Kevin Costner now is identified as tough John Dutton, the patriarch on Yellowstone, the very modern-day TV western.
Back in 1994, Wyatt Earp was a popcorn flick that producers thought would rule the viewing days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday. Costner initially proposed the project as a TV mini series. But director Larry Kasdan turned the idea into an almost three-hour long movie that tried to tell every sweeping detail of Earp, the legendary lawman.
In interviews, Kevin Costner told reporters he always was fascinated with Earp. But he wondered if the movie landscape already was saturated with films about Earp, the U.S. Marshal. Costner’s film was the 20th rendition.
With all the talent in the cast, there’s no conceivable way that the movie should’ve been a flop. Tons of big names were in the cast. Future NCIS star Mark Harmon played Johnny Behan, the sheriff of Cochise County in the Arizona territory. Gene Hackman portrayed Wyatt Earp’s dad. Dennis Quaid played Doc Holliday.
“There was a point where I didn’t even think this movie should be made,” Kevin Costner told reporters in 1994 as he promoted the movie. “And that was because I thought the story of Wyatt Earp was terribly familiar to us.
“When I commissioned the script,” Costner said, “the idea was that if this story couldn’t be any more interesting than ‘Gunfight at O.K. Corral,’ it could not and would not be made. It just so happens that great writing found a way to make the movie original, strong and entertaining.”
Despite Kevin Costner and Other Stars Appearing in Wyatt Earp Movie Bombed at Box Office
The Kevin Costner movie was released June 24, 1994. And it flopped, badly. Maybe it was too long for a normal viewer who starts squirming in their seat after about two hours. Or maybe audiences already were too familiar with Wyatt Earp. The problem might’ve been timing, considering that six months before Wyatt Earp, America got to see Kurt Russell play the character in Tombstone.
Wyatt Warp earned a meager $25 million at the box office. Conversely, it’s budget was $63 million.
“I believe in westerns when they’re careful,” Kevin Costner said before the movie premiered. He added: “I think westerns will sink like a stone when they’re black hat/white hat affairs or when they’re designed only for commercial impact. I love to deal with westerns that tackle real issues, real dilemmas. Whether ‘Wyatt Earp’ is financially successful or not is one thing. I believe it’s already successful because of the kind of movie that it is.”
So almost three decades later, maybe Netflix is the right venue for a three-hour Kevin Costner movie. After all, a pause button wasn’t available back in 1994.