The ‘Tombstone’ Cast: Where Are They Now?
Thirty years after the release of Tombstone, the film’s remarkable cast continues to showcase their creative talents.
In the summer of 1992, screenwriter Kevin Jarre sent a copy of his Western script to Kevin Costner, hoping the high-profile actor would sign on as Wyatt Earp in what would become the hit movie Tombstone.
Costner had his own Earp-inspired project in the works, so he turned down the role and eventually released his own film (and box office flop), Wyatt Earp.
According to John Farkis in The Making of Tombstone, Jarre threw around other names for the main roles — including Michael Douglas, Liam Neeson and even David Bowie — before moving on to Plan B (C?), which, in retrospect, worked out okay.
The final Tombstone cast included a mix of on-camera heavyweights and up-and-coming personalities who embodied the American West as it was in 1880s Tombstone, Arizona.
Veterans of the Western film scene, like Harry Carey Jr. — who worked with legendary director John Ford — acted beside young actors and actresses still looking to make names for themselves in early ’90s Hollywood.
The combination hit all the right tones, and Tombstone’s ensemble, which included more than 60 speaking parts, went down as one of the best Western casts of all-time. And 30 years later, most of the performers are still hard at work pursuing creative paths and ventures.
Here’s a look at where some of the Tombstone cast is today.
1. Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp)
First, a brief kudos: without Kurt Russell, there’s a good chance Tombstone doesn’t get finished.
When Kevin Jarre was removed as the original director of the movie, George P. Cosmatos took his place, but Kurt Russell was often the creative force behind the production. He spent countless hours reworking parts of the script and giving Cosmatos scene lists during film days.
“Kurt Russell ghost-directed Tombstone,” writes Farkis in The Making of Tombstone. “Not only have several cast members vouched for that statement, but Russell himself confirmed it.”
Russell went on to have a long career in film and television, with memorable roles in Escape from L.A. (1996), Miracle (2004), Furious 7 (2015) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
To Western film fans, Russell’s remembered for his roles in Bone Tomahawk and The Hateful Eight, a pair of 2015 Westerns that displayed his range of character within the same genre. Bone Tomahawk is an underrated horror-Western hybrid, while The Hateful Eight is a classic Tarantino film with his signature blend of violence and cutting dialogue.
Parts of Mulga — a west Jefferson County hamlet the mayor says is “just kind of stuck in time” — was preserved in film recently, when actor Kurt Russell and a film crew from “The Rivals of Amziah King” filmed train and truck stunts around town. 🎥🛤️🚒➡️ https://t.co/jv3uAEtxcM pic.twitter.com/x8oLh27Mb9— AL.com (@aldotcom) July 21, 2023
In July 2023, Russell was seen in Oklahoma filming scenes for The Rivals of Amziah King, also starring Matthew McConaughey.
2. Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday)
The past few years have been ones of reflection for Val Kilmer, who began a battle with throat cancer beginning in 2015. Several rounds of chemotherapy and tracheotomies over the years force Kilmer to use a voice-box to speak today.
“The thing is, when I speak now, I sound like Marlon Brando after a couple of bottles of tequila,” writes Kilmer in I’m Your Huckleberry: A Memoir. “It isn’t a frog in my throat. More like a buffalo.”
In 2021, Kilmer and A24 released Val, a personal and often heartbreaking look at his personal life and career, going all the way back to childhood home movies. Between the documentary and memoir — whose title’s based on Doc Holliday’s infamous line — Kilmer’s enjoying a late-career appreciation from his most dedicated fans.
Today, Kilmer is an artist both in traditional and digital media, and runs Kamp Kilmer, an artistic community he calls “a fun sacred space where artists, musicians, muses, collectors, and friends could gather to celebrate creativity.”
Although his acting career may be over, Kilmer did reprise his role as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky in Top Gun: Maverick (2022), leading to an emotional reunion with costar Tom Cruise.
3. Sam Elliott (Virgil Earp)
Being in his late 70s hasn’t slowed down Sam Elliott. Case in point: his recent success on 1883, the Yellowstone prequel that stands on its own as one of the best Western miniseries ever.
Few Western actors have more credits to their name, and Elliott, whose first roles came in The Way West (1967) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), has more than 50 years of experience in front of the camera. Aside from Tombstone and 1883, he snagged roles in Gettysburg (1993), We Were Soldiers (2002), and A Star is Born (2018). His television credits include Rough Riders (1997), Parks and Recreation (2013–2015), Justified (2015), The Ranch (2016–2020) and MacGruber (2021).
