Tombstone Rashomon

… is the title of my next feature film project — which raised its initial funds on INDIEGOGO.


It’s an episodic film dealing with violent events which took place in Tombstone, Arizona, in the year 1881. In the manner of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece RASHOMON, it tells the story from several different perspectives.

It isn’t a remake of RASHOMON, or a sequel! It’s a homage to the structure of Kurosawa’s film, which begins at the ruins of the Rashomon gate, and goes on to relate several opposing versions of one tale –  perhaps thereby approaching a greater truth.

Our subject is the Gunfight at the OK Corral, as it has come to be known (though it took place closer to Third and Frémont Streets, in Tombstone). This has been made into several films, including some great ones. Most tell the story from the perspective of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and his friend the tubercular gambler/dentist, Doc Holliday. Usually Wyatt was depicted as the sheriff, or town marshal, defending Tombstone from a deadly outlaw ring. Occasionally films and written histories went the other way, depicting Wyatt as a ruthless, ambitious killer.

John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE is a great film, visually marvelous, presenting Wyatt in an almost entirely heroic way. Frank Perry’s DOC is a fine film, too, with a tremendous visual style, which portrays Wyatt as a callous, assassin-politician. George Cosmatos’ TOMBSTONE treads a middle path, but still makes Wyatt the hero in a war against rustler-murderers.

The gunfight which concludes all these films was a significant event, depicted differently in every movie. Despite the myth of the face-to-face gunfight, most shootings out west were simple ambushes: the gunman hid out and bushwhacked his opponent. But on 26 October 1881, in Tombstone, eight men faced each other after several slights and face-offs; three of them died. Two long accounts of the gunfight appeared in the Tombstone papers the next day. It was reported in the San Francisco press, and treated in entirely partisan terms: Republican journals supported the Earps, Democrat papers supported the cowboy faction.

TOMBSTONE RASHOMON is a unique attempt to relate these events – and what led up to them – from the different perspectives of the individuals involved. Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp each had his story, and Doc Holliday his; Sheriff Johnny Behan was present at the shootout, having tried to prevent it; Ike Clanton and Billy “the Kid” Claiborne survived the gun battle and told their tale; Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers did not; Kate Fisher, Holliday’s partner, was lodging in the adjacent building and may have been a witness, also.

They are part of our cast of characters – the town of Tombstone is a character as well. Silver-mining towns enjoyed an average “boom” of three years, and Tombstone turned three in 1881. In the three years they lived there, the Earps saw a collection of tents and shacks grow into a mini-metropolis. Now the mines were beginning to flood, and by April it was intolerably hot and dusty. In June, a barrel of bad whiskey exploded, setting four city blocks ablaze. Then the rains came.

When the gunfight between gambler lawmen and cowboys erupted, there was snow on the ground…

Why Indiegogo?

Because crowdfunding really is the most effective way right now for filmmakers to connect with the audience, and find funding for the films they want to make – as opposed to going a more conventional route and making more conventional projects. Studios and large financiers tend to make a certain type of film, dependent on big stars, superhero franchises, or talking animals. But there is more to cinema than this! Cinema should also embrace ambiguity, and irony, and unusual approaches which go beyond the hero/villain/talking animal model. Crowdfunding has enabled me, Phil Tippett, Dario Argento, Lloyd Kaufman, and other really good filmmakers to connect with people who like our work, to share the process with them, and to make new, original films.

Crowdfunding also produces a film which is project-driven, or director-driven, rather than made as a “star vehicle”. It’s a rare opportunity for a fimmaker to be able to cast the film right, with the best actors available, and to cast actors who are age-appropriate for their role. Wyatt Earp was 32 years old in 1881. Doc Holliday was 30, Kate Fisher 31. Ike Clanton was 34, Billy Clanton, 19. I love Victor Mature and Walter Brennan in CLEMENTINE, but they were a little senior for their roles — Tombstone was a new town, occupied by energetic and ambitious young folk who did not plan to grow old there, or anywhere…

When will the script be ready?

The script is currently in its fifth draft; two of those drafts including the latest have gone out to backers. My sensei Rudy Wurlitzer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Tod Davies, Autumn Braley and other fine writers have all given me notes on it.

When will you shoot?

May, 2016. Even in May in the desert it is usually a pleasure to be outside. Though we shot REPO MAN in downtown LA in August, and STRAIGHT TO HELL in the Almería desert in August, too (110 degrees in the shade), I think it’s best to film earlier in the year and avoid the temptation of extra daylight – which, when the sun is overhead, is not nice light.

Where will you shoot it?

Old Tucson, Arizona.

Where will postproduction take place?

Post will spread out to California, since Phil Tippett, his crew, our sound designer Richard Beggs, and our composer Dan Wool, are all based in the Bay Area. As soon as we have one of the stories cut we’ll send it to them, and when it’s sufficiently presentable, post it on Fandor.

Is it a feature film or a series of internet episodes?

Both! A backer can watch just one of the episodes – Johnny Behan’s, say — and be left with one particular version of the tale. Or they can watch them all, individually or within the feature version of TOMBSTONE RASHOMON, located in an appropriate frame…

What is the frame?

The protagonists of the shootout are interviewed by a time-travelling documentary crew who got the date wrong and arrived several days too late…

What will you shoot with, and what format?

That’s a question for the cinematographer. I like the idea of shooting digitally and anamorphically. I’m also a fan of HDR which in stills I sometimes take to extremes. I love black and white, but have been won over to the prevailing wisdom that whether you shoot film or video you should shoot colour (because colour stocks have greater range and colour video contains more information) and make the conversion later. So if you back the project and hate monochrome, you will have a great-looking colour version. Or both!

I’m a backer or visiting producer. How do I come to the set?

We’ll send you a schedule and a call sheet so that you know where the production is, and when. Though you’ll be responsible for your own travel and accommodations, while you’re with us, we’ll take you to the set, feed you, and transport to you any remote locations!

And when the film is done?

The World Premiere, location TBD but suitably exotic, and the Tucson Premiere will both take place, I hope, before the end of 2016. After we get out the disks, scripts, and other rewards, we will make our best efforts to get the film into film festivals around the world and – though the distribution of independent films is a lonely road – to get it international distribution. If you are a backer, we will keep you posted about that process, as well.


Watch an additional video about the project HERE

Join me at The Loft Cinema in Tucson, for our Southern Arizona launch HERE

And watch Lloyd Kafuman’s wonderful Troma shout-out HERE

2 thoughts on “Tombstone Rashomon

  1. Pingback: TOMBSTONE RASHOMON GOES LIVE | alexcoxfilms

  2. Pingback: Alex Cox: seven things I learned about crowdfunding movies -

Comments are closed.