Western Movies

Tombstone at 20

The Movie Too Tough To Die

tombstone-imaget-two

A lifelong Western and Horror movie fan, with an intense interest in history and weapons, screenwriter John Fasano was actually focused on Bruce Willis, not Wyatt Earp, when Hollywood fate took a hand and he found himself suddenly working on what would become a Western classic, 1993’s Tombstone.

“This whole thing started as a real ‘movie moment.’ I was writing Die Hard 3, and George Cosmatos was preparing Shadow Conspiracy, and we’re both at the Cinergi offices in Santa Monica. I’m standing in the hallway, and I meet George for the first time in my life. I tell him that I really liked Of Unknown Origin and The Cassandra Crossing, and one of us says, ‘Oh, we really should work on something together.’ Typical stuff. The door to [Hollywood Pictures’ President] Andy Vajna’s office opens, and he says, ‘You’re directing Tombstone, and you’re re-writing it!’”

I knew George, who passed away in 2005, and I have been friends with John for years, and all of us have talked about Tombstone more than once. But as the film’s cult status has grown, so has the supposition about its making, which was a great reason for me to get together with John over lunch and relive a little history of one of the most popular Westerns of the last 20 years.

John laughs as he recalls that day: “An hour after we meet, we’re on a private plane, flying to Arizona. I’d never read the script, so I’m reading it before we land.”

In Arizona, Fasano and Cosmatos walked into the chaos that had erupted around Tombstone: “All the cast and crew are in a room, and they want to kill each other. Andy says, ‘Here’s your new director, and your new writer.’ Everyone was arguing against us, and it was huge. The movie was going to fall apart right there. Kurt Russell supported the idea of using George, and that calmed everyone down.”

What had brought everyone to this state was the firing of the film’s screenwriter and original director Kevin Jarre. Jarre had written the screenplay of the Oscar-winning Glory, and this was to be his first feature behind the camera....

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