Charles Portis’ novel “True Grit” was written in 1968, and in short time the Western tale of a young girl’s vengeance for her father’s murder became an American classic. It was quickly translated to film the next year, with director Henry Hathaway guiding the legendary John Wayne as its antihero Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. The movie would earn Wayne his one and only competitive Oscar.

Almost 40 years later, Joel and Ethan Coen, known for films such as “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo,” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” would make their own version of “True Grit,” with Jeff Bridges in the role of Cogburn this time around. The Coens’ version was released in 2010 to a warm reception, though fans would debate which version was “better,” chiefly comparing Wayne’s performance to Bridges’. The friendly debate continues to this day, though all involved admit both actors did admirably.

We’ll leave that debate to others; what we’re here to discuss is the Hill Country connection to the 2010 version of “True Grit.” Several sections of the film were shot in New Mexico and other parts of Texas; the story itself is set in Fort Smith, Arkansas, but most of the “in-town” scenes were filmed in Granger and Bartlett, Texas, both northwest of Austin. However, two pivotal scenes were shot right here in the Hill Country!

Early in the film, 14-year-old Mattie Ross is seeking a lawman and tracker “with grit” to help her hunt down her father’s ruthless killer.  She is eventually directed to Deputy US Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, her top choice from a handful of suggested men, because he’s described as the “meanest.” Surely the man to help get the job done!

Young Mattie is directed to the courthouse, where Cogburn is on the stand delivering testimony regarding a recent standoff in which he killed multiple men in self-defense. The scene is our first look at Cogburn, and its exposition defines his character. More relevant to our discussion, the setting for the scene is the Old Blanco County Courthouse in Blanco.

Built in 1886, the courthouse served Blanco County in its official role for only four years; an 1890 election moved the county seat to Johnson City. Nonetheless, the building with a long and storied history had just the look the Coens needed for their film. Also, the Old Blanco County Courthouse had been faithfully maintained, and was close to other planned shooting locations.

After hiring the reluctant Cogburn, Mattie arranges a time to start their journey, with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf riding along. The men leave earlier than planned, however, not wanting to take a young girl on what could be a dangerous adventure. She catches up to them, and rides her horse across a swift and deep river, thus proving to the adults she has “grit,” of her own. This scene was shot on the Colorado River, just northeast of Llano.

“True Grit” was the second film in which the Coen Brothers shot in Texas locations; the first was 2007’s “No Country for Old Men,” a large percentage of which was shot near Marfa. Between the two films, they scouted out some picturesque and compelling Texas settings; not bad for a couple of Minnesota boys!

If you’re in the Texas Hill Country and would like to do some scouting of your own, whether in Blanco, Llano, or over 30 other towns in the region, we’ll help you find your way with the Texas Hill Country Travel App! With over 2,300 business and attraction listings, you’ll discover adventures to your liking, no matter your interests.