Kurt Russell was less regretful about the result, saying: “I don’t know if Kevin would have been able to realize the film he had in his mind. We might still be shooting his movie. I helped him by making sure we got the movie made. And I feel good about it. We busted our ass.”
If anyone has the right to feel proud about the result, it’s Russell. Due to Cosmatos’ impromptu arrival and heavy workload, Russell had to act as an uncredited co-director. In particular, he was tasked with keeping his co-stars in line and trimming the script. In searching for an emotional core, Russell and Jacks made the decision to hone in on Earp’s friendship with Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer). Russell told EW, “Wyatt and Doc is one of the great love affairs of all time between two men. It’s a strange, tough, violent, deep relationship.” This wound up being a good call, for Kilmer was a show-stealer as Holliday and his performance was lauded as the movie’s highlight.
In a 2017 blog post, Kilmer would credit Russell as responsible for the success of “Tombstone”:
“Kurt is solely responsible for ‘Tombstone’s’ success, no question. I watched Kurt sacrifice his own role and energy to devote himself as a storyteller, even going so far as to draw up shot lists to help our replacement director, George Cosmatos, who came in with only two days prep. I have such admiration for Kurt as he basically sacrificed lots of energy that would have gone into his role, to save the film. Everyone cared, don’t get me wrong, but Kurt put his money where his mouth was.”
While not everyone working on “Tombstone” weathered the difficulty, it seems those challenges created similar camaraderie between Russell and Kilmer that their characters shared onscreen.