Tombstone is widely regarded as classic modern Western and quite rightly so in our opinion but it would appear that its lead, Kurt Russell, deserves a lot of the praise for the success of the movie with his work behind the camera as well as in front of it. This was highlighted by his co-star Val Kilmer who played Doc Holliday alongside Russell’s Wyatt Earp. The actor recently took to his official website to tell fans,
“Kurt is solely responsible for Tombstone’s success, no question.”
The story of the making of the film has always been a closely guarded secret but what we do know is that original director Kevin Jarre was fired from the position early on in production and replaced by George P. Cosmatos. Jarre wrote the screenplay and Cosmatos, who had previously directed Rambo: First Blood Part II, later took over as director but rumour has it that the film’s star, Kurt Russell had in fact overseen most of the film’s production. Kilmer went on to explain,
“We lost our first director after a month of shooting and I watched Kurt sacrifice his own role and energy to devote himself as a storyteller, even going so far as to draw up shot lists to help our replacement director, George Cosmatos, who came in with only two days prep.”
Kilmer and Russell obviously had a deep investment in the film and it shows with their stellar performances, along with a great supporting cast, including Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp and the late Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp. It has been reported that both stars even lived together during production and would go as far as sleeping only four hours a night so they could work an extra twenty minutes. Russell has been somewhat more diplomatic in the past when asked about his directorial input on the feature, stating,
“I backed the director; the director got fired, so we brought in a guy to be a ghost director. They wanted me to take over the movie. I said, ‘I’ll do it, but I don’t want to put my name on it. I don’t want to be the guy.'”
Whilst the true story behind this may never come out, it’s clear that the cast and crew went to great lengths to help make this film a success in spite of some initial behind the scenes problems. Since its release in 1993, Tombstone has garnered much praise and rightly continues to do so as one of the greatest modern westerns and arguably the greatest telling of the story of the Earp brothers famous confrontation at the O.K. Corral.