Clint Eastwood’s film ‘Sully’ about the heroics of airline pilot Chesley Burnett ‘Sully’ Sullenberger airs on BBC One tonight. Tom Hanks plays the man who famously ditched US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009. The heroic move, which came as both the plane’s engines were disabled by a bird strike, saved the lives of all 155 people onboard. Eastwood’s film also charts the fallout of the incident for Sully, who spirals into drink as he tries to cope with the media attention he receives.
The picture is one of the director’s most recent films from his legendary back catalogue, which includes classic Spaghetti Westerns such as ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.
However, not all the four-time Oscar winner’s Westerns went down well, and one – ‘High Plains Drifter’ – even sparked an angry letter from John Wayne.
The Hollywood legend, who was known for Westerns himself, hit out at Eastwood, over the film for not depicting the people who pioneered the West.
Eastwood explained the letter in an interview with film critic Kenneth Turan, which is quoted in Mary Lea Bandy and Kevin Stoehr’s book, ‘Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western’.
He said: “John Wayne once wrote me a letter saying he didn’t like ‘High Plains Drifter’.
“He said it wasn’t really about the people who pioneered the West.
“I realised that there’s two different generations, and he wouldn’t understand what I was doing.
“‘High Plains Drifter’ was meant to be a fable: it wasn’t meant to show the hours of pioneering drudgery.
“It wasn’t supposed to be anything about settling the West.”
Wayne was used to playing heroic cowboys in his own Westerns, as opposed to Eastwood’s more challenging portrayals of dark drifter characters.
The actor said: “I’ve never pictured myself as the guy on the white horse.
“I’ve always liked heroes that’ve had some sort of weakness or problems to overcome besides the problem of the immediate script.
“That always keeps it much more interesting than doing it the conventional way.”
Scott Eyman refers to Eastwood and ‘High Plains Drifter’ in his biography, ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’.
However, the writer says that Eastwood never replied to Wayne’s letter.
‘Sully’ airs on BBC One from 10:30pm tonight.