While short of a “modern classic” as far as Costner’s films go, Wyatt Earp remains a staple of the genre he redefined in the 1990s. In the titular role, the Hollywood icon stars in this epic that sprawls from Wichita to Dodge City to the O.K. Corral in Tombstone!
Within, the man that was Wyatt Earp becomes the myth we know today amidst thrilling action, romance, and good ol’ fashioned Western action.
Regardless of promise (and that rousing recap), the film didn’t fair too well with critics. It was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography, but the most prolific awards it would win were… Two Razzies. One for “Worst Remake”… And one for Kevin Costner as “Worst Actor.” Youch.
The film came up for three more Razzies, too, including “Worst Picture,” “Worst Director” for Lawrence Kasdan of Star Wars fame, and hysterically: “Worst Couple” with the stipulation of “Kevin Costner and any of his three (film) wifes.” Double youch.
Yet none of this would stop Wyatt Earp from becoming a cult classic of sorts; the kind of modern Western that’s so bad it’s good. Many Costner fans are loyal to the effort, and judging by the cover photo sourced for this article – he and Dennis Quaid certainly had an excellent time together on the film (see below).
Making ‘Wyatt Earp’
As fascinating as the film’s reception is and was, its production was even more so. 90’s film audiences will remember that another film concerning Wyatt Earp’s legend hit theatres the year before Tombstone.
A true classic, Tombstone would dominate the box office and stands as one of the finest Westerns ever made to this day. Within, Kurt Russell famously took on the role of Wyatt Earp – but he wasn’t the first pick.
Kevin Costner was.
Yes, Kevin Costner passed on making Tombstone to make his own, far less successful Wyatt Earp. Why? As the story goes, Costner held deep disagreements with writer Kevin Jarre over the focus of the film. IMDb states that Costner wanted the character of Earp to be the central focus, not Doc Holliday. And we all know how that turned out for Val Kilmer. (Fantastically. It turned out absolutely fantastically.)
In the end, Costner left Tombstone so frustrated by the experience that he would use “his then-considerable clout to convince most of the major studios to refuse to distribute the competing film, which affected casting on the rival project,” IMDb cites. Talk about sore.
If anything great came out of Wyatt Earp, though, it was the pairing of the two happy campers above: Costner and Dennis Quaid. Quaid reportedly lost 30 pounds to play the TB-riddled Doc Holliday, but this didn’t put a damper on his experience. Needless to say, however, whenever Western fans think of Holliday, they think of Kilmer’s incredible turn.
Oh, fate. What a tangled web we weave.