Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tombstone hand and a graveyard mind

So, as you probably realize, I have been a little preoccupied with westerns lately. I watched Tombstone again this past weekend and was just blown away by the cast.

As everyone remembers, the most famous characters Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are played by Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer respectively. But, do you remember that Earp's other two brothers Morgan and Virgil are played by Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott? That was probably the most inspired bit of casting I have ever seen.

But it is the casting of the smaller roles that fascinates me about Tombstone.

Powers Boothe as Curly Bill Brocius. One of the so-called leader of the "cowboys", recognized as one of the first groups of organized crime in the United States. Booth's performance is both frightening and funny. Rather ironic that Boothe would end up playing Cy Tolliver in the western HBO series Deadwood over 10 years later. As Curly Bill, Boothe gives probably the most frenetic performance of his career. His roles are usually limited to politicians, statesmen and other type leaders. He really gets to let loose in Tombstone.

Micheal Biehn as Johnny Ringo. If Brocius' battle was with Wyatt Earp, Ringo's battle was with Doc Holliday. Biehn plays Ringo with a quiet menace. Smart but still skilled with a gun. It is the juiciest role of Biehn's career. His only other noteworthy performaces were in James Cameron films' The Terminator and Aliens.

Dana Delaney as Josephine Marcus. Delaney, a lovely actress whose best known role was on the Vietnam War era drama China Beach. However, she is perfectly cast in Tombstone playing a stage actress who is ahead of her time when it comes to thoughts of sex and marriage. She seems a little out of sorts with the other female performances in the film but based on her character...she is perfectly cast.

Even the minor roles are interestingly cast as Micheal Rooker plays an ex-Cowboy who joins forces with the Earp's Sherman McMasters. Jason Priestley, yes THAT Jason Priestley, plays deputy sheriff Billy Breckinridge. He plays him as a short, fey intellectual type. Like Delaney, it seems like strange casting but it works. What is even more interesting is future Academy Award nominees Billy Bob Thornton and Thomas Haden Church have small, memorable roles.

Like all movies surrounding Wyatt Earp, the meatiest role is Doc Holliday. Smart, quick with a gun, with a thick southern accent all the while dying from is the Hamlet of the Western genre.

Top 5 actors to have played Doc Holliday
1. Kirk Douglas (The Gunfight At The OK Corrall)
2. Jason Robards (The Hour Of The Gun)
3. Dennis Quaid (Wyatt Earp)
4. Victor Mature (My Darling Clementine)
5. Cesar Romero (Frontier Marshall)
Some other interesting facts re: actors who have played Doc Holliday. Both Quaid brothers (Randy and Dennis) have played him. Two actors who played Batman have played him (Adam West and Val Kilmer).

I mention Dennis Quaid's performance as Holliday in the Kevin Costner film Wyatt Earp. That performance is about the best thing about that overly long film and really kickstarted the second half of Quaid's career which had stalled in the early 90s.

Costner himself, originally was going to star as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone. He had been working with original Tombstone director Kevin Jarre but they disagreed on the film's focus. Costner wanted more of a life story of Wyatt Earp while Jarre was more interested in an action film set in Tombstone. Costner went off to make the film Wyatt Earp while the studio signed Kurt Russell for Tombstone.

But the drama didn't stop there as Jarre was soon fired as director because he refused to cut down on the screenplay. Sylvester Stallone then suggested George P. Cosmatos who had directed Rambo: First Blood Part II. However, in the years since, it has become clear that it was actually Russell who finished directing the film and was giving Cosmatos a shot list for the next day's filming each night.

For more info on the drama of the filming of Tombstone, check out this article.

Even more interesting, if you want to read about all the inaccuracies in the film Tombstone, check out this article.



Blogger Merdus said...

One of my favourites, J. It's a pure movie; we don't worry about the inaccuracies because it's all about he characters and their story. I think you forgot Val Kilmer in your list though. He is my number 1 by far.


10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are both good flicks.
One of my fav's to this day (and I'm not a big western fan) is Silverado.

Great cast, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Scott Glen and a very young Kevin Costner.

Great music with some great funny moments as well.

12:29 PM  

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