Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (Did he direct the movie?)

Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone

Kurt Russell is one of the most iconic and successful actors of his generation. He is known for a number of cult classics, such as Escape from New York, The Thing, Stargate, and many other films. One of the highlights of the film Tombstone was the portrayal of Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp.

Early Life and Career

Russell was born on March 17, 1951, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was born Kurt Vogel Russell and was raised in Thousand Oaks, California. He is of German, Irish, Scottish, and English descent.

The actor’s career started at a very young age, wherein he starred in TV shows, one of which was the lead role in The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (1963) when he was just 11 years old. In the same year, he landed his first role in a film, playing a young Elvis Presley, titled, It Happened at the World’s Fair.

He was then signed by Walt Disney for a 10-year contract, where he starred in a number of TV shows, films, and voiced characters, with the most famous being adult Cooper in the Disney hit, The Fox and the Hound, which was released in 1981.

He was recognized as the most successful Disney star in the 70s, and one of the very few child actors who continues to enjoy a stellar career as an adult actor.

Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone

Kurt Russell played the lead role in the movie, portraying retired peace officer, Wyatt Earp, who had a notable reputation. The movie is based on a true story that took place in the 1880’s in Tombstone, Arizona, (specifically the O.K. Corral) featuring groups of lawmen and outlaws who fought for justice.

Tombstone movie poster
Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer were the two headline stars of the movie

The movie was initially supposed to center around the love story between Wyatt Earp and his common-law wife, Mattie Blaylock, but a series of events during the production of the film resulted in many of Russell’s scenes and lines being cut.

Released on December 25, 1993, the movie achieved critical acclaim and blockbuster success, garnering 3rd spot on the most watched films when it was released. It grossed $73.2 million worldwide and was recognized as a financial success.

Today, the movie is deemed a cult classic and dubbed as one of the best Western genre movies of all time.


Kurt Russell’s first major role as an adult actor was in 1979 when he played Elvis Presley on the ABC TV miniseries, entitled, “Elvis.” He met and married the actress who played Priscilla Presley, Season Hubley. He was nominated for an Emmy for this portrayal.

He soon appeared in a series of movies in the 80s, such as Used Cars in 1980, and Silkwood in 1982, which earned him a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor for Feature Film nomination.

Russell appeared in several John Carpenter movies, which propelled him to Hollywood superstardom. He played the heroes of 4 cult movies by the director.

  • Escape from New York (1981)
  • The Thing (1982)
  • Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
  • Escape from LA (1996)

Russell also played the protagonist in another cult classic, which is Stargate, released in 1994.

Russell’s other films include Backdraft, Miracle, Death Proof, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and many others.

Kurt Russell Fun Facts

  • Kurt Russell played professional baseball in his early adult years. He played for AA Club-California Angels but stopped due to a torn shoulder in 1973.
  • He is an FAA-licensed private pilot holding simple/multi-engine and instrument ratings.
  • He is an avid gun enthusiast, as well as a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
  • He considers himself a libertarian.
  • Kurt Russell divorced Hubley and started dating fellow actor Goldie Hawn on February 14, 1983.
  • Russell and Hawn have appeared together in 7 films, namely: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, Swing Shift, Overboard, The Christmas Chronicles, and The Christmas Chronicles Part 2.
  • He auditioned for the part of Han Solo for Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope, but the role was given to Harrison Ford.
  • Russell was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard on May 4, 2017.

Family Man

Shortly after Kurt Russell’s divorce from his first wife, Season Hubley, he met and started dating actress Goldie Hawn. They have one child together, Wyatt Russell, born in 1986. He also has a son with his ex-wife, whose name is Boston Russell. Hawn’s two children, Kate and Oliver Hudson are Russell’s stepchildren, considering him as their father. Kurt gave Kate Hudson away on the aisle during the actress’ wedding to Chris Robinson.

Russell and Hawn live in a 72-acre estate outside of Aspen, which they named, Home Run Ranch.

Kurt Russell – Actual Tombstone Director?

One of the most talked-about not-so-secrets about the movie, Tombstone, was that Kurt Russell was the actual director and not George P. Cosmatos. The movie was written by screenwriter Kevin Jarre who was initially hired as the director. But upon production, he became overwhelmed with the work of a director and was eventually fired. Because production had already started, Russell looked for a replacement, and George P. Cosmatos was subsequently hired, but only had 2 days’ prep time before filming resumed.

To help Cosmatos, Russell sacrificed many parts of his role as Wyatt Earp to give his energy and attention to helping direct the film. According to Val Kilmer, who played Doc Holliday in the film, in a post on his blog, Kurt Russell single-handedly is solely responsible for making the film a success due to his role behind the scenes.

One scene of the movie that’s stuck with many of us – “Hell’s Coming With Me” indeed.

Russell would draw up shot lists every day and give them to Cosmatos, who executed them during filming. Russell, as well as Kilmer, and other actors in the film, worked together to help edit and finish the film.

Though Cosmatos is credited for directing the film, Russell (as he’s said in interviews) considered himself the secret director of Tombstone.


There are so many other things to learn about Kurt Russell, and he’s enjoyed a lucrative and lasting career in entertainment that he still stars in films over 60 years since his first lead role in 1963. His portrayal in Tombstone set the stage for his talents and skills in acting, but seemingly, also in directing.

Russell is more than just the heroes and villains he portrays in films, but he is a true talent who knows how to look at material given to him and turn it into a work of art.

Featured Image Credit: movieweb / YouTube

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