True Grit’s Reuben ‘Rooster J’ Cogburn was created by author Charles Portis in his 1968 novel. As a ‘fearless one eyed U.S Marshall who never knew a dry day in his life’ Cogburn required some serious talent to bring him to life on the silver screen…
John Wayne – True Grit, 1969 original
Without a question, Rooster J Cogburn was a part made for Western movie star John Wayne. Wayne’s Cogburn was a man filled with a sense of almost lazy justice and vengeance as he helped the 14 year-old Mattie Ross find the man who killed her father. However, Wayne cut a lonely figure in Cogburn as well as making him a little unlikeable and a bit of a sourpuss. Though 61 years-old at the time of filming, Wayne demonstrates the elusive ‘true grit’ that his character was said to possess and won himself an Oscar for pouring a true sense of magic into the role.
Jeff Bridges – True Grit, 2010 Coen Brothers adaptation
Taking a break from ‘Dude-ism’, Bridges heads out to the wild west to play the one-eyed loveable rogue Cogburn. As much as Bridges attempted a more edgier and wild version of Cogburn (this Cogburn had one ARM as well as one eye – how about that?) which rightfully earned him an Oscar nomination, Bridges’ version just did not seem as dark or as convincing as the actually old-and-weathered Wayne.
The Verdict: Wayne plays the part of a damaged man frighteningly well. We think the fact we’ve seen Bridges as a slacker in The Big Lebowski takes the edge off and lets us imagine Cogburn as a big cuddly bear underneath all the grit and unfortunate flesh wounds.