All filmmakers have their magnum opus – a production that’s deeply personal to them, and one that they’re immensely proud of. Francis Ford Coppola had The Godfather, George Lucas had Star Wars, Martin Scorsese had Taxi Driver. The list goes on and on.
But how good that magnum opus may turn out to be depends on various factors, one of which is the person behind it not being a self-indulgent jackass who puts their ego ahead of everything else. These films are examples of when that didn’t happen…
5. The Conqueror (1956, Dir. Dick Powell)
Actors playing characters of different races to themselves can have varying degrees of success. It can be amazing like Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List, it can be pretty unconvincing like Anne Hathaway in One Day, or in the case of John Wayne in The Conqueror, it can be astoundingly bad and monumentally stupid. Why? Because he was playing Genghis Khan.
A man who is an enduring American icon, mostly starred in westerns, and who Wikipedia describes as being famous for his calm voice played Genghis Khan, a Mongol warrior who is regarded as one of the most pitiless and bloodthirsty warlords in the history of mankind. Take a moment to fully appreciate how mind-bogglingly idiotic that is.
And it wasn’t a random notion by some overpaid film executive either. This was all John Wayne’s idea. The story goes that the film’s director Dick Powell briefly left Wayne alone in his office and Wayne found a script for The Conqueror that Powell had been about to throw away. Wayne insisted that he wanted to make the film with him in the role of Genghis Khan and Powell, despite initially trying to talk him out of it, agreed and production began. Powell later said about the matter “Who am I to turn down John Wayne?”
Wayne later came to deeply regret this ego attack, claiming that the message to take from it was “not to make an ass of yourself trying to play parts you’re not suited for.” An interesting side note is that the film was apparently written with Marlon Brando in mind for the role. Which is equally stupid.
This article was first posted on March 6, 2013