In a June 2023 interview, Elliott said he’s proud of how 1883 turned out — as well as his career. “I know that at this point in my life, there’s not going to be a better one that’s going to come along than this,” he said of the Taylor Sheridan series. “I feel like on some level, if I quit right now, I will have done what I set out to do when I was 9 years old wanting to be an actor.”
4. Bill Paxton (Morgan Earp)
When Bill Paxton appeared in Tombstone, he already had a number of successful films under his belt, including Stripes (1981), The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986). In the years following the iconic Western, Paxton appeared in even more highly rated films like Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014). He also starred in HBO’s Big Love (2006–11) as Bill Henrickson, the patriarch of an FLDS family.
In early 2017, Paxton underwent open heart surgery to repair damage done to a heart valve when he contracted rheumatic fever as a child. The initial surgery and a follow-up procedure led to complications and ultimately, Paxton’s death. He passed away on February 25, 2017 after suffering a stroke related to “excessive bleeding, cardiogenic shock and a compromised coronary artery.”
His family filed a lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the doctor who performed the procedure; the case was settled out of court in August 2022.
5. Powers Boothe (Curly Bill Brocious)
After Tombstone, Powers Boothe had a long career in genre movies and television series, with appearances in Nixon, Sin City, Deadwood, and Nashville. In Deadwood, Boothe played Cy Tolliver, owner of the Bella Union brothel, a competitor of the Gem Saloon ran by Al Swearengen.
On May 14, 2017, Boothe died from complications related to a heart attack and pancreatic cancer. He was buried in Deadwood, Texas.
6. Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo)
After his iconic role as Johnny Ringo, Michael Biehn acted in a variety of television and film projects, including The Magnificent Seven (1998–2000), Adventure Inc. (2002–03), Grindhouse (2007) and The Blood Bond (2010), a movie he wrote and directed.
Most recently, he appeared in The Mandalorian, and in a 2022 episode of The Walking Dead (“Warlords”), where he was nominated for a Saturn Award for the best guest-star appearance in a network or cable series.
Today, Biehn lives with his wife and son in Bisbee, Arizona, less than 30 minutes away from Tombstone. You can follow him on Instagram — where he often shares behind-the-scenes glimpses of his time on the Tombstone set — or watch an April 2023 interview with him on the “Inside of You” podcast.
7. Dana Delany (Josephine Marcus)
Professional life after playing Josephine Earp went well for Dana Delany: in the 30 years since Tombstone, she appeared in a number of movies and television shows, including Desperate Housewives, Body of Proof, and Hand of God. She also voiced Louis Lane in three DC Animated Universe series, including Superman: The Animated Series.
That’s a wrap for me @MayansFX. What an unexpected joy it was to work with this gang. Elgin James is such a talented soul & the crew reflects his humanity. Get ready for a kick-ass season. Thanks Brett Dos Santos, for the endorsement! pic.twitter.com/AtlGGm3eka— Dana Delany (@DanaDelany) April 19, 2023
She’s won a number of awards, including an Emmy for her work in China Beach, and a PRISM Award for her role in Desperate Housewives. In 2021, Delany revealed that she was considered for the role of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, but turned it down in order to avoid being too narrowly typecast.
Today, she still takes on cameo roles and focuses on philanthropic work as a member of the Scleroderma Research Foundation Board of Directors.
8. Jason Priestley (Billy Breakenridge)
Jason Priestley played his iconic Beverly Hills, 90210 character Brandon Walsh before and after acting in Tombstone, and landed a variety of film and tv roles through the late ’90s and 2000s.
The actor has two children with Naomi Priestley, and shares their family adventures here.
9. Jon Tenney (John Behan)
Jon Tenney’s body of work after Tombstone includes roles in Brooklyn South, Get Real, The Closer, Major Crimes, Scandal and other television series. More recently, he starred in I See You, a Netflix “sleeper hit” with stellar reviews.
You can follow him on Twitter here.
10. Stephen Lang (Ike Clanton)
Stephen Lang’s penchant for historical roles didn’t end with Tombstone: he also appeared in Gettysburg (1993), Gods and Generals (2003), and Public Enemies (2009), all based on true stories.
Most impressively, Lang starred in two of the highest grossing movies of all-time as Colonel Miles Quaritch in Avatar (2009) and Avatar: The Way of Water (2022). You can follow “slang” on Instagram or Twitter, or check out a recent feature on his lifestyle routines from The New York Times.
