Kurt Russell, according to Val Kilmer, was the huckleberry in the making of Tombstone. In a post on the 1993 movie on his website, Kilmer virtually confirmed that Russell had directed the Western.
Several inquiries about my time on the Tombstone set and Kurt Russell’s contribution to the movie’s success have been made, Kilmer wrote. There were allegations that the Tombstone set was highly chaotic and that Kurt Russell essentially served as the movie’s director. How was your time on the set? Was Tombstone really directed by Kurt Russell? I don’t know who to believe, having read about the strife on the set. I’ll be explicit. Without a doubt, Kurt is exclusively to blame for Tombstone’s success.
Tombstone, which starred Russell as Wyatt Earp and Kilmer as Doc Holliday, is credited to director George P. Cosmatos. But the original filmmaker was Kevin Jarre, who wrote the script and replaced during production.
“It was unfortunate that our director — he was a spectacular writer and he was as weak a director as he was a good writer,” Russell said during an interview with Bill Simmons earlier this year. “He was a great writer and he was getting his opportunity to direct and it was just not working.” During that chat, Russell said a lot of the Tombstone production “fell on my shoulders,” a sentiment Kilmer echoed.
“I was there every minute and although Kurt’s version differs slightly from mine, the one thing he’s totally correct about is, how hard he worked the day before, for the next day’s shot list, and tremendous effort he and I both put into editing, as the studio wouldn’t give us any extra time to make up for the whole month we lost with the first director,” Kilmer wrote. “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.”
That the Tombstone production was rocky is far from secretive. Back in 1993, an EW story on the film broke down the process and noted that Russell stepped up to patch things over when Jarre left.
“I don’t know if Kevin would have been able to realize the film he had in his mind,” Russell said at the time. “We might still be shooting his movie. I helped him by making sure we got the movie made. And I feel good about it. We busted our ass.”
It was a big weekend for Tombstone fans: Kilmer acted as Grand Marshal for the inaugural Doc Holli-days event in Tombstone, Arizona. According to the Associated Press, it was the first time Kilmer had visited Tombstone since making the film.