Looking back after 30 years: 10 Mind-Blowing Tombstone Facts That Will Leave You Speechless


1 – Tombstone Was Meant to Be Over Three Hours Long

After being released on DVD, a lot of scenes were expanded. However, many elements remained on the cutting floor. There’s one sequence about the cowboys’ bonfire and mourning. These events take place exactly after the burial in the O.K. Corral. The scene can be seen in the movie’s trailer, but it never made it to the finished print. An extended version of the courtship between Wyatt and Josephine was cut to prevent the film from losing its pacing.

2 – Another Wyatt Earp Film Was Released Shortly After Tombstone

Although this film premiered in December 1993, another Wyatt Earp movie produced by Warner Bros. was on the way. The new venture had Kevin Costner in the lead, and it was written, produced, and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Critics and moviegoers would favor Tombstone for being fast-paced and historically accurate, while the Ladan film was panned for being long and tedious.

3- Tombstone Is Missing a Few Earps

The heroic ensemble at the center of Tombstone includes Wyatt Earp, played by Kurt Russell, and his brothers: Virgil, played with typical awesome gruffness by Sam Elliott, and Morgan, played by the late Bill Paxton, in all of his boyish but badass glory.

But there were actually nine siblings in total: sisters Martha, Virginia, and Adelia; half-brother Newton; eldest brother James, and youngest brother, Warren. James, a professional gambler, saloon keeper, and Union veteran like Wyatt and Virgil, was actually in Tombstone during the shootout at the O.K. Corral, but he was believed to be sitting at home eating lunch. Warren wasn’t in town for the gunfight but was deputized by Wyatt, joining him, Doc Holliday, “Turkey Creek” Jack Johnson, and Sherman McMaster on the Earp Vendetta Ride after Morgan’s murder.

4- Wyatt Earp Really Waded Into a Creek to Shoot Curly Bill

It’s one of the movie’s most cinematic moments: a super-powered and supernatural feeling showdown where Wyatt Earp charges directly into Curly Bill’s line of fire. Somehow, all the shots fired by Bill miss the famous lawman, just before he empties his double-barreled shotgun into the dumbfounded leader of the Cowboys. One of the Cowboys, Johnny Barnes, survived the gunfight in real life, dying from his injuries a short while later in a nearby farmhouse. Before he passed, he related the story of Wyatt Earp’s near miraculous feat, portrayed in the film exactly as he described.

5 – Willem Dafoe Almost Played Doc Holliday

It’s crazy to imagine anyone other than Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, but Willem Dafoe was reportedly the first choice for the role. It’s even crazier to imagine that the lead role in a Martin Scorsese film would sour a studio on an actor, but apparently, the decision-makers balked at hiring Dafoe because of the controversy surrounding The Last Temptation of Christ some five years earlier. If the same reports are to be believed, Mickey Rourke turned down the role of Johnny Ringo. Rourke did later star in Danny Trejo’s direct-to-DVD horror Western, Dead in Tombstone as Lucifer.

6 – Doc Holliday’s Fingerwalking Trick Is a Val Kilmer Staple

The way Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday rolls a coin across his knuckles isn’t just super cool; it’s something of a signature move for the actor, going all the way back to the ’80s. Eagle-eyed viewers will be rewarded with the discovery of similar finger-walking maneuvers throughout Kilmer’s pre-Tombstone filmography. In Real Genius, it’s a pair of quarters, in Top Gun it’s a pen.


7 – Doc Holliday and Batman Have a Cool Connection

Val Kilmer was born on December 31, 1959. That same year, the late Adam West played gunslinger Doc Holliday in not one, not two, but three different episodes of three different TV Westerns: Colt .45, Sugarfoot, and Lawman. Beginning in 1966, West starred in the role that would come to define him, as Gotham City’s Caped Crusader.

Thirty years later, Val Kilmer put on the cape and cowl for Batman Forever. How did Kilmer come to accept the mantle of the Bat, after Batman and Batman Returns star Michael Keaton abdicated from the role? Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher was impressed by Kilmer’s performance in Tombstone as Doc Holliday.

8 – Doc Holliday and Frédéric Chopin Have a Sad Connection

Doc Holliday says so many cool things in Tombstone that even his more subtle witticisms made their way onto t-shirts, patches, and memes. The profanity-laced line about Frédéric Chopin, which Doc says to Billy Clanton (Thomas Haden Church), is loaded with a richer if profoundly sad, deeper meaning.

Both Doc and the composer whose music Doc plays are believed to have died from the same cause: tuberculosis. This famous quote from Chopin is definitely something it’s easy to imagine being uttered by Kilmer in Tombstone: “I wish I could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness, but I take a kind of pleasure in indulging them.” Frédéric Chopin died in 1849, two years before Doc Holliday was born.

9 – Tombstone Has Plenty of Hollywood Western Easter Eggs

The filmmakers behind Tombstone paid attention to historical accuracy and even put Wyatt Earp’s real-life fifth cousin in the movie, in the role of Billy Claiborne. The nods to Hollywood Westerns were sewn into the Tombstone fabric with equal reverence.

For starters, there’s the film’s narrator: screen legend Robert Mitchum. The Tombstone cast also includes veteran Western actors Harry Carey, Jr., Buck Taylor from TV’s Gunsmoke, and Charlton Heston. Paula Malcomson and the late Powers Boothe would both go on to star in HBO’s critically acclaimed Western series, Deadwood.

10 – The Real Tombstone That Was in the Movie

There’s a headstone visible in an early scene with an epitaph so cool, it seems ripped straight from a plastic grave marker found in Halloween novelty shops. “Here lies Lester Moore, Four Slugs from a .44, No Les No more.” But this isn’t just movie magic. It’s a real artifact from the Old West.
There’s actually a headstone in a Tombstone, Arizona cemetery that says that. However, that’s not the one we actually see in the film. Producers actually filmed some of the movie on location at Knotts Berry Farm theme park in Southern California, where a replica of the headstone in question sits in the park’s Wild West area among other attractions.

Somewhere, there’s a bunch of footage in Kurt Russell’s possession just waiting for an ultimate director’s cut edition of Tombstone. But until then we will just keep quoting the version of Tombstone that we already have and we already so dearly love.