In the 41 years since his death, the actor John Wayne has gone down in history as one of the most iconic Hollywood stars of all time, yet he was only nominated for Oscars three times. After being nominated and losing in both 1950 and 1961, Wayne did not have high hopes of winning the coveted award when he was nominated for a third time in 1970 for his work in True Grit. That’s why it came as a major shock to him when he ended up taking home the award!
Prior to the Academy Awards ceremony that year, Wayne opened up to movie critic Roger Ebert about why he thought he likely would not win the Oscar.
“Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance,” Wayne said. “I’d be pleased to win one, of course, although I imagine these things mean more to the public than to us. There are a lot of old standbys who don’t have one. That comedian… what the hell is his name? Cary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business.”
Though he was convinced he would not win the Oscar, Wayne was just happy that the director of True Grit was finally getting the credit he deserved.
“But to get back to True Grit, the thing that makes me happy is that Henry Hathaway is getting some credit,” Wayne explained. “For years, Henry got the thankless jobs at Fox. They’d give him the problem pictures with three stars whose contracts all expired in six weeks. Henry was known as a craftsman, but his stature as a director wasn’t recognized. On this picture, he did a hell of a job. He took great care of those kids (Wayne’s co-stars, Kim Darby and Glen Campbell).”
In the end, Wayne thought he wouldn’t win the Oscar for political reason, as he was a proponent of the Vietnam War, which made him unpopular in Hollywood at the time. However, much to Wayne’s surprise, he ended up winning the Oscar after all! His shock was evident as he accepted the award and talked about having accepted Oscars on the behalf of others on two separate occasions.
“Wow! If I’d have known that I would have put that patch on thirty-five years earlier,” Wayne said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m no stranger to this podium. I’ve come up here and picked up these beautiful golden men before, but always for friends. One night I picked up two: one for Admiral John Ford, one for our beloved Gary Cooper.”
“I was very clever and witty that night, the envy of even Bob Hope, but tonight I don’t feel very clever or very witty. I feel very grateful, very humble, and all thanks to many, many people,” he added. “I want to thank the members of the Academy. To all you people who are watching on television, thank you for taking such a warm interest in our glorious industry. Good night.”
Wayne passed away in 1979, but he is still missed by millions of fans to this day. There will never be another star quite like him!