John Wayne Refused to Play American Soldier Cameo Until Producer Paid Him 10 Times More Than Henry Fonda, Sean Connery

Actor John Wayne brought a piece of his passion for American life throughout his movie-making career. He generally jumped at every opportunity to play a soldier who honors his country. However, sometimes personal beef got in the way. Wayne ultimately played an American soldier in a cameo role that earned him nearly 10 times more than Henry Fonda and Sean Connery made for their parts.

John Wayne and studio executive Darryl Zanuck had a very public feud

'The Longest Day' John Wayne as American Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort giving a slight smile wearing his military uniform
John Wayne as American Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort | Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, wrote John Wayne: My Father to write about the legendary American actor from her perspective. She walked readers through the very public feud that unfolded between her father and the producer/studio executive named Darryl Zanuck. He founded the company that would later become Twentieth Century Fox. However, things turned sour between Wayne and Zanuck when the executive had some words about the actor’s passion project, The Alamo.

“I’ve got a great affection for Duke Wayne, but what right has he to write, direct, and produce a motion picture? Look at poor old Duke now,” Zanuck said. “He’s never going to see a nickel, and he put all his money into finishing The Alamo.”

The statement and the tone infuriated Wayne, even though he respected Zanuck. “It’s SOB’s like Zanuck that made me become a producer,” Wayne fired back. “Who the hell does he think he is, asking what right I have to make a picture? What right does he have to make one?”

John Wayne rejected American soldier cameo until Darryl Zanuck paid him 10 times more than Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, and Richard Burton

Aissa recalled how Zanuck called Wayne to play a cameo role as an American soldier in his pet project called The Longest Day. As a result of the feud, the actor refused the part, even though he would normally jump at the opportunity to honor soldiers on the silver screen.

However, Zanuck didn’t get discouraged. Rather, he doubled down and continued to call Wayne and increased the pay with each phone call. The actor purposefully requested a greedy amount of money to make Zanuck leave him alone, not expecting him to actually accept it. The actor finally agreed to star in The Longest Day for the price of a quarter of $1 million for only a few days of work.

Aissa noted that Wayne earned nearly 10 times more money for a role as an American soldier than Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, and Richard Burton did for their parts.

The actor recognized it as ‘highway robbery’

The Longest Day takes a cinematic look at the events of D-Day from the perspective of both the Allied and German perspectives. Zanuck ultimately didn’t mind that Wayne took advantage of him for the American war feature because he made a big success at the box office. However, Wayne privately told Aissa that he knew how much he took advantage of the situation. Nevertheless, he didn’t have too much sympathy for the studio executive.

“It was highway robbery,” Wayne said. “But I needed the money at the time, and that bastard Zanuck had it coming.”

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