I had an assignment to photograph an essay on the making of the movie, “The Cowboys,” starring John Wayne. I spent a couple of days on the movie set.
On the second day, a filming day for Wayne, he mostly stood around waiting for the setups. He’d come onto the set, say a few lines, then walk off and wait again. Usually standing by himself.
He seemed lonely to me. At one point the film crew gathered in a small circle, laughing over a joke someone had told. Wayne, who hadn’t heard the joke, went over and stood behind the crew and laughed with them.
As soon as everyone saw him they scattered, leaving him alone again. I don’t know if they were afraid of him, or if they had been warned to stay away from the star by the producer.
I walked over and said, “I guess they’re afraid of you.”
“I guess so,” he said. “I’d rather shovel shit than do this for a living. When I was young I had an uncle who almost left me a ranch in Montana. I wish I was there now, shoveling shit.”
“Why are you still making movies then?”
Without missing a beat he said, “I need the money.”