How cool is this…two of my favourite actors, in my favourite genre playing the same character and both being nominated for an Oscar. Pretty awesome right?
Yep, the amazing John Wayne and Jeff Bridges were nominated for their respective roles as lawman Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 and 2010 versions of True Grit. That is, of course, actor in a leading role (or however the award is phrased at any given time). Pretty much…some pretty darn good acting by an actor in the lead role.
As it would be totally wrong to compare the two and their take on this iconic role, I’m not going to do so. To ensure this, I’m only going to re-watch the 2010 True Grit after I’ve written up my 1969 True Grit bit. (No way…already 8 years old!)
Let me start with John Wayne purely because I only just watched this last night (well, by the time I post this it will be “three nights ago”). I’ve had the DVD in my collection for years. Yes…years. And I can’t believe I put it off so long. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
At first, I thought John Wayne was…..well…John Wayne. Then, as the story unfolded, I realised that, actually, yes, it is John Wayne being John Wayne but that’s the whole reason why he’s my Western movie hero. Some fantastic acting. As he had more and more screen time, I noticed that it was more than that. Something different, something grittier, something Oscar-deserving. He took on this role with enough grumpiness and seeming indifference to make it believable yet under it all managing to subtly show a tender side. And, the unintentional comic moments and/or witty lines are perfectly timed – for a second here and there, that is. Then back to pure grump again. Never before had I been aware of small facial expressions like I was here. Absolutely perfect.
The other thing I noticed was that, despite being the legendary man he was (and still is), he never once overshadowed his co-stars. Now that is great artistry.
Did he win? Yes, third Oscar nomination lucky (2nd nomination for actor, the other in 1950)…in 1970 John Wayne received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (his 3rd nomination had been for directing in 1960). Very, very well deserving. He likewise won a Golden Globe (same role, obviously).
Slightly off-topic, while watching the outlaw at different points I had this feeling of “I know this face” with two of them. I just couldn’t pinpoint who….until the credits rolled and hey! of course! Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. I couldn’t believe it. Keep an eye out for them if you watch this.
So…save post…and…off to watch Jeff Bridges…
Gruff and no-nonsense roles require actors who can portray such traits naturally, without seeming “acted”. Jeff Bridges achieves this spot on in the “newer” version. What I appreciate is that he hasn’t tried to “copy” John Wayne‘s role at all. Granted, some of the lines are the same but that’s purely because it is based on a book (by Charles Portis and superb reading if you haven’t yet done so). He breathes life filled with the perfect balance of “grump” and disillusionment into Rooster Cogburn. But underneath it all, still caring, albeit not obviously so.
His Rooster is the man who is not used to being with anyone else. Who does his own thing, makes his own decisions, fighting his daemons. There is no light relief in this portrayal and had there been, it just wouldn’t have worked. Am I allowed to repeat “Absolutely perfect.” that I used a few paragraphs earlier? Definitely Oscar deserving.
And did he win? Unfortunately, in this second nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, he wasn’t as lucky as in the year before when he won for Crazy Heart. Overall, this was his 6th of 7 total nominations.
Having watched these two fantastic movies within 3 days of each other…and I’m not about to compare…do I have a preference? No, I don’t. The two roles are so totally different that they can’t be compared. John Wayne and Jeff Bridges bring us outstanding performances and are equally deserving of their Oscar nominations. Besides, 2010 as opposed to 1969 is a new age of movie making, a new era of actors, a new approach to roles. How could I possibly put them side by side? So, no, absolutely no preference.
Although, I do favour one of the movies over the other, but that is totally besides the point here. And has nothing to do with Rooster Cogburn or the actors playing him.