‘Wyatt Earp’: Why Martin Kove Didn’t Want to Be in the Classic Western With Kevin Costner

by Katie Maloney

When you get the chance to be in a major western movie, you want one of the lead roles, right? Well, that’s how Martin Kove felt about Wyatt Earp.

Wyatt Earp is a biographical movie about western lawman Wyatt Earp. Earp became a respected sheriff in Dodge City and Tombstone after he and his brothers waged war against vicious rebel gangs. Kevin Costner starred as Wyatt Earp and encouraged his friend Martin Kove to audition for the movie as well. During an interview, Kove shared that the two of them frequently bonded over a love for westerns.

“I was friendly with Kevin…I would stop by the studio and chat with him about westerns. He was a great guy. He just loves westerns. Kevin turns every movie he does into a western whether it’s The Postman or Waterworld,” said Kove laughing. “It becomes a western one way or the other. We have that much in common.”

Martin Kove Didn’t Want To Audition For Wyatt Earp

After Costner was cast in Wyatt Earp, Kove was asked to audition for the role of Virgil Earp. But he wasn’t having it. He was just starting to land roles he was excited about and he didn’t want to take on such a small role in the film.

“I had to read for it. And I didn’t really want to do it. I wanted to play Virgil Earp which was Michael Madsen’s part,” said Kove. “I get a call from the producer and he said “Marty, I want you to play this role. It’s a pivotal role. You transition him into the legend within that scene that you did in the saloon where he takes your rig and wears it for the rest of the movie.’ And I said, ‘But it’s a really small part’…And he said, ‘No, no no, it’s a pivotal scene, it’ll be in the trailer.’ And I said, ‘The trailer won’t be out for a year and a half, how do you know it’s going to be in the trailer?’ And he said, ‘Trust me, it will be in the trailer. So, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’

And sure enough, a year and a half later, Kove’s scene was in the trailer for Wyatt Earp.

Martin Kove talks about why he almost turned down his role in Wyatt Earp.

Martin Kove Is A Black Belt In Three Different Martial Arts

With decades of roles under his belt, it’s difficult to choose just one of Kove’s roles as the most memorable. So we’re not even going to try. However, we are going to highlight his work in The Karate Kid Part II. Why? Because he kicks butt in that movie, literally. And we really do mean literally. Kove has black belts in three different martial arts, Kendo, Okinawa-te, and Tiger Kenpo. Kove actually injured his hand during a scene in the movie when his character John Kreese fought Mr. Miyagi. Just goes to show that no one fights Mr. Miyagi and wins.

At 75 years-old Martin Kove reclaimed his role of John Kreese for the spin-off series, Cobra Kai. During an interview, Kove said that “Karate Kid is a gift that keeps giving, and everybody loves it…These are the classics that stay alive.”

We wish we could have seen some of Kove’s martial arts skills during his saloon fight scene in Wyatt Earp.