Brendan Wayne discusses Cowboys and Aliens, following in the Western footsteps of his grandfather John Wayne, and more
After appearing in such fare as Hotel for Dogs, Fast & Furious, and Couples Retreat, this modest member of Hollywood royalty has decided to jump on a horse and show what he is truly made of. In Cowboys & Aliens, Brendan Wayne plays Charlie Lyle, deputy to the town's sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine). We recently caught up with Brendan to find out what it was like for him to truly become part of the Wayne legacy.
Here is our conversation.
What can you tell us about Charlie Lyle and his place within Cowboys & Aliens? I understand that your character is pretty integral to the storyline...
Brendan Wayne: Well, I don't know how important it is when you got Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Sam Rockwell around you. But it is a great part. Charlie Lyle is the deputy to Keith Carradine's sheriff John Taggart. We are part of the pact that goes to fight these aliens who have come in and invaded our land. It's really fun, character wise. I get to play this guy...You don't often think about it, and there are a couple of comments that I have gotten...We are in the 1870s, and we rarely think of aliens having been around back then. I had an older buddy, a cowboy friend of mine, and he was like, "There weren't aliens until the 1950s." And he was dead serious. I was like, "What do you mean? They could have been here forever." He goes, "No, man! Roswell!" I was like, "Oh, my God!" But this is fun. You not only get to take on a character in the 1870s, but on top of that, you are doing something where they don't have electricity. They don't have their Blackberries, or anything. So it is a big reach for this character to absorb these aliens that are coming. But he puts up a hell of a fight against these aliens. I am helping this kid in it, named Noah Ringer. He is fantastic. He played in The Last Airbender. I am his personal chaperone and bodyguard.
How open was Jon Favreau with you about the look of the aliens you were fighting. Did you know, in your mind's eye, what you were up against, are do you have to wait and see the movie like everyone else, to see them?
Brendan Wayne: He was still developing what the final alien would look like at the beginning of the shoot. But we did get to see the aliens, and they are badass. They are really cool. They hearken back to my youth. Back to Alien. They made me feel like I did when I saw that. That fear. Its not so much the cuddle alien who is picked up on the way to Vegas. This thing has a fear factor to it, which I loved. It was cool to watch the process of their growth, in terms of how he ended up with the final product. That was really cool.
How much of the action are you involved with? This seems like a pretty intense movie for all involved.
Brendan Wayne: I will say this, because I am very proud of the fact: I did all of my own stunts. In terms of the action, I am involved in all of it. It was really fun. When you jump off a horse, you are taking a big step in terms of confidence and comfort level. It was worth it for me. I didn't have to prove myself in any way, and the stunt guys were really cool. Jon Favreau was great at balancing a classic Western tale, which is almost epic in its scale. Then, also, bridging that gap in keeping the picture moving within today's standards. You can't do these expansive, long shots like John Ford used to do, because the audience gets bored really quickly. They see the opening shot, they get the idea, and they want to move on. It moves very fast, and you are going to be challenged by the routes that Jon Favreau took during the movie.
Were you trained first as a stuntman, or did that come with some of the earlier acting gigs that you took on?
Brendan Wayne: Two things for you. I think I am just dumb enough to try my hand at whatever comes around. I didn't set out to be a stuntman, but I don't want to shy away from any of the physical aspects of this. I box every day. I really enjoy that stuff. The other thing is, people always ask if its tough being John Wayne's grandson. 99.9% of the time, I have not had a worry in the world because of that luxury. But when you get on an action movie set, they want, and expect, you to do it. "Well, you are JW's grandson!" Three weeks in, they were like, "Hey, we don't have a stunt guy for you." I have to be, like, "Great! Awesome! What did Jon Favreau think about that?" "Well, Jon Favreau is the one that came up with it." "Okay, sounds good." Meanwhile, I have read the script, and I know what I have to do. I am like, "Oh, man! I have to get with the stunt coordinator right now!" I got taken care of on the set by Terry Leonard, the second unit stunt coordinator. He is a great guy. He is the best stuntman living today. He is a legend. He did all of the stunts for Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, including going under the cars. His first movie was my grandfather's. He was a stuntman on Rio Lobo. He took care of me, and made sure that I didn't do anything that would taint my grandfather's image, or my own.
