Few actors in Hollywood history have achieved as mythic a status in our collective conscience as John Wayne. Remembered as the paragon of rugged American masculinity, Wayne traded blows with everyone from old west outlaws to Nazis. Of course, for all of his many legendary roles, John Wayne never crossed into the world of science-fiction. Now, however, thirty years after his death, it appears we will finally get to see the Duke in a sci-fi role.
According to a story on The Houston Chronicle website, John Wayne’s final unreleased performance will be seen in an upcoming DVD entitled, Thunder Riders of the Golden West. The film, which was independently produced by Dave Burleson (Wayne’s stunt double and longtime friend), focuses on “cowboy truckers who hit the trail in search of $3 million worth of gold in the middle of an atomic bomb test.”
While I’m all for seeing John Wayne saddle up the horse for one more mosey around the desert, this movie has the potential to cause some controversy. For John Wayne purists, The Duke’s last movie was The Shootist, pure and simple. We’ve all seen how angry fans can get when their favorite deceased actors rise from the grave to shill products on TV (Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Mr. Wayne himself, just to name a few examples). So John Wayne saddling up for a sci-fi- themed western may just rub some fans of The Duke the wrong way.
On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like Burleson is looking to exploit John Wayne in any way. After all, they were friends for many years and Wayne doesn’t even play the lead in the film (that role went to Burleson himself). Rather, it looks like Burleson finally found the money to release his movie, and it just so happened to take him 25 years to do it.
I, for one, would be very interested to see how Thunder Riders turns out. What do you think? Does this sound like it has potential, or will you skip it to preserve your existing memories of John Wayne?