Exclusive Interview: Brendan Wayne Follows in Famous Grandfather’s Footsteps in COWBOYS & ALIENS
Two things are going to happen tomorrow. One, Cowboys & Aliens is coming out. Two, John Wayne is back on the screen … sorta.
Brendan Wayne, grandson of the famous actor, will be in the movie as Deputy Lyle. Daemon’s Movies had the immense pleasure to chat with the very engaging Brendan Wayne about his role, how it is to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and what is coming next for him.
Check out what he had to say below and don’t forget to go see Cowboys & Aliens which is coming out this Friday July 29 at a theater near you
How did you get involved with this film?
Brendan Wayne: As an actor I obviously keep my head down in the stream of information. I got a call from my manager and he said, ‘There’s a film coming out called “Cowboys and Aliens”.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘Okay.
Is it low budget or a modified low budget? What is this?’ He said, ‘No, man. This is the real deal. This is [Steven] Spielberg.’ I was like, ‘”Cowboys and Indians”?’ I was so perplexed. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me right now.’ Sure enough I found out that it was [Jon] Favreau was directing and Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig and I was like, ‘You’re kidding me right now.’ He said no and I said, ‘I don’t care who you have to kill, lets get in on this movie.’
At the time I was out doing a play in Hollywood, an original with my wife, Sara [Arrington]. Most of the time you do plays in L.A. and you do them just because you want to act. Not because anyone is going to come see it. But Sarah Finn who cast the movie happened to come see our play. She loved it and came up to me afterwards and was like, ‘Keep your look. I’m casting something and I’m going to bring you in when the time is right.’ Then she brought me in and it was fantastic. I didn’t hear anything for, it seemed like four months, but two months. Usually if you don’t hear something for a week you’re done.
Two months later I heard, ‘You’re going in for a horse riding callback.’ I was like, ‘You have to be kidding me.’ So, I brought my horse down and I think that sufficiently surprised them. I called my buddy who has a ranch and I keep my horse there and he’s the one who really got me ready to ride out here. He’s a stuntman. He was on ‘Iron Man’ and is amazing. He said, ‘Bring your horse.’ I said, ‘Do you want to bring it down for me.’ He said, ‘Sure. I’ll meet you over there.’ And he knew a couple of the wranglers who were there. So, it was nice. After that point, they saw me ride and were like, ‘Alright, I have no question that we can use him the way that we want to,’ which I didn’t know exactly how they wanted to use me.
Can you talk about your character, Deputy Lyle? Who is he and what happens to him?
Brendan Wayne: What happens, as the synopsis says we’re in a small town that’s looking for it’s way. It’s got Colonel Dolarhyde played by Harrison Ford who’s the reason we have any money coming through the town. So, he rules this place with an iron fist. He’s got a derelict son.
I’m one of the deputies in this town under Keith Carradine who’s the sheriff. His father was in the ‘Stagecoach’ with my granddad. Actually his breakout movie ‘Stagecoach’ and finished my grandfather’s last movie, ‘The Shootist’. He was in those. So, it was really cool to have Keith there. He was my sheriff. My character, Deputy Lyle, is that simple, tried and true deputy, a classic western character who’s going to be there through thick and thin and is going to do what’s right in spite of the easy way out. It’s nice that he takes responsibility. He’s a very simple guy. I don’t have ten monologues, but there are a few really good moments. I have one with a preacher and the kid, Noah Ringer, and Clancy Brown which is probably my favorite scene that I’m involved other than all the stunts that I did.
Did you do a lot of own stunts?
Brendan Wayne: I did all of my own stunts. It’s funny because that’s what I meant by when they saw me with my own horse and I was able to ride. They were like, ‘Yeah. We can use him the way we want.’
