opted to pursue a different movie centered around the Vietnam War instead. This project likely turned out to be “The Green Berets,” released just a year after “The Dirty Dozen,” in 1968.
Regrettably, “The Green Berets” is widely regarded as one of the weakest films of the decade, offering a somewhat simplistic perspective on the Vietnam War and America’s involvement. It wasn’t met with critical acclaim. Meanwhile, “The Dirty Dozen” is hailed as one of the finest war films ever made, depicting a group of convicts assigned a perilous mission leading up to the Normandy landings.
The role intended for Wayne eventually went to Lee Marvin, who delivered a memorable performance alongside a stellar cast including Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, and a young Donald Sutherland. Directed by Robert Aldrich, one can only speculate how the film might have turned out with Wayne in the lead, but it’s safe to say it likely couldn’t have been any better than the iconic rendition we know today.