How Kurt Russell Saved Tombstone From Disaster

Kurt Russell stepped in as director, cast spokesman, and script supervisor to save Tombstone.

By James Brizuela | Updated

kurt russell tombstone

Kurt Russell starred in Tombstone, but that wasn’t the only thing that he did in order to make this film one of the best Westerns ever made. The initial production of the film was in complete chaos, with rookie director Kevin Jarre messing up at every turn, and subsequently getting fired for his many mistakes. Russell would then step in to become the psuedo director, and cast spokesman, and was charged with refocusing the script, which was also chock full of issues.

Just weeks into the production, cinematographer William Fraker had apparently quit three separate times after his concerns were ignored. The budget of the film was not where it should have been, actors were frustrated, and producers were ready to tank the film, especially with Kevin Costner announcing his own Wyatt Earp movie. However, Kurt Russell partnered with co-star Val Kilmer and new director George Cosmatos to save the film completely.

Val Kilmer has spoken up about the many times that Kurt Russell stepped in to save the production of Tombstone. According to a blog post that the actor wrote in 2017, he stated, “Kurt is solely responsible for ‘Tombstone’s’ success, no question.” Kilmer would then detail the many issues that had taken place while they were both on the set of arguably their biggest film.

Kilmer added, “He’s very good about structure and a character’s function…he’ll discuss and anticipate things.” Kurt Russell helped to shift the focus of the script and the movie to include the relationship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Russell stated, “Wyatt [Earp] and Doc [Holliday] is one of the great love affairs of all time between two men.”

After that point, the script would be changed to focus on the relationship between Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday. The production would get back to focusing on the movie, and it was still completed before its big holiday release. Apparently, everyone in the cast and crew knew that these hiccups were just a part of show business and didn’t think much of the struggles after the movie had been released.

Oddly enough, Tombstone was not the success story that it would become. The movie would not be the critical success that everyone had hoped for. It wasn’t until years after the movie got its release that it exploded into more of a cult classic Western film. Now, Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer are regarded as two of the actors that helped to reignite the magic of the Western genre.

Tombstone currently holds a “certified fresh” critic rating of 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with a much better 94 percent audience rating. The movie has gone on to cement itself in the conversation of the “top 5 Westerns ever made” but it had plenty of issues to get to that point. Thankfully, Kurt Russell is an actor who does not let his ego get in the way, and he was able to step in and help guide the production in the way that he did.

Tombstone can be streamed on Freevee right now. The movie follows the real-life events of the battle at the O.K. Corral in the town of Tombstone. The film stars Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton, and many more.