In 1998: It was the battle of the Earth-destroyed-by-asteroid epics Deep Impact vs. Armageddon.
In 2013: It was the battle of the terrorist-attack-on-the-White House epics Olympus Has Fallen vs. White House Down.
And back in the early ’90s: It was the battle of the Gunfight at the O.K Corral flicks that were 1993’s Tombstone and 1994’s Wyatt Earp.
Welcome to the O.K Octagon for the Wyatt Earp showdown that Kevin Costner built.
In “The Western Godfather,” an October 2006 article published in True West Magazine, it’s learned that Costner was originally involved in Hollywood/Buena Vista Pictures’ (part of Walt Disney Studios) production of Tombstone — starring as Wyatt Earp. As is the case with the clout of A-List stars, they’re given control over their scripts. Costner was, of course, unhappy with screenwriter Kevin Jarre’s (an expert history scribe courtesy of his 1989 Civil War epic, Glory — but you know Jarre’s work in Rambo: First Blood Part II) version that focused more on all of those involved in the epic Wild West gunfight, than Wyatt Earp.
So Costner turned in his spurs to Uncle Walt and signed on the dotted line with Bugs to make his own version Wyatt Earp’s tale for Warner Bros. with Lawrence Kasdan (of Star Wars* fame) who helmed Costner’s previous western, 1985’s Silverado. And Costner used his considerable clout to convince most of the major studios to refuse to distribute Tombstone.
So, what was the end result?
Tombstone — released first, in December 1993 — was a box office success, becoming the 16th high-grossing western released since 1979.
Wyatt Earp — released in June 1994 — was a critical and box office bomb.
So, how bad was it?
Wyatt Earp earned five Razzie nods for Worst Picture, Director, and Screen Couple (Earp and his three wives), while walking away with the awards for the Remake or Sequel and Actor categories. In addition, Costner’s version ended up on several major, national publications’ “Year End Worst Of” lists, including Rolling Stone, which ranked it the 2nd worse film of the year.
And good ‘ol Pops, a western freak who never appreciated my love for all things Spaghetti Western — or Klaus Kinski** — beyond Clint Eastwood’s forays, hated Wyatt Earp. But he loved Tombstone. So there you go. (And he, like I, loved Costner’s Waterworld and The Postman, and Costner’s early film Fandango is still one of my VHS-rental favorites.)
And why are we reviewing the Costner one and not the Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer-starring one? Have you not been paying attention at all this week, ye B&S About Movies reader?
This one stars the perfect-for-the-western-genre-and-we-wished-he-did-more-of-them John Doe of X as Tommy “Behind-the-Deuce” O’ Rourke — a character based on the real life professional gambler and gunslinger Michael “Mike” O’Rourke, aka “Johnny O’Rourke,” aka “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce.”
* Be sure check out our month-long blowout of Star Wars-influenced film reviews with the our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette.
** My love for Klaus Kinski Westerns is unbound, as proven with our “Drive-In Friday: Kinski Spaghetti Westerns Nite” featurette.