Brendan Wayne talks about role in “Cowboys & Aliens”

by Patrick McD/

CHICAGO – Brendan Wayne is certainly no stranger to cowboys. As the grandson of one of the greatest western stars ever, John Wayne, Brendan carries on the family tradition in the upcoming Jon Favreau film “Cowboys & Aliens,” featuring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.

Born Daniel Brendan La Cava, son of the John Wayne’s daughter Toni, Brendan took on the Duke’s last name as he was moving up as a working actor. After taking on a series of smaller TV and movie parts, his breakthrough came portraying Randy in the TV remake of “Angel and the Badman” (2009), with Lou Diamond Phillips in the role his grandfather made famous. He adds the bloodline to the the new film, “Cowboys & Aliens,” portraying lawman Charlie Lyle.

Brendon Wayne called from Los Angeles, and talked about the new film, his career and of course his famous grandfather. Cowboys and Aliens is poised to become an event movie for the summer. With the cache of Iron Man director Jon Favreau and the Star Trek writers as part of the mix, what can audiences expect from what sounds like a fun popcorn movie?

Brendan Wayne: It’s going to be a little bit bigger than that, I think Jon did such a good job, because he cultivates relationships. If you have a good western, it’s based on those types of relationships and how those people survived in a perilous journey. This is what we have in ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ as Jon approached this as if it were a western, even with the extraterrestrial element. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a great western. Here you are, the grandson of John Wayne, working with Indiana Jones and James Bond. Did anybody on the set comment on the legendary movie combination and credibility?

Wayne: [Laughs] When I got there, I was quiet as a church mouse, because I’m sitting with Hollywood royalty. Keith Carradine was next to me, whose father [John} was in my grandfather’s breakout film, “Stagecoach” and his last film, “The Shootist.” And with Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano and Olivia Wilde, I was hoping just to get a line. I’ll just hang out, it was great.

As the film moved along, Jon came to me and said he was going to make the role bigger, which was a nice surprise. As we were filming, nobody had come up to me and said anything, even though we were on a western. One day, I’m sitting next to producer Denis Stewart, and I just remarked, ‘my grandfather would sure like this town.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘you brought it up, we made a deal not to talk about your grandfather because you’re probably sick of it.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘why on God’s green earth would I be sick of talking about my grandfather?’

I don’t have any ego about that. I’ve seem how far he reaches and how many people he touches in a positive way. So I told Denis to talk all he wanted, and suddenly he just opened up and he was also dying laughing. And I had the feeling that people were trying to avoid me on the set. I thought, ‘Am I a jerk?’ I realized at the end of the day they were trying to be respectful. What about matching your tradition with James Bond and Indiana Jones?

Wayne: I remember standing in line for 5 hours at a theater in Sherman Oaks waiting to see ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ and here I was on the set with him. We had to do a table read for an upcoming scene and Jon comes in and does a great job making sure everyone is comfortable. He set it up like it was a classroom, and had everyone stand up and introduce themselves. So there was Daniel Craig standing up and telling us who he was portraying and Harrison Ford did the same. I look over and thought, ‘you got to be kidding me, we know who you are!’ [laughs] What did Jon Favreau give you as a director or what did you observe about him that you had never experienced in a director before?

Wayne: Jon sets the tone on the other side of the camera. Then when we do get in front of it, we all have a level of familiarity and comfort. I’ve been on different movie sets, and it doesn’t always come out that way. It was just a great journey that we got to do for four months. I think Favreau remembers when he was in that actor’s position on the set, and he reacts accordingly.

Wayne: He’s the type of director that if someone doesn’t think the scene is working, and they have a point, Jon will say, ‘good idea, let’s do that.’ To me, that is the sign of genius. It’s the guy who can learn while he’s doing it. Of course this film involves a lot of special effects and pretending objects are there when they are not. What is the best actors tip for dealing with that?

Wayne: As an actor, you’d better have an imagination. This is just becoming more prevalent with every movie I make, pretty soon I’m going to making out with some girl who is not really there. [laughs] I just like to tell people, hey, we’ve been doing it since we’ve been born. It’s just being kids, playing cowboy. It’s being able to go back and take away the rules, and if a character has to react to a 27-foot alien jumping out of a tree, you see it coming and you get scared. I actually look to my three daughters, to their reactions. I’ve asked my daughter how would you act in this scary situation? She shows me, and I think there you go. I just steal, grand theft acting. [laughs]

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