Well, about three weeks in we’d be doing nights and we hadn’t even touched a horse, or at least my character hadn’t and the second AD comes up and says, ‘Hey, Brendan, I was looking at my call sheet and you’ve got a lot of stuff to do shortly. And I don’t have a stunt guy for you.’ I said, ‘I see what that guy is doing. [?].’ He goes, ‘Well, Jon,’ and the second he breathes [?] I go, ‘Okay.’ He goes, ‘I was thinking you could do it.’ I said, ‘Alright. I’m doing it.’ I didn’t want him to think either way. I was like, ‘If I can’t we’ll learn real quick.’
Terry Leonard was the second unit stunt coordinator and Tommy Harper was first. The first movie that Terry ever did was with my grandfather. So, it was really cool. Terry and I sat and talked and he said, ‘Look, I’m going to make sure that you look as good as you possibly can.’ I got on the horse and he said, ‘You’re slouching like it’s 1999. You’re not 1999. It’s a whole different thing when you’re riding this horse. You may ride this around the ranch like that, but you’re going to ride like a man. When you ride into the movie you better look like you’ve been riding.’ I said alright, and I was doing it and he was shaking his head, looking at me like I was crazy. Terry is quite known for his little phrases. He said, ‘Look, I want you go get on that horse and I want you to be like a big tit blonde walking through bar. She wants everyone to see her chest. Get it out there.’
I swear to god, I couldn’t get that image out of my head every time. I was like, ‘I’m going to be manly,’ and the next think you know I’m trying to be like some chick in the bar. So, it worked out for me really well and Terry took care of me and made sure that I didn’t do anything too stupid. Anything that was good I give full credit to Terry and anything that looked bad goes back to my posture. So, it was really great. I did some stunts and you can see them in the preview. I can’t explain it because it’ll give away plot. There’s a bar fight in there. I can give that up, and then there’s a couple off the horse where the only reason I did them the way that I did them, or well, actually there were two reasons; I was going to do it and I wanted to challenge myself physically, but also because Olivia Wilde comes cruising in at lunch. I was supposed to do my stunt after and she started talking, like, ‘I did my own stunt. I did it off a live horse.’
I knew her set up was going to be off the Sea Biscuit rig which is fake horse that they can film in and it helps her do her stunt. It turns out she’s like, ‘I did it off a live horse. I went higher than any other actor they’ve pulled.’ I’m just like, ‘No.’ These guys were sitting with me and looking at me. They were shaking their head and said, ‘Wow. You’re doing the same stunt as her it looks like.’ I went down and I saw Tommy. I said, ‘Goddamn it, Tommy. Light me on fire. I don’t care if there’s sequels and they want me in them. Shoot me. Kill me. Off the horse. Whatever.’ It worked out. We did a crazy stunt off the horse. A lot of fun.
Is this the first time you’ve done something where you did all your own stunts?
Brendan Wayne: No. This is the most stunts and by far the most challenging stunts that I’ve ever done, but it seems to kind of go with the territory, being John Wayne’s grandson. Most people are like, ‘Oh, you’re John Wayne’s grandson. So, you like to do your own stunts like he did,’ because he and Yakima Canutt came up with onscreen fighting, like, the way that it evolved from the ’40’s even into the ’90’s until real mixed martial arts started coming in.
That was their fighting style that everybody saw. He was a big proponent because it helped him stay in character during scenes because if you can get your character’s physicality you’ve got it all, as far as I can see. That was a big boost. So, they just assume that if it’s J. W.’s grandson, like, ‘Lets just stick him in there and he’ll light it up on fire,’ and I did.
Speaking of your grandfather, did he inspire you to get into acting?
Brendan Wayne: I think at the end of the day, yeah.
I guess some people might shy away from something that someone in your family has done so well and he became more than just an actor to so many people around the world. I have to say that I found acting later on in life. I didn’t even start until I was about twenty seven. But I definitely thought what he was doing was fun. I’d watch a western or I’d watch ‘McQ’ or I’d watch one of his cop movies, any of those and I’d say, ‘All my life as a kid I was playing a cowboy or I was playing a cop and he’s getting paid to do this. He can be physical and do that. How fun would that be?’ I’d always lean towards it, but I just didn’t have the inclination initially or at least I didn’t have the desire to work as hard as you have to work to be an actor.
