John Wayne Shouted a Gay Slur to Describe Kirk Douglas’ Costume Choice
John Wayne and Kirk Douglas didn’t see eye-to-eye throughout their time in the entertainment industry. They disagreed on politics, but it went farther than that point. Nevertheless, Wayne and Douglas ultimately were able to put their differences aside to work on a project, even though it originally got off to a rocky start.
John Wayne and Kirk Douglas co-starred in ‘The War Wagon’
Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend tells the stories of the legendary actor and those around him, including his co-stars. Wayne starred in a Universal movie called The War Wagon with Douglas. Wayne wanted Rod Taylor, but the studio overrode his decision and cast Douglas instead “for $300,000 plus 15 percent of the gross after break-even until he got a total of $675,000. After, he got 10 percent of the worldwide gross.
The War Wagon director Burt Kennedy explained how he was having a difficult time with Wayne hand-picking him. It didn’t help that the actor massively intimidated the director.
“The only reason The War Wagon was a hard time was that Duk started me,” Kennedy said. “[He] picked me up off the street. Kirk Douglas said in his book that I was afraid of Duke. Hell, everybody was afraid of him.”
John Wayne shouted a gay slur to describe Kirk Douglas’ costume choice
John Wayne: The Life and Legend explained how The War Wagon production didn’t start off on a great note. Actors Wayne and Douglas certainly didn’t get along when Douglas showed up on the set with a costume that included a “flamboyant ring worn over a black leather glove.” Eyman stated that this was his attempt at stealing the scene and acted as a test for the director.
However, Wayne wasn’t willing to play around with Douglas. He suddenly shouted a gay slur about him to Kennedy, telling him that if they didn’t get him off the set, he would quit the picture immediately. The director wanted to make peace, so he obediently spoke with Douglas. He said, “Don’t you think the ring is a little much, Kirk?” The actor responded, “No, I think it’s just fine. What do you think?”
Wayne responded to Douglas, “It’s great, just great.” He had no issue with shouting at Kennedy but had some reservations about shouting at actors on the same level as him. Wayne ultimately sidled up to Douglas and asked, “You’re going to play it in that effete fashion?”
“John, I’m trying not to let my effeminacy show,” Douglas responded.
The actors later shared a volatile relationship
Eyman touched on the fact that Wayne and Douglas had a complicated relationship. However, they were ultimately able to work together, despite their differences. Nevertheless, there was always a tension between the two.
One of the primary signs of this is how Douglas always refused to call Wayne “Duke,” which his friends and colleagues always called him.
Their performances ultimately did well for The War Wagon. The movie opened to favorable reviews, especially praising Wayne and Douglas for their performances.