John Wayne

John Wayne Refused Lead Role in Oscar-Winning Movie Because of Military ‘Adultery’

Movie star John Wayne brought a signature acting style that drew his longtime fans to theater seats.

They knew exactly what they were paying for each time they went to see one of his films. Wayne was aware of this, constantly doing quality control on every project that came across his desk. He once turned down the leading role in an Oscar-winning movie because he didn’t like how it portrayed the military.

John Wayne took messages behind movie roles very seriously

Wayne’s breakthrough movie role came about with 1939’s Stagecoach alongside frequent collaborator John Ford. He continued to gain fame over the years through his Western and war roles. However, Wayne never wanted to abandon his own morals for the sake of a role, even if it would go on to be a big success.

There were other Oscar films that Wayne turned down, including High Noon. He always pointed to keeping the moviegoing experience for the whole family rather than supporting content that he deemed immoral or too graphic. As a result, Wayne lost out on a wealth of movie roles that otherwise would have made him an even bigger success.

John Wayne

John Wayne© Getty Images

John Wayne turned down ‘The Dirty Dozen’ because of military ‘adultery’

According to Randy Roberts’ book, John Wayne: American, the movie star turned down the leading role in 1967’s The Dirty DozenThe Longest Yard director Robert Aldrich stepped behind the camera to bring a screenplay written by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller from E.M. Nathanson’s book to life.

The Dirty Dozen tells the story of Major Reisman leading up to the events of D-Day during World War II. Colonel Breed gives him a critical mission to prepare a team of soldiers to intrude behind enemy lines to kill the Germans at a French chateau. They selected the soldiers from death row inmates who were convicted of crimes as extreme as murder, but now they have the opportunity to have their sentences commuted if they succeed. They must prove that they have the bravery and the courage to complete the job, even despite their pasts.

Aldrich offered Wayne the leading role of Reisman, but he turned it down. Roberts asserted that it was because he didn’t want any part in the “adultery” that takes place in the movie with an Englishwoman who’s already married to a man fighting in the military. The actor thought this would reflect poorly on the American image.

‘The Dirty Dozen’ won an Oscar

Wayne turned down yet another movie that would go on to win an Oscar with The Dirty Dozen. The leading role didn’t earn a nomination, but the film itself still earned praise at the prestigious award ceremony.

The Dirty Dozen won the Oscar for Best Effects, Sound Effects, where it beat out In the Heat of the Night. It also earned nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for John Cassavetes, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing.

Additionally, the film is remembered well, sitting at an 81% certified “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a healthy 90% audience score.

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