Playing John Wayne

Who Might Play John Wayne in The Quiet Man?

I’m sitting in my study, looking at a framed photograph of John Wayne posing with Andrew V. McLaglen, the son of the actor Victor McLaglen, on the set of The Quiet Man.

John Wayne & Andrew McLaglen

I’d bought the photo on one of my frequent visits to the village of Cong in County Mayo from the shop that doubled as Cohan’s Bar in The Quiet Man.

At a height of 2 metres, Andrew was slightly taller than John Wayne, and when I met him in 1998, Andrew told me the actor used to joke that he was the only one who could see Wayne was going bald (I’ve already written on my short acquaintance with Andrew V. McLaglen which you can find here).

Andrew signed the photograph for me with the following sentiment: ‘Steve, thank you for your kind reminiscences of “The Quiet Man” and for your novel! All the best Andrew McLaglen 9-07-99’.

Okay, the title of this article might be a tinsy bit misleading so let me explain.

The book that Andrew refers to is a novelisation of a screen play I wrote back in 1993 / 94 called Connemara Days. It’s a fictional story of a family living in the village of Cong in 1951 when John Ford and his cast and crew arrived to shoot location sequences for The Quiet Man.

Since that point in time there has been at least two serious attempts to bring the story to the screen, and I am revisiting the story behind the writing of the screenplay and the book as there is yet another real possibility that the waiting may soon be over.

The first time we thought Connemara Days was going to be made was back in the mid-90s when it looked as though the Rank Organisation was going to provide the financing for the film.

We were seeking a modest budget of approximately 3 to 4 million dollars, which in those days would have just about covered the cost of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cigar bill on whatever blockbuster he was turning out back then.

The deal collapsed approximately twenty-four hours later when it was announced that Rank was to be taken over by Carlton Television, and suddenly the project was dead in the water.

Once it became obvious we were not going to be able to get the film off the ground I came up with a cunning plan. I would adapt the script into a book, find an enthusiastic publisher for it, sell millions of copies of the book in the process then sit back and wait for the phone call from Steven Spielberg.

Original Book Cover Connemara Days

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a publisher, which meant I had to self-publish instead. I financed the printing of one thousand copies, pre-sold 800 in and around Galway and Cong, and ended up becoming the second-best selling author in Galway in May of 1999.

Alas, Mr. Spielberg was otherwise too busy to make the call, and there the whole project languished for another ten years whilst I got on with the rest of my life.

In 2010 I received a phone call totally out of the blue informing me there was a real chance that the finance could be raised to film Connemara Days from something called the Red Carpet fund.

The upshot of this was a sudden buzz of activity resulting in the Irish Tourist Board financing a trip for myself and the producer in order to meet up with our Irish producing partners and the director in Cong.

Oh, and we could stay in Ashford Castle, the hugely expensive hotel located just outside Cong where Ford, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and other members of the cast stayed back in 1951.

Armed with the news that Daniel Radcliffe might be interested in playing one of the lead roles in Connemara Days once he’d finished the last Harry Potter movie, we spent a wonderful couple of days in and around Cong scouting locations for our film.

Word soon got around that the ‘film people’ were in the area and I lost count of the number of times various businesses in Cong offered to provide the catering for the film should we successfully raise the money to get it made.

I flew back home absolutely convinced Connemara Days was finally going to go before the cameras sometime in the very near future, due to the fact that the film was announced on Irish television news, and I was asked to take part in a telephone interview with an Irish journalist who wanted to write an article about the imminent production of Connemara Days.

Then reality hit home. A few days after the Ireland trip we were told that Harry Potter had decided to bail out, followed by the news that although the Red Carpet fund actually existed, the administrators of the scheme had yet to physically raise any funds to finance our film.

Rather aptly, the rug had been pulled out from beneath us, and it was back to square one.

Now, here we are eight years later, and once again we cautiously react to the siren call of yet another possibility our film will be made. There is currently a concerted effort to raise the finance in America, the budget now having gone up to approximately six million dollars.

In the meantime, Oscar-nominated special effects makeup artist Dave Elsey has put together a test in order to see how one might transform the actor Patrick Warburton (Puddy in Seinfeld) into an approximate likeness of John Wayne.

Patrick Warburton as John Wayne

What do you think?

It must be emphasised that Patrick Warburton is not even a potential actor for the John Wayne role in the possible movie production of Connemara Days.

It is early days yet but the plan is to try and get the financing in place no later than the end of this year (2018) in order that the film can go into pre-production in Ireland early next year.

In an effort not to get our hopes up too much as before, there has been no official announcement that filming may go ahead next year (2019).

If you can’t wait for the movie to be made you can get the book here.

Signup for the future developments…

Photo of author
Steve is a film scholar of note, gaining both an MA in film studies and a Ph.D. for his thesis on the silent films of John Ford. Steve, a scriptwriter and published novelist, provides much of the content you see here and is a dedicated aficionado and longtime fan of John Wayne, John Ford and Western films in general.

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