I Really Hope This Story About Kurt Russell’S Tombstone Cameo Plan For Kevin Costner Is True


Tombstone and Wyatt Earp were two competing productions about the legendary lawman, and there is a rumor claiming Kurt Russell offered Kevin Costner a cameo in his film. Every so often in Hollywood, there will be two blockbusters that arrive in the same year with the same basic concept. 1998 had Deep Impact vs Armageddon, while 2013 saw Olympus Has Fallen battle it out with White House Down. While Tombstone and Wyatt Earp didn’t released in the same year, they were competing for the same audience.

Kurt Russell starred in and allegedly ghost-directed Tombstone, backed by an incredible cast that included Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott and Val Kilmer. While the film covered a key chapter from Earp’s life, Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp covered his life from birth to death. The latter was released six months after Tombstone, but despite also featuring a talented cast, Costner’s epic was a box office dud while Russell’s film was a surprise hit.

Kurt Russell Wanted Kevin Costner To Cameo In Tombstone & He Would Return The Favor
Russell proposed a fun piece of meta-casting for the dueling Wyatt Earp productions

Kurt Russell proposed that Kevin Costner dress up as a gunfighter shot down by Earp in Tombstone, and Russell would do the same in Costner’s Wyatt Earp movie.

Since Costner was at the peak of his star power while making Wyatt Earp, his biopic had a considerably larger budget than Tombstone. It was an open secret that Costner wasn’t happy about Tombstone going into production and competing against his film, with the filming on both projects overlapping during 1993. According to former Warner Brothers veteran Ethan Dettenmaier (via Brigade-Radio-One), this caused Russell to call up Costner and offer him an uncredited cameo in Tombstone as a way to ease tensions between their films.

Russell proposed that Costner dress up as a gunfighter shot down by Earp in Tombstone, and Russell would do the same in Costner’sWyatt Earp movie. This could have been a fun in-joke, and signaled to the world at large that the Tombstone vs Wyatt Earp battle wasn’t so serious. According to Dettenmaier, however, Costner quickly shot the offer down.

Kevin Costner Tried To Sabotage Tombstone At Every Turn
Costner was originally set to star in Tombstone before exiting over creative differences

Tombstone had a tangled journey to the big screen, with Costner himself originally signed up to play Earp. The late screenwriter Kevin Jarre’s script was acclaimed but Costner later dropped out, as he felt the movie should cover Earp’s life and not just his time in Tombstone. While the star set off to work on Wyatt Earp with director Lawrence Kasdan, the Tombstone screenplay passed around Hollywood and fell into Kurt Russell’s lap. The star was so taken with the story he personally went out to find the financing himself.


Russell recounted to True West in 2006 that Costner tried to sabotage his Tombstone film by calling up the major studios and warning them off distributing it; considering Costner’s star power, most complied. In essence, Costner blocked most of the paths for Tombstone to get made, though thankfully, Disney and Buena Vista ignored the star’s ultimatum. Dettenmaier also claims that the Wyatt Earp production brought up all the Western movie props and costumes they could find; not to use them, just to ensure that Tombstone couldn’t.

Despite Costner’s efforts, Tombstone arrived six months ahead of Wyatt Earp and grossed $55 million worldwide (via The Numbers). The movie is now considered one of the greatest Westerns ever and features an embarrassment of great scenes, dialogue and performances. On the flipside, Costner’s staid, plodding Wyatt Earp failed to recoup its $63 million budget, and is now only really mentioned when people discuss its rivalry with Tombstone.

Is Kurt Russell’s Tombstone Cameo Plan True?
Neither Russell nor Costner have corroborated this Tombstone cameo story

If Russell’s cameo plan for Costner in Tombstone is true, this makes the latter’s decision to pass unfortunate. It could have shown that even if the productions were competing, there was no bad blood behind the scenes. For his part, Russell had no hard feelings about Costner’s attempts to block Tombstone, feeling Costner was in his right to protect Wyatt Earp. Unfortunately, The Russell/Costner Tombstone pitch must be taken with a grain of salt, since even Ethan Dettenmaier frames his anecdote with “I’ve heard…”

This means the story isn’t firsthand information, and could easily be apocryphal. That said, it does feel like the kind of thing Russell would do, and it would have been a great easter egg had it happened. Perhaps Costner was worried about the signal this Tombstone cameo would convey, since being gunned down by Russell’s Wyatt Earp could come back to haunt him if his film flopped. This proved to be the case regardless, so he should have just suited up with Russell and had some fun.