11. Thomas Haden Church (Billy Clanton)
His character in Tombstone may have died young — Billy was likely 18 or 19 when he died in the O.K. Corral shootout — but Thomas Haden Church continues to enjoy a long, productive film and TV career.
He was nominated for several awards for his role as Jack Cole in Sideways (2004), and more recently, appeared as the Sandman in Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). He also starred in HBO’s quirky comedy Divorce as Robert Dufresne.
Over the years, Church stuck to his Western roots: he won an Emmy for his work in Broken Trail (2006), and in 2023 was linked to Kevin Costner’s epic upcoming Western film series Horizon: An American Saga.
12. Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Mattie Blaylock Earp)
After playing Mattie Blaylock, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson landed a number of television roles, with appearances in Sex and the City, All My Children, Friday Night Lights and Nashville.
13. Michael Rooker (Sherman McMasters)
Michael Rooker landed a number of movie and television roles throughout the ’90s, and more recently, appeared in all three Guardians of the Galaxy movies (plus the holiday special) as blue-hued Yondu Udonta.
He also appeared in 14 early episodes of The Walking Dead as Merle Dixon, the antagonizing older brother of fan-favorite Daryl Dixon.
14. Harry Carey Jr. (Fred White)
Harry Carey Jr. was in his 70s when Tombstone was released, and he didn’t have many projects afterward. His role in the film wasn’t major, but it was a sort of tribute to his experience playing Western roles in nearly 90 films starting in the 1940s.
“Although he wasn’t the first choice to play the part of Marshal Fred White, Carey bridged the Western genre between John Ford’s My Darling Clementine and Tombstone,” writes Farkis in The Making of Tombstone.
Carey Jr. published his autobiography, Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company, in 1996, and died at 91 years old on December 27, 2012 from natural causes.
15. Billy Bob Thornton (Johnny Tyler)
Just three years after playing Johnny Tyler — a real-life gambler who had it out for Doc Holliday — Billy Bob Thornton won an Academy Award for the screenplay of Sling Blade. That movie set in motion a long film career that included appearances in A Simple Plan (1998), Armageddon (1998), Monster’s Ball (2001), Bad Santa (2003) and The Alamo (2004), in which Thornton played Davy Crockett.
Throughout his acting career, Thornton also played in various musical bands, including The Boxmasters, who in the summer of 2023 embarked on a massive tour of 45 U.S. cities and several shows in Europe.
16. Wyatt Earp III (Billy Claiborne)
Glen Wyatt Earp is a fifth cousin of Wyatt Earp through Newton Earp, the famous Wyatt’s half-brother born in 1837. Glen legally changed his name to Wyatt Earp III when he began pursuing acting opportunities, but in later interviews, he admitted the name hurt his chances of success more than they helped.
Wyatt Earp III had a small role in Tombstone as Billy Claiborne, but didn’t find much acting success after the film. He does stay active on the Wyatt Earp and Tombstone scene, however, and appeared at the movie’s 30th anniversary cast party in June 2023.
17. Billy Zane (Mr. Fabian)
These days, Billy Zane is an abstract expressionist artist who’s held exhibitions all over the world. In 2023, he appeared at the 30th anniversary Tombstone cast reunion, along with Michael Biehn, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson and others.
18. Charlton Heston (Henry Hooker)
Charlton Heston’s health began to decline in the late ’90s: he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998, and in 2002 revealed he had been diagnosed with what appeared to be Alzheimer’s disease. His health deteriorated within a few years and Heston died on April 5, 2008.
Heston’s body of work earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, and in 2010 he joined the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Great Western Performers.
What to Read Next
- 6 Tombstone Filming Locations You Can Still Visit Today
- Is Tombstone a True Story? Here’s What’s Accurate (and Not)
- Best Western Movies on Netflix Right Now
- The 10 Best Spaghetti Westerns Ever Made
- The Real Story of Doc Holliday and Big Nose Kate
- 22 Must-See Modern Western Movies from the Last 22 Years
References & Further Reading
OldWest.org strives to use accurate sources and references in its research, and to include materials from multiple viewpoints and angles when possible.
- Carey, H. (2013). Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company. Taylor Trade Publishing.
- Farkis, J. (2019). The Making of Tombstone: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Modern Western. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.
- Guinn, J. (2012). The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral – And How It Changed the American West. Simon & Schuster.
- Kilmer, V. (2021). I’m Your Huckleberry: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster.
D.T. Christensen is the founder of OldWest.org, a history website committed to sharing and preserving stories of the American West. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, studied journalism at Northern Arizona University, and also writes for Territory Supply and True Crime Time.