Kilmer, who portrayed John Henry "Doc" Holliday in the film, penned a lengthy blog post last week in which he made it plain and simple: "Kurt is solely responsible for Tombstone's success, no question."
Initially, late screenwriter Kevin Jarre was set to direct the movie. However, a month into production, he was replaced. Reports at the time claimed that Jarre became overwhelmed with the project and fell behind schedule.
Jarre was then replaced by Cosmatos. While Cosmatos may have been sitting in the director's chair, it was Russell who was helming the production, according to Kilmer.
"I was there every minute and although Kurt's version differs slightly from mine, the one thing he's totally correct about is how hard he worked the day before, for the next day's shot list, and tremendous effort he and I both put into editing, as the studio [Hollywood Pictures] wouldn't give us any extra time to make up for the whole month we lost with the first director," Kilmer wrote.
"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."
In a 2006 interview with True West, Russell admitted to helping out behind the scenes quite a bit. But the 66-year-old actor said that he made it clear to the studio that he did not want to be listed as the director.
"I was very clear and outspoken about what I wanted to do with my role, and actors like Powers Boothe, who we just lost, and Bill Paxton, were always 100% supportive, even in the blistering heat and sometimes as the day would fade, at the possible expense of their own screen time," Kilmer wrote. "I would even go up to [Russell] and whisper, 'Go for another…' meaning another take when I thought he could go further, but in the interest of the schedule, he would pound on. Very Wyatt-like come to think of it."
He continued by saying: "He and I worked so hard I eventually moved in with him and slept on the sofa when Goldie wasn't in town, so we could use the extra 20 minutes writing or going over schedule, etc. And I got all the best lines and he knew it and still laughed and joked every single day."
Kilmer concluded the post by writing: "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, and not a lot of stars extend themselves for the cast and crew. Not like he did."