John Wayne’s brutal lore in every movie brought co-star to tears
George Takei is in London right now, starring in the powerful and moving musical Allegiance, which is based on his own childhood experiences in World War II. His extraordinary life and career includes Sulu on Star Trek, of course, but he also starred opposite John Wayne in the pro-Vietnam film The Green Berets. In fact, that was the reason why he was absent for a major part of season 2 of the sci-fi TV show. Wayne was a leading member of the right-wing pro-war faction in Hollywood, while Takei was vehemently opposed. However, he was shocked by his first meeting with the Silver Screen legend.
The Green Berets were Wayne’s complete pet project, conceived to combat what he saw as declining support for the military in the US. The actor had bought the rights to author Robin Moore’s 1965 book. In addition, he sought and obtained extraordinary cooperation along with supplies, equipment, and weapons from President Lyndon B. Johnson and the United States Department of Defense.
The Army provided uniforms and attack helicopters and the United States Air Force provided two C-130 Hercules transports and two A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft. Some movie extras were actually air force trainees.
So it was understandable that Takei was concerned that their very different and vocal anti-war and political views could be problematic when he went to screen test with Wayne.
Takei said, “I missed half a dozen episodes of Star Trek. We were shooting in Point Bending in Georgia, we had 40 days and 40 nights of a storm that halted filming. I was supposed to go back to Los Angeles, but it got delayed and I missed it. those episodes.”
The actor was able to watch The Duke during extended filming on and off camera and said: “He wasn’t an actor. He had a convincing gigantic personality. He was the same guy off screen. He walked in front of the screen and was able to keep that. Most people change when they go on camera, but he was always John Wayne off camera and on camera.”
However, that “core of decency” was at odds with one thing in particular that Wayne apparently did on every film set.
Takei said, “There was a quirk about him. It surprised me. I was told he did it with every production. He singled out a man, always a big goon, tall, stocky, and muscular, usually a stuntman or a stand-in. And he ridiculed these people there on set with everyone watching.
“I was embarrassed to be there. He did everything consistently with this guy and then people who worked with him on other productions told me he always did that. He picked one person to criticize relentlessly. Sometimes these guys would break down in tears.”
Takei added: “He wasn’t that with me or anyone else. And it was always someone who could stand up to him. But I guess it was his way of establishing his status as alpha dog and leader.”
“I was with him for three months and it wasn’t like that with anyone else. I think it was some kind of mental thing.”
GEORGE TAKEI’S JOY IS PLAYING AT THE CHARING CROSS THEATERmy
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