As the grandson of John Wayne, Brendan Wayne is constantly asked about his grandfather. It doesn’t seem bother him at all though. The actor may not be as well known as his legendary, Oscar-winning grandfather, but he does respect that so many people are asking about how he was in real life. It may seem that Brendan has big shoes to fill (OK, HUGE shoes), but so far, he has been able to do quite well on his own terms.
His list of films includes S.W.A.T (under his real name, which is Daniel La Cava), Hotel for Dogs, Fast & Furious and Couples Retreat. This past weekend saw Brendan carrying on the Western tradition of John with his latest film, Cowboys & Aliens, which debuted at the top spot. He plays Charlie Lyle, one of the deputies to Keith Carradine’s Sheriff John Taggart. Even though the role is small (he only has one line), Brendan said he had quite the experience working on the film.
We sat down with Brendan this week to discuss Cowboys & Aliens, his grandfather and upcoming projects. Check it out below..
We Got This Covered: Since you are the grandson of John Wayne, how often do you get asked about him in other interviews and every other situation?
Brendan Wayne: I always get asked during interviews. The knowledge is out there. People know it. In my everyday life, I get asked. He was such a draw that you just have to respect it. I live a great life. I am fortunate to have what I have in life. He was my granddad. I’m proud of him.
WGTC: It doesn’t get too much to where you’re like, “Enough is enough?”
Brendan Wayne: No, you know, many people ask about it and, to me, that’s rewarding. I don’t see it as a bad thing. I hope that, eventually, it’ll be a side note and a nice ancillary thing we put alongside my career. But, other than that, shoot, he’s “The Duke.” He’s famous in Morocco and India and Russia and China. You get that bemuse of importance out of so many people that, as a family member, you learn to respect that.
WGTC: He was known as “The Duke.” Do you have a nickname?
Brendan Wayne: Well, I have five older brothers, so I’ve got a bunch of them. None of them you can print in a family magazine. That’s for damn sure. [Laughter]
The only time I was under the John Wayne banner was when people used to call me “Little Duke,” which sounded like “Little Dookie.” At that point, you don’t want to be associated with that. [Laughter]
WGTC: A few John Wayne remakes have come out – True Grit being the most recent. Were you almost involved in that or did you want to get involved?
Brendan Wayne: I would have loved to get involved. Who doesn’t want to work with the Coen brothers? I think, at the end of the day, they wanted to shy away from any connection to the original because it was so monumental for my grandfather’s career. It was such a beloved movie from so many perspectives. I have done one though. I did Angel and the Badman.
WGTC: What was it like to work on a film that originally starred your grandfather?
Brendan Wayne: Initially, I said no. There wasn’t even a little bit of a chance that I was going to do a film that my grandfather did. Then they made it clear that I wasn’t going to be the lead. That would be Lou Diamond Phillips and I said, “Good.” I didn’t take that pressure. I was going to have fun being the sidekick, which is what I did.
It was funny because I figured that the fact that everybody who made the movie, at the time, I did all the stunts for it and everybody wanted to talk about that. I think they didn’t realize how popular my grandfather was. And it’s funny because we don’t pump him out there like an Elvis or something like that. We’re a lot more reserved and then we deal with people in association with the John Wayne Cancer Institute.
Your popularity as a Wayne hasn’t gone down since the poll of the top 10 alive or dead actors started. He hasn’t been out of the poll since it started. This year, he was number three. His demographic was probably from 15-35. He transcends generations. At the end of the day, it’s not a lot to me, because he was my granddad and we were able to get some fun stuff done.
WGTC: I’ll go ahead and switch over to talk about your new film, Cowboys & Aliens. What was your initial reaction when you were approached about the film?
Brendan Wayne: Honestly, it was, “Do I have a shot at the lead?” and, “How low is the market?” Because with Cowboys & Aliens, you’re thinking it’s a cheesy, campy kind of thing. And then you read the script and you go, “OK, this isn’t bad.” Then you call your manager and go, “Hey, what’s going on here? Who’s doing this?” And then he said, “Jon Favreau, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.” And then I was like, “Oh, so I don’t have a chance to be in this movie.” After reading the script, you could see the story just unfold in front of you. I was incredibly impressed after that.
WGTC: How was it like working with Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Jon Favreau and everyone else involved in the movie?
Brendan Wayne: Before I got on set, I thought it could go two ways. We could either have a real Western where everyone has a good old time, or we could have any other film with little clips and segments. The amazing thing about this movie is that, pretty much from day one, it was a group of people coming together to do something.
