Brendan Wayne, from the upcoming blockbuster “Cowboys and Aliens” gave us a little time to chat about his upcoming flick with Jon Favreau and all things western – and that includes his legendary grandfather.
I love westerns and “Cowboys and Aliens” looks like a really fun blockbuster, so I’m looking forward to catching it. But what attracted you to this project? How did you become involved and was there anything in particular that really excited you about the script?
The first thing that attracted me to it was that it is a western. I grew up like most American kids, the western was our mythology. It was where men did things that were greater than themselves and sometimes in spite of themselves. The other attraction was Jon Favreau. Jon always seems to be telling stories in a new and challenging way and this was no exception. He has such an incredible sense of story and combines that with an innate ability to humanize the experience. I became involved the old fashioned way and tried to ride my grandfather’s coattails into the audition. Actually Sara Finn was casting the movie and had recently seen me perform in a play in Hollywood. She told me to keep the look I had (blue collar) and be prepared to get on a horse. She called me in and the rest was up to Jon.
What were things like on set? This is a pretty stellar cast with a director who has come out with some pretty big successes as of late. So, was it very serious while shooting or was it a more relaxed because of the fun blockbuster nature of the movie?
The set atmosphere was amazing. We were like a family. It seemed as if everyone checked the ego at the door and just enjoyed the location shooting. Initially we were asked to come to set and meet Jon and the rest of the cast and crew and that was very intimidating. After we arrived Jon sat us down and we all introduced ourselves and had a table read of what we were going to shoot first. It was hilarious to hear Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Julio Cedillo et al, say their name out loud as if we were in grade school and nobody recognized them. Jon was very smart in creating a level field and inviting suggestions from the start. Jon is an incredibly smart person and is always finding ways to learn on set. He surrounded himself with great generals and soldiers who knew their roles and he trusted them to do them.
You performed all your own stunts? Tell me a little about that, anything in particular a little challenging?
The stunts were amazing in this movie and they all help propel the story as opposed to stunts for the sake of stunts. I was lucky enough to be tutored by Terry Leonard (perhaps the greatest stunt man living) and Tommy Harper, the second and first unit stunt directors. Terry’s first movie that he stunted on was with my grandfather so he took me under his wing and taught me everything he could teach me. I remember about 2 or 3 weeks into the shoot the 2nd A.D. came up an informed me that I didn’t have a stunt double. I had no idea what was in store for me but I said “good, I don’t want one.” I was able to do a lot of riding which was amazing. I was riding with men who had either worked with my grandfather or whose fathers had worked with my grandfather. There are only a few guys who can ride and stunt so the community is very small and very close. I had a stunt that was going to be a “challenge” (or just plain crazy). I knew I was going to be the only one who was going to do it and I was very proud of that fact. It was set up for after lunch and the morning was going to be Olivia Wilde’s stunt. Well a few of the guys and I were sitting in a trailer having lunch when Olivia came in and started talking about how awesome her stunt was and she proceeded to describe the stunt I was about to do! She is not just beautiful and soulful but an incredibly gifted athlete. After she finished ruining my lunch and left, a couple of the guys looked at me and said, “Your stunt better be bigger than hers.” I immediately went down to set and told Tommy Harper that I didn’t care if he lit me on fire, shot me with real bullets, or whatever, just as long as my stunt was bigger than Olivia’s. She probably has no idea that she caused me to go all macho (dumb). When one of the coordinators named Michael Hanson was setting me up for the stunt he told me that his dad was a prop guy on my grandpa’s movie “The Cowboys.” I knew at that moment I was going to have to try to live up to grandad’s legend. It was fantastic and the stunt guys told me they were really proud of me. That meant the world to me because those guys are all action and to have the respect of them you have to earn it through action.
Obviously your grandfather is an icon when it comes to westerns. So, do see it as paying homage when you choose these roles? Or do you try to stay away from them for fear of being typecast?
First of all, love to do these types of roles because they are physical and human. Anytime I can get physically involved in a role it becomes easier to invest emotionally. Hollywood is like any other business in the sense that you have to have a value to be hired and it usually isn’t based on talent but on the consumer’s interest in you. If being John Waynes grandson gives me a foot in the door then I say, “Howdy pilgrim.” If I could play a strong silent type in a western then I can transfer that eventually to other genre’s as well, so I don’t mind being typecast as long as I am cast. As far as doing westerns, I believe America in the media age and Hollywood specifically was built on these movies and the different character types that are portrayed. People survived the depression and World Wars by going to these movies and being taken on a mythological journey.
And what’s your favorite western flick?
“Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is my favorite with “The Unforgiven” a close second
I saw that you’re also involved with the John Wayne Cancer Society; can you tell me a little bit about that?
When my grandfather was in the hospital with cancer he was so impressed with the doctors that he mandated that the family do everything in it’s power to assist the doctors in their research for the cure to cancer. My mother, Toni, and her brother and sisters then proceeded to create the John Wayne Cancer Institute and John Wayne Cancer Foundation. Through fundraising and the doctors research my grandfather has been able to positively affect the lives of millions of people in the fight against cancer. He is still fighting for the right thing 32 years after he died. My role in all of this is simple donate and help in any way I can. I lost my mom to cancer and was able to enjoy her just a little bit longer because of the clinics ability to help her in her fight. I am eternally greatful to them for their efforts. If anyone is interested to see how they can help they can find it online.