It’s no different than any business that you want to be good at and get paid at and enjoy a life in. You have to work your butt off. I know there are stories of Jane Russell sitting at Schwabs drinking a cream soda and was found by an agent and became a big star, but those aren’t there, not today at least. It’s a very cultivated path whether it seems like overnight or not. So, I found my way that way and my grandfather, to me, will always be my favorite actor. I have my Carey Grants. Daniel Craig as a matter of fact. There’s people I love to watch. Sam Rockwell is my absolute favorite. This is a good thing about my grandfather not being around because I can say that out of living actors Sam Rockwell is my favorite actor. That way I don’t impugn his memory. But yeah, he was a big part of my choice.
How long was the shoot for you?
Brendan Wayne: It was about four and a half months. We did a little over three months in New Mexico and Santa Fe and all around New Mexico really, and then we did about a month here of which I probably worked a week. Once we got back here we had just a little studio work. That was the great thing about the film because as we do talk about the mash up of the two genres, and today we often see movies where CGI gets to be more than the story or it is the story; in this movie it’s a western through and through.
That’s why we took so long filming out there because it’s a western and it takes part in western landscapes and the whole deal and you have the classic characters, the deputies, the sheriff, the barkeep, the bad town guy and his kid, all those things that you love in a classic western. Jon found a way to tell a classic western without insulting a culture, whether it’s cowboys and Indians like I thought he meant because you just can’t tell those stories without being insulting on some level. Spielberg and all those guys did it. [Robert] Orci and [Alex] Kurtzman wrote a beautiful script.
You can’t ignore what they did with, and then Jon is so great at capturing the human spirit that the CGI is a prop in this movie, but it’s not the movie. It’s well done, but he wanted a western and it happened to have an alien in it or aliens.
What’s your favorite cowboy movie, and it can’t be a John Wayne movie?
Brendan Wayne: It’s either ‘How The West Was Won’ or ‘The Unforgiven’ and right now I’d lean towards ‘The Unforgiven’ with Clint Eastwood.
And what’s your favorite alien movie?
Brendan Wayne: Alien’. I’m madly in love with Sigourney Weaver. Before I die I want to work in a movie with her because she’s so amazing. Just a great actress and I respect her professionally, but she’s so beautiful and sensual and sexy. She played a strong, tough woman in that movie. It’s funny because I was young when I saw it and I’d said to my mom years later when I was becoming an adult of some sort, I was like, ‘Yeah, mom. I only want little girls when I have kids,’ because I have five brothers and I’ve seen how crazy they are and I know what I did. I said, ‘I only want little girls because girls seem to have better heads on their shoulders.’ She laughed and said, ‘Ever since you watched that movie “Aliens” you always thought that we needed more strong women in the world.’ I swear that’s it. ‘Aliens’ is such a beautiful movie. It scared the hell out of you. She was the best heroin I’ve seen in so long. Sigourney Weaver wins for me to say the least.
Do you have anything else coming up?
Brendan Wayne: I’m about to go film a horror movie which I’m very excited about because I’ve never done that genre before and it’s just a really cool deal. We’re going to shoot it in 3-D. It’s called ‘The Red House’. I just got it and we’re just starting to wrap it up. I should probably go shoot in the beginning of July, I think. It’s cool because it’s local and I do have three little girls, speaking of wanting little girls. I have three little girls and so I get to stay close this time and I don’t get to miss them all summer.
So, that’s nice. I have a twelve year old and she says, ‘Dad, can I come to this set,’ because I took them all to the ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ set and they loved it. So, I’ll do ‘The Red House’ and it’s pretty gory. So, I’m debating whether or not she’s coming to that. Then this fall, depending on how ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ does and what they’re going to do if there’s going to be anything beyond this one, I have another western that I’m going to shoot either this fall or next winter in Spain, in Almeria. That one is called ‘Dollars For Now’ and we’re going to shoot on all of the old Sergio Leone sets. I’m really fired up about that.
(Photo Credit: Lorenzo Hodges)