John Wayne: Getting to Know the Man Behind the Hollywood Legend

Today, Scott Eyman is a journalist, adjunct professor and author of numerous biographies covering actors and filmmakers from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but in 1972, at the age of 21 and armed with only the knowledge that he wanted to “write about the movies,” he found himself sitting with legendary Western star John Wayne. That meeting would lead, over 40 years later, to his writing the biography John Wayne: The Life and Legend.

“If I hadn’t met him,” Scott, who was born March 2, 1951, muses, “I probably wouldn’t have written the book. Over the couple of hours I sat with him, I found that there was an interesting gap between who he was as a human being and what he played. I mean, not 100% — there was definitely an overlap — but he was much more … thoughtful … as a person than his screen character was. He was much more contemplative than his screen characters. His body language was different as a person than it was on screen. So there were just all of these interesting differences between what he did and what audiences thought of him, and who he actually was.”

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Noting that he had been a fan since the time he was a kid, memories still burn fresh of going to the local theater and watching all of those movies. “I was actually kind of young for John Wayne,” Scott suggests. “He belonged to an earlier generation and most of my friends thought I was kind of goofy, because I would go see The Sons of Katie Elder or Big Jake and things like that. I wouldn’t have thought of missing a John Wayne movie.” Just as he couldn’t have imagined spending five years of his life to come writing about him.

For more of our exclusive look back at the life and career of John Wayne, please scroll down.

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