“I Watched Kurt Sacrifice His Own Role”: Val Kilmer Will Never Forget What Kurt Russell Did To Save 1 Underrated Western Despite Not Getting The Credit He Deserved


While a movie has a fixed director, producer, scriptwriter, and crew, there have been times when an actor or actress stepped up for the sake of their character or the movie as a whole. While Sylvester Stallone fought to keep the famous Rambo monologue in the script, the likes of Tom Cruise are often meddling with the film to make it better.

Similarly, Kurt Russell famously stepped up to helm his underrated Western with Val Kilmer, which lost a director just a month after. Kilmer even revealed how Russell did most of the work despite not getting the credit he deserved.

Val Kilmer Reveals How Kurt Russell Saved Their Underrated Classic

The making and release of Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell‘s underrated Western, Tombstone, is no less than a miracle. Plagued with firings, delays, rewrites, budget issues, and so much more, the film could not have existed today if it wasn’t for the effort of the movie’s lead star, Russell.

Originally slated to be directed by the movie’s screenwriter, Kevin Jarre, he kept falling behind schedule, leading him to get kicked out. While George Cosmatos was brought in as the new director, he was inept since he was there with only 2-3 days of preparation

So Kurt Russell took over, essentially working as the real director and editing the script.

While there were rumors that Russell had been doing most of the job, the actor himself came clean in an interview with True West that the production wanted him to helm the movie. Kilmer, too, in a blog on his website (via Entertainment Weekly), reiterated his co-star’s claims and stated,

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.

While Cosmatos managed the set to bring a sense of stability and made his own changes, it was really the efforts of Russell, followed by Kilmer, that Tombstone exists today as one of the best Western movies of all time. Yet, despite it all, Russell maintained that Kevin Jarre was an incredible writer and that it was unfortunate that he could not be just as good of a director.


Tombstone Was the Hardest Work of Kurt Russell’s Life

When George Cosmatos was brought on as a ghost director for Tombstone, Kurt Russell promised him he would not speak a word about his efforts until he was alive (he gave one of his first interviews about the film in 2006 after Cosmatos passed away in 2005). Although Cosmatos put in a lot of effort himself, essentially improving the visuals of the film and adding in a few scenes (see Entertainment Weekly), it was Russell’s efforts that the movie got made.

In his interview with True West, Russell remarked,

And it was the hardest work of my life. Tombstone was so painful. Tombstone was so tough, you know what I mean? It was just so painful; it was hard physically to do—I got four hours sleep every night.

Even his co-star Val Kilmer praised Russell in his blog, stating,

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.

Despite his efforts and his not getting any official credit, the Marvel star is happy to be instrumental in getting the movie made. Both Kilmer and Russell are still appreciative of how George Cosmatos helped the movie and allowed Kurt Russell to take charge.

And that is how the cult classic Western, Tombstone came into existence.