True Grit: Elvis Presley turned down John Wayne’s offer to co-star

Elvis Presley rose to fame as a singing sensation in 1956, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, also had a vision for his client to become a Hollywood movie star. That same year El Rey acted in his first film, a western called Love Me Tender. In between his musical romantic comedies, he starred in three other Wild West movies in Flaming Star, Frankie and Johnny and Charro, which caught the eye of Western legend John Wayne.

During this period, Wayne was America’s cowboy star, having starred in his first western in 1930’s The Big Trail, before making iconic films with John Ford as The Searchers.

In 1969, the 62-year-old starred in one of his last blockbusters, an adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel True Grit, which is on ITV4 today. The storyline saw Duke play Rooster Cogburn, a tough one-eyed US Marshal who helps a 14-year-old girl track down the drunk who killed her father. They pulled it off with the help of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, a role that turned out to be initially intended for Elvis. However, by the late 1960s, Elvis was tired of making subpar musical romantic comedies and refocused on live performance with his 1968 Comeback Special and subsequent Las Vegas residencies.

The King’s cousin Billy Smith described on his son Danny’s Memphis Mafia Kid YouTube channel how John Wayne asked Elvis to co-star in some of his movies. He said, “Actually, he asked her a couple of times.” So why didn’t the King accept the offer?

In the end, Elvis; Manager The Colonel took it too far by demanding that Elvis should receive top billing over Wayne if he were to play the Texan in True Grit.

Billy added: “Of course, it was always carried out through Colonel and at the time when I was asking, Elvis was a huge star. Colonel didn’t want him to play the second co-star or the second star…with anyone else, so that ruled it out.”

Since Wayne was already a huge star, the producers of True Grit turned Elvis down even though he was their original choice for the role of LaBoeuf. Instead, another musician, Glen Campbell, was cast as the Texas Ranger, which saw him nominated for a Golden Globe. If that wasn’t enough, Duke himself won the Golden Globe and his first and only Oscar at the Best Actor category for Rooster Cogburn. The western legend said during his Academy Awards speech: “Wow! If I had known that, I would have posted it. [eye] patch on 35 years earlier.”

READ MORE: John Wayne called Gone with the Wind star ‘too stupid he could only act’

Campbell also sang the title song to True Grit, which presumably would have been by Elvis if he had taken the movie. The song was composed by Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black and received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Song.

Sadly, the demand for top billing would cost Elvis another incredible acting opportunity in 1976, the year before his death at age 42. Barbra Streisand asked the King to act opposite her in A Star Is Born, but after negotiations with the Colonel fell through. , Kris Kristofferson was cast in his place.

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