Movember Movies: Tombstone (1993)

As the last week of Movember draws near, the moustaches are reaching their zenith while spouses and significant others are nearing their breaking point. Over the next week Film Junk will be featuring a series of posts dedicated to this manly adornment and the actors who have made it their trademark. With the help of cult movie connoisseur Wintle and our good friend Doug Nagy, we will delve into a slew of cinematic staches, both obvious and obscure.

Today I thought it was only appropriate to start with a film that some have called the ultimate moustache movie, George P. Cosmatos’ Tombstone. It may not be the most critically acclaimed or historically accurate Western, but it does have perhaps the finest assortment of facial hair ever committed to celluloid. Also, unlike a lot of period pieces, Tombstone is unique in that almost all of the moustaches are real.

Tombstone was written by Kevin Jarre, who had previously penned the civil war drama Glory a few years earlier. Based loosely on the true story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the movie revolves around Wyatt Earp and his brothers Virgil and Morgan, who arrived in Tombstone, Arizona at a time when it was plagued by a group of outlaws known as The Cowboys. Kevin Costner was originally going to star, but he disagreed with Jarre over the script and decided to make his own movie centered specifically on Wyatt Earp.

Jarre was also supposed to direct the film but was fired early on in production because he was falling behind schedule. George P. Cosmatos was brought in by the studio, thanks partially to a recommendation from Sylvester Stallone who had worked with him on Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra. Cosmatos’ influence seems to have injected the movie with a bit more action than you see in most Westerns and the carnage on display in many of the shoot-outs harkens back to ’80s action flicks. Surprisingly, after Cosmatos’ death in 2005, Kurt Russell came forward to say he had actually directed a large part of the film himself, with Cosmatos acting as his proxy on set.

Either way, as you might expect, the cast is packed with testosterone and machismo. Kurt Russell stars as Wyatt Earp, Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott play his brothers, and Val Kilmer also puts in an impressive performance as an alcoholic Doc Holliday. Russell and Kilmer in particular were arguably at the peak of their careers here, with this being the movie that Kilmer shot prior to donning the cape and cowl as The Dark Knight in Batman Forever.

It doesn’t end there, however. The stellar supporting cast includes Michael Biehn, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Michael Rooker, Billy Zane, Terry O’Quinn, Powers Boothe, Billy Bob Thornton and Charlton Heston, not to mention Jason Priestley at the height of his Beverly Hills 90120 fame. To top it all off, it’s narrated by Robert Mitchum. It doesn’t get much more manly than that.

The actors all grew their own moustaches, as confirmed by Michael Biehn in a recent interview, with the exception of Jon Tenney who played Sheriff Johnny Behan. Kevin Jarre demanded a very specific look with the moustaches curled up at the end, which seems to be fairly accurate to the time if you look at old pictures of Wyatt Earp. Obviously Sam Elliott’s moustache is the most impressive of the bunch, but Kurt Russell has a surprisingly solid soup catcher as well.

Overall, this movie was a lot of fun to revisit and although it has a reputation as a less respectable but more mainstream modern Western, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. There are some funny scenes and some great lines including my personal favourite, “You skin that smoke wagon and we’ll see what happens.” I could do without Wyatt Earp’s opium-addicted wife and some of the romantic subplot cliches, but fortunately, the movie makes up for it with an extended closing credit sequence that just features the four leads walking towards the camera, looking like bad asses. When it comes to getting the most moustache for your money, you can’t do much better than Tombstone.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to our Movember campaign! You will help support prostate cancer research, not to mention embarrassing facial hair around the world.

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  • Kasper

    I love Tombstone. Amazing flick and an impressive amount of mustaches.

  • Long Dong Silver

    A supremely overrated western, much as I love the genre. Val Kilmer hams it up and Michael Biehn is poor. Good locations though and killer ‘staches.

  • The cup twirling scene is rad.

  • Bryan

    Caught some of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles the other night. John Candy could rock an amazing ‘stache. Highly underrated…

  • dan day

    I love TOMBSTONE, but it’s not really a western. Biehn nailed it, it’s mostly a modern popcorn action movie in a western setting. Which is a lot of fun to watch.

  • Brendan

    I had heard that Kurt Russell actually directed Tombstone, but on the contingency that he wouldn’t be credited. After a quick google, I found a 2006 interview with Russell where he revealed the whole story:

    He also says that George Cosmatos was also similarly used by Sylvester Stallone to direct First Blood Part II. Cosmatos was there just to carry out the instructions of Stallone and Russell and was fine with doing that and taking credit for the films.

  • Bryan

    @Brendan – Wow, fantastic link, thanks! I love hearing stuff like that, and I had never heard that info before. Hope Kurt gets around to doing his “director’s” cut of the flick someday…

    And I love how he throws Kilmer under the bus: “We spent a lot of time, thank you very much. Best he’s ever been. Yeah (laughs). Wonder why….” :)