Val Kilmer: Kurt Russell Didn’t Direct ‘Tombstone’ but Was ‘Solely Responsible’ for Film’s Success

Kilmer addresses a persistent rumor about the classic western — and (slightly) rebuts Russell’s own account

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Did Kurt Russell actually direct the 1993 Western classic “Tombstone” instead of credited director George Cosmatos? That story has followed the film around since its release in 1993, and even Russell himself pretty much said it was true in a 2006 interview.

But according to Russell’s “Tombstone” costar Val Kilmer, it’s not quite true. Cosmatos actually did direct it, Kilmer says in a post to his personal blog. But it was Russell who did the lion’s share of behind-the-scenes work that made the film’s completion possible, and he is “solely responsible” for its success.

“I’ll be clear,” Kilmer said. “Kurt is solely responsible for Tombstone’s success, no question.”

“I was there every minute and although Kurt’s version differs slightly from mine,” he explained. “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.”

The first director, screenwriter Kevin Jarre, was fired a month into filming. His replacement, Cosmatos, came in according to Kilmer with only two days’ prep time. “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,” Kilmer added.

Kilmer mentioned how supportive costars Powers Booth and Bill Paxton were during such a difficult shoot, then added that “Kurt did this for the film virtually every hour.”

“That’s probably how it’s become a story that Kurt directed it,” he said. “I have such admiration for Kurt as he basically sacrificed lots of energy that would have gone into his role, to save the film.

“Everyone cared, don’t get me wrong, but Kurt put his money where his mouth was, and not a lot of stars extend themselves for the cast and crew. Not like he did … Kurt was responsible for the film’s success.”

So there you have it. Russell didn’t direct it, though he did practically everything necessary to make sure the film got made right down to providing the director with direction of his own. Question answered … unless Russell weighs in, of course.

Kilmer also had kind words for costars Paxton and Boothe, both of whom died earlier this year.

“Back to Powers for a moment, such a gracious actor and if you love acting go back and check out his early Emmy winning roles, he’s the real deal,” he said. “And Bill Paxton, like a cheerleader for all film, for all Creativity. Always happy like it was his first job. He would have been happy if you had lit him on fire and hung him upside down, as long as there was a camera running. Just like a perfect thespian. ALL THE WAY. SUPPORTIVE. Sweet.”

“We all miss them both,” Kilmer continued. “They were good men. The kind that make you proud of the ‘craft.’”