Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Interview: Brendan Wayne of ‘Cowboys & Aliens’

posted by Nell Minow

Brendan Wayne of “Cowboys & Aliens” is the grandson of movie legend John Wayne.  He talked to me about visiting his grandfather’s movie sets and acting and doing his own stunts in one of this year’s most anticipated blockbusters.  And it was a blast to compare notes with him on our favorite John Wayne films.

I’m so excited about your movie!

We’re in the same boat!  I love the story.  I love the mash-up of the two genres.  It’s a classic Western told the only way we could tell it today since you can’t really do cowboys and Indians without insulting history and culture.  You get to tell the tried and true Western in such an exciting new way, the story we love to tell about the human spirit overcoming greater odds.  It’s really fun, Daniel Craig jumping, riding, and shooting, Harrison Ford, in and of itself making the movie exciting.


The movie takes place in the 1870’s, a small town run by Harrison’s character, Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde.  And Daniel is Jake, a kind of a loner drifter who seems to have amnesia, and we proceed to be attacked.  We don’t know what it is and it is very time period specific so we don’t have electricity or cars or computers to fight back with.  And then these flying objects come in and we have to figure out what’s going on and then take care of business.  That’s where it really gets fun, when we go after them on our horses.

And you did your own stunts!

Every single one of them.  I have to thank two people, Bobby Aldridge for helping me get on a horse and really understand what a stunt guy does and Terry Leonard for making sure I didn’t look like an idiot and making sure I didn’t make my grand-dad look like a jerk. Terry was second unit director and the first film he ever worked on was “Rio Lobo” with my grandfather.  He took care of me like a big brother and made sure that I was safe and willing to challenge myself.  I was riding flat-out on that horse getting cactus stuck on me but having a lot of fun.  I did a lot of stunts that were really just dumb, but it was great.


But you were an experienced rider already, right?

I would never denigrate those real cowboys out there by saying I was experienced.  I had been around cowboys but this was a whole other level of riding.  Taking on these things was a whole different level of physical demand and those guys really helped me understand what it is to be a stunt man.  I barely scratched the surface but a bunch of stunt guys when I did my bigger stunt (I can’t tell you the details!) shook my hand and said they were proud.  I was really proud that they acknowledged it.  You don’t get their respect unless it is the real deal.

I also had a bar fight with Daniel Craig.  He and Olivia Wilde were just great about wanting to do their own stunts.  It was pretty amazing.


How did it feel to look in the mirror and see yourself in cowboy gear?

Our costume designer, Mary Zophres, is incredible.  She was up for an Oscar last year for “True Grit.”  For wardrobe, you just hope it will fit and work right, but she added so much, really helps you create the character, helped the story.  We were able to step into another time period and understand what it was like to wear those clothes and how it affects you.  She was fantastic.

What are your favorite of your grandfather’s movies?

The Shootist,” because he was so dang good in that.  It was his last film and I visited him on the set.  “The Cowboys,” “The Quiet Man,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is always at the top of my list.  I still am amazed at how good he was.  “Liberty Valance” is such a great story about doing the right thing, not always being the right guy but doing the right thing.


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