With that background, working with a lot of actors who have never even ridden a horse before, do you find them coming to you, going, "Oh, this guy will teach me!"
Brendan Wayne: Of course. It was great. Sam Rockwell had a horse that didn't ever want to get up and run. Sometimes, at the beginning of a scene, you will see that I am always at the back of the pack. They knew I would be comfortable on a horse, and if anything went squirrelly, I would do what I could. But Sam's horse was this big ol' wagon horse. He rides a little rougher, and he doesn't want to run out of the gate. So I would ride up and slap that horse's ass. He'd get going. It was pretty fun. The more the movie went on, the more comfortable the actors became. And it was really cool to see that, because you have all of these great actors, and some of them had ever been on a horse before. Olivia Wilde? She did her stunts off that horse. What you see is the real deal. She is not only hot, an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, and a great actress, but she is very athletic on top of it. We were not dealing with some wilting flower. She was all involved.
Jon Favreau is one of the few directors nowadays who demands practical effects. He doesn't like to rely on CG too much, so that had to play on you guys having to do your own stunts.
Brendan Wayne: Yeah. There was very little CGI that he involved us with. He kept us doing a classic Western. The aliens were doing their deal. They were more of a way to tell a story. A way to make the story great. Jon Favreau made a great, real, Western story that just happens to have some CGI aliens in it. You just want to do whatever Jon wants you to do. He is just so ingratiating. He is very humble, and incredibly approachable. When you get there on the first day, he says, "Look, I will take all of your opinions. I may not use them, but I will take them." At the end of the day, I saw some of the stunt guys figuring out how to role. It wasn't a physical thing. It was an opinion thing, he took it, and then he did what he could. I was like, "Wow, this guy is for real." When he wanted to get a certain shot, we'd do whatever it took. It was really cool. Jon Favreau surrounds himself with people that know what they are doing, so that he can do his best. He wants to tell a human story, even though it is Cowboys & Aliens.
Have you seen the movie yet?
Brendan Wayne: I have seen a lot of it. But I haven't seen the whole locked version of it that he finished a couple of weeks ago. I have been a little busy. I am looking forward to it. I will wait until the premiere, so that I can see the whole film like everyone else.
About a year ago, I was out in Durango, Mexico, and these people claimed to have one of your Grandfather's horses. Is that even possible?
Brendan Wayne: It would have to be a pretty damn old horse. You are talking thirty-two years old. We did have a ranch, with cattle and horses. They could have bought one of those horses. He loved Durango. When he was down there, on his off days of shooting, he would lay tile and do manual labor. He hated being the Duke all the time. He would go work on a house, and the people he was working with wouldn't treat him any differently. So, it wouldn't surprise me if someone had a horse, and that horse was a sire of one of his horses. It is not out of the realm of possibility. It would have to have been a baby that grew from then to now. Thirty years is a long time for a horse. It has been thirty-two years since his death. It could be his horse, I suppose. But I would be surprised. I hate to say no. But that is unlikely. That is an old horse. My buddy has a forty-year-old horse that he just stopped riding a year ago. But if that is the Duke's horse, god, who knows? That horse could live forever!
Last question. I know you are an aficionado of the Western genre. How does Cowboys & Aliens stack up to Harrison Ford's first Western, The Frisco Kid?
Brendan Wayne: I think, not to step on anyone's toes, but this movie is going to blow that one out of the water. Although, Gene Wilder? Come on! I did talk to Harrison Ford about that movie on the set. He looked at it as a more traditional Western. But it's different, too. It's very hard to compare things. You want to see a specific plot, with cowboys shooting at things, and cowboys riding hard...That is what you will get out of Cowboys & Aliens. There are two things. I think this will make Westerns popular again. I really do. I also think that Jon Favreau found a way to tell a classic Western tale without impugning on someone's culture. On the flipside, I think Harrison has a vehicle here that introduces a great character for him. And a genre that suits him incredibly well.