Friday, June 07, 2024

The Real Hero of Tombstone

 June 7, 2024

   If you weren't able to make it to yesterday's screening of "Tombstone" at the Scottsdale Museum of The West, here's what you missed.

The Man Who Really Saved 'Tombstone'

   Everyone who reads True West magazine knows about Kurt Russell shadow directing the popular classic "Tombstone," but was there another person in the background who actually saved the project? According to a high ranking producer on the film shoot there was. Here's what really happened.

   When the screenwriter—and first-time director— Kevin Jarre, was fired from the movie "Tombstone" several weeks into filming (nothing of what Kevin shot is in the released film), the filmmakers had a mess on their hands. Everyone agreed the original script was brilliant, but with time lost they needed an alternate version of the story, or, at least one that salvaged as much of the original dialogue. Unfortunately, millions of dollars were written off by tossing everything that had been shot and getting a new director (George Cosmotos) up to speed. In addition, the budget had to be reduced in order for the film to have a chance at recovering its investment. In short, the entire film project at this point was on the verge of failure.

   The Executive Producer Andy Vajna (pronounced Vie-nah) went to work with his partner Mario Kassar to reshape the film. Vajna was an experienced hand, having already produced "First Blood,"  "Rambo,"  and "Medicine Man." And Andy was one of the founders of the American Film Market (AFM). In fact, after a trailer for the Sylvestor Stallone picture "First Blood'' tested poorly, Andy recut it as a revenge story and the film was enthusiastically received and sold at the Cannes film festival. Andy set out to do the same thing for "Tombstone." Most of the ending with the Red Sash Gang being shot out of their saddles and hanged (none of this was in the original script) gives a satisfying finish to the story—and pays off the revenge angle—and led to a hefty box office. Jarre's original script has more of a "Godfather" tone, exploring, and exploiting the grays between the Earps and the Cowboys, but with Andy Vajna's input, and additions, the film transformed into a more popular entertainment than the original, brilliant script would have done.
   And, now you know who really saved "Tombstone." As brilliant as Andy's contribution was, I still believe a six-part miniseries of the original script would be a winner, but that's just me.

The real Tombstone at dusk

(photo by Rob Mariasch)

"In Hollywood, nobody knows anything."

—William Goldman

"I don't deserve this! To die like this! I was building a house!" 

—Little Bill Daggett, (Gene Hackman) in "Unforgiven"

1 comment:

  1. Kevin Jarre had a firm sense of history. His script for 'Glory' was also terrific. Too bad he didn't get to do more.


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