The Kevin Costner Movie That Was Doomed Because Of Kurt Russell
Kevin Costner starred in Wyatt Earp, but the film was doomed because of Kurt Russell's Tombstone.
Wyatt Earp should have been a great movie by all accounts, especially considering how popular Kevin Costner was at the time of its release. However, the Kurt Russell-led Tombstone film would come out months earlier, and all but doom Costner’s version of the character and the film in general. In the battle of the Westerns, Russell would come out ahead.
Wyatt Earp was released six months after Tombstone and featured Kevin Costner in the titular role, which was filled by Kurt Russell in the latter film. However, compared to its direct competitor, the film would go on to be a box office flop. Wyatt Earp made $55.9 million at the box office against a budget of $63 million.
Wyatt Earp holds a 34% “rotten” critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, though the audience rating is a much higher 61%. That pales in comparison to Tombstone which has a “certified fresh” critic rating of 74% and a much higher audience rating of 94%. In the battle of Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner, Russell wins this round.
Kurt Russell was part of an ensemble film that highlighted the many characters in Wyatt Earp’s company, whereas Kevin Costner wanted to focus more on Wyatt Earp in general. In fact, the Costner-led feature was initially supposed to be a mini-series, before Costner used his influence to get it turned into a feature film. That clearly did not work out well, as the Wyatt Earp film failed at every turn.
Wyatt Earp follows Wyatt Earp’s journey as a young man when his older brothers, Virgil and James, join the Union Army. Wyatt attempts to lie to get into the army but is caught by his father and returned home. He heads to Missouri after, to marry his childhood sweetheart, who dies of Typhoid Fever, leaving him to become a drunk and get into trouble.
Wyatt goes on to become a buffalo hunter, befriending the Masterson’s. He heads to Dodge City to become a peace officer, where his reputation grows. The rest of the film mimics what Tombstone is about, as both the Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner versions of the character head to Tombstone.
Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell both had respectable ensemble casts in their films. Costner’s was Gene Hackman, Mark Harmon, Michael Madsen, Bill Pullman, Dennis Quaid, Isabella Rossellini, Tom Sizemore, JoBeth Williams, Mare Winningham, and Jim Caviezel. Russell had Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, and Dana Delany
Despite both having stellar supporting casts, Costner’s film was just not a hit. It could have been because it was released six months after Tombstone, and many could have thought it was attempting to imitate Tombstone. Then again, the bigger reason was that Costner thought focusing more on Wyatt Earp would have driven that film a lot farther.
Though Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner had much of the same story being told in their films, Tombstone was just received better. To be fair, Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday is one of the better performances in any film, so that could have been an unfair advantage. Costner could have used some hindsight on the matter, as Wyatt Earp should have stayed a mini-series, considering he leads one of the most successful Western shows in the history of television.
People could argue that Kevin Costner was just too late, and Kurt Russell was able to get his Western up first, leaving many to already have a bias about the Wyatt Earp film. We wonder what would have happened if the release dates were flipped. Still, Tombstone just remains a vastly better film.
Kevin Costner is a spectacular actor, but he missed the mark on Wyatt Earp. Kurt Russell allowed Tombstone to be an all-encompassing story of the Wild West, and that worked out far better in the end. Costner could have just been wanting to ride the high of Dances with Wolves, though it was released four years later.
Despite both Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell being in films that covered the same story, both films deserve a chance. Tombstone will be remembered as one of the best Westerns ever made, buy Wyatt Earp isn’t as terrible as some people make it out to be. Give both a shot and determine if Russell was really the person behind Costners’s film crashing and burning.