×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

USC School of Cinematic Arts Considers Changes to John Wayne Exhibit

UPDATED: The USC School of Cinematic Arts released a follow up statement saying the exhibit will be updated to include the controversial 1971 Playboy interview as well as a place where students can post their reflections while long term plans are discussed. Additionally, the school will be in conversation with film scholars and archival material experts on the Western and American West genre to make a decision on the exhibit’s future, which students can expect by the end of the fall semester

After a small group of students objected to a statue and exhibit honoring actor John Wayne, the USC School of Cinematic Arts has responded by hosting a discussion between the students and the school in hopes of finding solutions to concerns of racism.

The conversation was ignited after USC film student Eric Plant displayed a banner outside of the film school reading, “By keeping Wayne’s legacy alive, SCA is endorsing white supremacy.”

Plant said he was moved to protest after a 1971 Playboy interview with John Wayne resurfaced. In the article, the late actor not only said he believed in white supremacy, but he also defended the taking of land away from Native Americans and indigenous people.

Popular on Variety

“I believe in white supremacy,” Wayne, who attended USC in the 1920s, told the magazine. “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the Blacks.”

“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them,” Wayne continued. “Our so-called stealing of this country from them was a matter of survival.  There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Students came up with a series of recommendations in response to the exhibit, including displays featuring people of color in film, an exhibit reframing the Western as a genre, or an interactive exhibit with the students’ voices.

“Our values as an inclusive community are predicated on the idea that our student population needs to be heard and have a say about our SCA environment, especially when information comes to light that changes how we relate to it,” said Evan Hughes, interim assistant dean of diversity and inclusion.

Plant told Variety, “I decided that…every single day until it’s taken down or until there’s a statement saying that they were going to take it down, that I was going to stand outside SCA with this banner and essentially ruin their image that they’ve made for themselves. So when people will see this banner and they walk into this space, they’ll have a different image of what this space is.”

Chris Ford, grandson of Oscar winning director and frequent John Wayne collaborator John Ford, disagrees with the notion that the actor was bigoted. He claims the quote is being taken out of context.

I know John Wayne has gone out of his way to help all people. I think the term [white supremacy] is used differently than what it would be now. It would be the situation that colored people were more dependent on them [white people] then. He didn’t believe in the KKK or Aryan Nation,” Ford said.

There’s no word yet on whether USC would consider removing the entire tribute to Wayne. The school administration promises to keep an open level of communication with students to advocate on their behalf.

“We should have some continuing conversation so that we are accountable, so that I can make sure that whatever we are talking about gets represented,” Hughes told the students. 

More Film

  • Alexandre Desplat

    Alexandre Desplat Combines Mozart and Bowie for Greta Gerwig's 'Little Women' Score

    There have been multiple film and TV versions of “Little Women.” But composer Alexandre Desplat and writer-director Greta Gerwig had a non-traditional idea for Sony’s 2019 version: “We wanted the music to be a duet of Mozart and Bowie,” Desplat laughs. There are no rock music touches in the score, but there is a modern [...]

  • Clarence Thomas

    Film News Roundup: Clarence Thomas Documentary to Get Theatrical Release

    In today’s film news roundup, a Clarence Thomas documentary and “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always” are getting theatrical releases, and Lionsgate is developing a Rabbids movie. RELEASE DATES Manifold Productions has slated “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” to open in theaters nationwide on Jan. 31, Variety has learned exclusively. The documentary about the [...]

  • Danny Aiello Do the Right Thing

    Danny Aiello: Spike Lee, Mia Farrow, Cher and More Remember ‘Do the Right Thing’ Actor

    Following the news that character actor Danny Aiello died on Thursday night, friends and peers of the “Moonstruck” actor shared their remembrances via social media. Aiello — whose body of work included Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “The Godfather Part II” and Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” music [...]

  • Willem Dafoe The Lighthouse

    Willem Dafoe on Early Film Roles, Working With Robert Eggers on 'The Lighthouse'

    A four-time Academy Award nominee, Willem Dafoe developed his cinematic charisma — seen in films like “The Florida Project” and “At Eternity’s Gate” — in his early career in theater. After studying drama at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dafoe moved to New York in 1976 and joined what would eventually become The Wooster Group. His [...]

  • Theodore Shapiro Music Composer

    How Music Illustrates the Shifting Dynamics in 'Bombshell'

    What stands out about Theodore Shapiro’s score for “Bombshell” is that the music isn’t frantic despite being set in a fast-paced environment — Roger Ailes’ newsroom at Fox News. Instead, the score straddles two worlds: that of Ailes and that of the women who worked for him.  “[Director] Jay [Roach] and I talked about finding [...]

  • Just Mercy Movie

    How Period and Real-Life Subjects Informed Costume Designs for 'Just Mercy'

    When Francine Jamison-Tanchuck signed on as the costume designer for “Just Mercy,” the true story of defense attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) and his fight to overturn the murder conviction of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), she was drawn to the prospect of depicting real-life characters through her work.  “It can sometimes be more [...]

  • Avatar

    'Avatar' at 10: What Happened to the 3D Box Office Boom?

    Chris Aronson admits he was being bullish when he told his colleagues at 20th Century Fox that “Avatar” would gross $500 million at the domestic box office. This was back in 2009, before Marvel mania and Disney dominance made half-a-million-dollar earners commonplace. Up until that point, only “Titanic” and “The Dark Knight” had surpassed that [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content