Published January 12, 2011
Just last year, Western movie veteran Robert Duvall complained to FOX411’s Pop Tarts that no matter how hard he pushed, he simply couldn’t get any of his beloved Western movies made.
But given the recent box office success of “True Grit,” could that change?
The Western flick starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, and directed by the Coen brothers, took the number one spot in theaters this past weekend and has become the first Western to surpass the $100 million mark since 1992's multiple Oscar winner "Unforgiven."
Bridges’s “True Grit” character, lawman Rooster Cogburn, was originally played by John Wayne in 1969 (a role which earned him an Academy Award) and may very well have sparked a resurgence in the genre that was once at the heart of Hollywood.
“Hollywood is famous for jumping on any profitable bandwagon, whether it is Asian horror or Twilight-like vampire films,” Rob Weiner, film expert and Associate Humanities Librarian at Texas Tech University told FOX411's Pop Tarts. “The success of ‘True Grit’ could lead to more Westerns, there might be those who jump on the bandwagon. But the Western genre hasn’t made a comeback just yet.”
And if it ever does, Weiner says there is one key element that would have to change from Wayne’s day: the stereotypical portrayal of indigenous Americans.
“It’s hard for modern audiences to relate to Westerns, especially given how politically incorrect they are concerning Native Americans. Let’s be honest – racism like that is one thing we can’t do in films today,” Weiner said. “It is also sad that these days, we’re so ingrained with living in cities, that most of us can’t relate to wide open spaces and the whole world Westerns are set in.”
Weiner also argued that while the genre did dwindle considerably over the past 50 years, it didn’t die completely, as films like Brad Pitt’s “The Assassination of Jesse James” and Ed Harris’s “Appaloosa” follow the classic Western formula. Neither did very well, and Weiner think he knows why.
“Jeff Bridges has a coolness that Brad Pitt and Ed Harris just don’t have,” Weiner said.
Fellow film expert Tom Abrams, an Associate Professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, is doubtful that “True Grit’s” success will spur a resurgence in America’s homegrown movie genre.
"In recent years, the Westerns that have been made are more or less ‘vanity’ projects – films like ‘Jesse James’ with Brad Pitt and even ‘True Grit’ with Bridges – that wouldn’t have been made without a big star involved to champion them,” Abrams said. “Fantasy is king now, with its current crop of ‘graphic novel’ adaptations like ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Twilight,’ ‘Vampire Diaries,’ ‘True Blood,’ etc. Sadly, the Western has become your grandfather’s kind of movie.”
Perhaps it isn’t the Western appeal that has audiences flocking to cinemas across the country to see “True Grit.”
“’’True Grit's’ success is much less about the fact that it's a Western and more about the fact that it's just a well-made movie and fills a void that people are feeling with the current offerings in the box office,” said David Wertheimer., the Executive Director of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California.
Hey now! What about "Yogi Bear"?
Deidre Behar contributed to this report.