The movie speaks to that attitude in its theme and that was really, really cool. You got James Bond who, to me, is the best since Sean Connery. Next to him, you’ve got Harrison Ford who is so often referred to as our generation’s JW, but I think he’s done enough on his own to just be Harrison Ford. You look at his success and depth of ability you’re just really stoked to be around him.
Then you’ve got guys like Clancy Brown, who make every movie better that they’re in. He was Highlander’s enemy, you know. “There can be only one.” And now I have kids and you flip that over, you’ve got Mr. Crab’s voice. He’s an amazing presence and one of the most talented actors I’ve ever been around. I was impressed and was hoping someone would say to me, “We’re not going to give you a bunch of lines. Just sit on your horse.” I was like, “OK. I don’t want to look like an ass to some of these guys.”
WGTC: Was Harrison Ford one of your inspirations for acting before you became an actor?
Brendan Wayne: Yeah, you know, it’s funny because I think at the end of the day, my grandfather was. But I watched so many of his (Ford) films and I love his action films specifically. That’s the kind of movie I want to do. I want to do action movies like the Bourne series. Those things are the things that really tickle my fancy. Ford is one of those guys. Daniel in the same way, in a short period of time, has definitely inspired me.
WGTC: You mentioned you did your own stunts for Angel and the Badman and I read somewhere that for Cowboys & Aliens, you also did your own stunts.
Brendan Wayne: It was a much steeper level for doing your own stunts on Cowboys. I think rumor got around that I was adept and probably more adept than I actually was at the time. I did a double back flip 40 feet in the air off a horse. So I guess, at the end of the day, I pulled it off.
WGTC: Do you prefer to do your own stunts or have there been times when someone else does them for you?
Brendan Wayne: It depends, but I prefer it. I’d much rather do my own stunts because it’s your character’s journey. As long as you’re safe, and those stunt guys are very good at making everybody safe, I don’t even blink at it. If they say I’m safe, I take after it.
WGTC: With this being a Western and Sci-fi mixture do you think John, your grandfather, would have enjoyed it?
Brendan Wayne: I think he would have loved it. It’s a great challenge to tackle the two genres mashing up against each other. And it’s an original story. I’m tired of having the same old schlock constantly. This was an original story. It took a chance on it. You can’t beat that.
WGTC: Do you plan on doing any more Westerns?
Brendan Wayne: I actually am filming one this winter and we’re going to go out and do a Spaghetti-style Western and we’re going to film where Sergio Leone used to film his in Spain. I’m really excited because I’m playing the lead.
WGTC: Is this the current film you’re working on or is there something else?
Brendan Wayne: I just finished a film called The Red House.
WGTC What’s it about?
Brendan Wayne: A girl inherits a house from her estranged parents. She invites her friends to come up and revamp the house. Little does she know that there’s terror lurking around every corner. I play Sheriff Cole Callahan, who comes in and is kind of a white knight.
WGTC: I assume you grew up watching a lot of Westerns?
Brendan Wayne: Yeah, oh God, yeah. Didn’t we all? [Laughter]
WGTC What would you say is your favorite one?
Brendan Wayne: Well there are two categories. There is my grandfather’s and then everyone else’s. My grandfather’s is Red River and then everyone else is Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood.
WGTC: I heard you do a John Wayne impression as well.
Brendan Wayne: What I do is I give an effort. [Laughter] He had it on me because he was 6’5”, 260 pounds. He could drop his voice and get into it really deep. [Slowly lowers his voice] I, on the other hand, I’m a 15-year-old boy going through puberty problems. I gotta do what I gotta do, pilgrim. [Laughter]
WGTC: [Laughter] That was actually pretty close, a lot better than what I can do.
Brendan Wayne: That’s about as close as I can get without insulting my whole family. [Laughter]
WGTC: Thank you very much for the interview. That’s all I have unless you wanted to add something else.
Brendan Wayne: You were talking to me about my stunts and there’s one person who is really instrumental in making sure I didn’t tarnish the image of my grandfather and his name is Bobby McLaughlin. He’s been doing stunts in Hollywood for 32 years. He’s the guy who lets me ride and teaches people how not to get bucked off. That’s somebody I owe all the success I’ve had in this movie to. Without him, I couldn’t have done it.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Brendan very much for talking with us! Be sure to check out Cowboys & Aliens, now in theatres!