Words to live and act by

John Wayne never served in the military, never herded cattle, and, to the best of his recollection, never actually shot anyone. Yet in conversation he was very much the cowboy: direct and honest to a fault.

On his roles: “I’m always the straight guy who heaves the pack up on his back and shouts, ‘Follow me!’ Everybody else in the picture gets to have funny scenes, clever lines, but I’m the hero, so I just stand there.”

On John Ford: “He’s a man whose judgment you trust implicitly. When I’m working under him, all I ask is: ‘What kind of clothes do you want me to wear?’ The rest I leave up to him.”

On craft: “The difference between good acting and bad acting is the difference between acting and reacting. In a bad picture, you can see ‘em acting all over the place. In a good picture, they react in a logical way to the situations they’re in.”

On his Oscar, for “True Grit”: “I thought some day I might win an award for lasting so long, but I never thought I’d get this particular award. … If I’d known what I know now, I would’ve put a patch on my eye 35 years ago.”

On politics: “They say I’m a right-winger, but I consider myself a liberal. I listen to everybody’s point of view and reason it out in my own mind, then try to do what I think is right.”

On “True Grit”: “I’ve gotten damn few roles where you could get your teeth into and develop a character. Until Rooster, I haven’t had a role like that since ‘The Searchers.’ “

On cancer: “I thought about the possibility of death, but that wasn’t what bothered me the most. It was the feeling of helplessness. I just couldn’t see myself lying in bed, not being able to help myself. That, to me, was worse than the fear of death.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more