Published On: Sat, Feb 18th, 2023

John Wayne’s brutal tradition on every film reduced co-star to tears says George Takei | Films | Entertainment

George Takei is in London right now, starring in the powerful and moving musical Allegiance, which is based on his own childhood World War II experiences. His extraordinary life and career includes Sulu in Star Trek, of course, but he also starred opposite John Wayne in the pro-Vietnam movie The Green Berets. In fact, that was why he was absent for a significant part of Season 2 of the TV sci-fi show. Wayne was a leading member of the right-wing pro-war faction in Hollywood, while Takei was vehemently opposed. Yet, he was shocked by his first encounter with the Silver Screen legend.

The Green Berets was completely Wayne’s pet project, conceived to combat what he saw as falling support for the military in the US. The actor had bought the rights to author Robin Moore’s 1965 book. Furthermore, 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 as well as attack helicopters and the United States Air Force supplied two C-130 Hercules transports and two A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft. Some film extras were actually air force trainees.

So it was understandable that Takei was concerned his very different and vocal political and anti-war views might be problematic when he went in to screen test with Wayne.

Takei said: “I missed out on half a dozen episodes of Star Trek. We were filming on location at Point bending in Georgia we had 40 days and 40 nights of a rainstorm that stopped filming. I was supposed to be back in Los Angeles but was delayed and so I missed out on those episodes.”

The actor was able to observe The Duke over the extended shoot on and off camera and said: “He was not an actor. He was a compelling gigantic personality. He was the same guy off-screen. He walked in front of the screen and he was able to maintain that. Most people change when they go in front of the camera but he was always John Wayne off camera and on.”

However, that “core of decency” was at odds with one particular thing that Wayne apparently did on every single film set.

Takei said: “There was a quirk in him. I was shocked. I was told he did it with every production. He singled out one man, always a big bruiser of a guy, tall, husky and muscular, usually a stuntman or a stand in. And he pilloried these people there on the set with everyone looking on.

“I was embarrassed being there. He did it all 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 excoriate relentlessly. Sometimes these guys broke down in tears.”

Takei added: “He wasn’t that with me or anyone else. And it was always with someone that was able to stand up to him. But I suppose it was his way of establishing his alpha, top dog status.

“I was with him for three months and he wasn’t like that with anyone else. It was some kind of mental thing I think.”


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