Eric Zaldivar talks to filmmaker Alex Cox about his forthcoming multi-P.O.V. western, “Tombstone Rashomon”

By on September 10, 2015

Filmmaker Eric Zaldivar — our friend who has created many of the supercut edits we’ve enjoyed here on Night Flight — helped fellow filmmaker Alex Cox arrange an interview a few years back with actor Tomás Milián for his documentary Scene Missing (about the making of Dennis Hopper’s legendary mostly-unseen 1971 film, The Last Movie), and so we asked Eric if he’d speak to Cox for us about Tombstone Rashomon, his upcoming Rashomon-style film western project based on the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

There have already many films (and books) devoted to the legendary gunfight in Tombstone, but Cox’s film will tell the story once again, and just as the title suggests, his film will be from five different points of view,  in the manner of Akira Kurosaw’s seminal samurai drama Rashomon, with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, Doc Holliday and others each getting to tell their own (perhaps conflicting) view of what happened at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

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Over at Cox’s crowdfunding page at Indiegogo, Cox — the director of Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Straight To Hell, Walker and many other mostly-independent films — is asking for the support of his loyal fanbase, saying that he, and his partners in the project — screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer and VFX genius Phil Tippett — will “attempt the most comprehensive and unusual gunfight picture ever made. We’re blazing trail cinematically and historically, and invite you to come along—for the writing process, for the shoot, for the edit, and for the premiere in New York!”

Cox is looking to raise at least $200,000 $50,000 USD (the amount sought by Cox was recently reduced) and will be offering up a number of different perks: downloads of the eventual soundtrack, streaming each of the five stories as they get finished, copies of the screenplay, DVD and Blu-rays of the finished film, tickets to premieres and after parties, and even, for some of the higher levels, producer credit and prop guns from the film.

By the way, here‘s a really interesting Q&A that Alex Cox and Rudy Wurlitzer did in 2014.

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Tomás Milián and Eric Zaldivar

Here’s a Night Flight exclusive conversation between Eric Zaldivar and Alex Cox:

Eric: There’s been many cinematic adaptations of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Why make another? And out of the existing one’s which is your favorite?

Alex: I find the story fascinating, and it’s never been done in a way which came close to historical accuracy. The Earps are usually portrayed as glowing heroes, occasionally as villainous politicians. This is a way of looking at the story from various points of view, and perhaps approach some kind of truth. I like all the OK Corral films! Tombstone is very entertaining, Doc is a really interesting deconstruction of the myth, and My Darling Clementine has some of the most beautiful black-and-white interior photography I’ve ever seen.

Eric: Tombstone Rashomon is based on Japanese director’s Akira Kurosawa’s seminal Rashomon. Other Kurosawa films have inspired some of the most famous Westerns ever made (The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars), what is it about his work that lends itself so well to the horse opera?

Alex: Kurosawa was thought of in Japan as the “western” director — not in the sense of cowboys, but in his films being accessible to western audiences, and perhaps oriented towards them. In other words, not a compliment! But he does seem to have achieved an “international” style, in which even Japanese social dramas like IKIRU could be enjoyed around the world. And when he made samurai films, it was perhaps inevitable that Hollywood and certain Italian directors would emulate or remake them. Horses, guns, a rural environment… samurai movies are almost Westerns, already.

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Straight To Hell

Eric: On the subject, Rashomon has already been remade into a Western; 1964’s little seen The Outrage starring Paul Newman. And while that is a good movie I believe Tombstone Rashomon has the edge on it seeing as you will be tackling an actual event. That said, will your movie follow historical fact concerning what lead up to the gunfight or will there be some (or a lot of) artistic license?

Alex: I haven’t seen The Outrage! Perhaps that is just as well. Inevitably any “docu-drama” is going to contain a certain amount of contraction, elision, conflation, and revision… Some participants gave substantial testimony (Johnny Behan, Virgil Earp, Ike Clanton). But where is the testimony of Kate Fisher, Doc Holliday’s girlfriend, who witnessed the shootout from her hotel room. It’s too good not to include, so if we can’t find it we will surely make it up!

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Walker

Eric: Is a definitive version of the gunfight something you’ve always wanted to see get made?

Alex: I read Stuart N Lake’s book, Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall, when I was eleven. So, yes, I have been most interested in this subject for almost fifty years.

Eric: Wurlitzer’s most well known works are usually very offbeat, particularly when his screenplays are concerned with drama set in the 19th century. Aside from the event being witnessed from five different vantage points, can we expect anything unusual/anachronistic in Tombstone Rashomon that an audience wouldn’t normally see from a typical oater?

Alex: Rudy is interested in the future more than the past, so in order to lure him our current frame is a group of time-travelling woman historians, who return to 1881 Tombstone to record video of the fight. But the software on their time machine screws up and they arrive a day late! So they must conduct interviews instead.

Eric: Where did the idea of Tombstone Rashomon originate?

Alex: In my fevered brain.

RUDY AND ALEX

Rudy Wurlitzer and Alex Cox

Eric: You’ve got great people on board; Wurlitzer, Tippet and others. Even with your reputation, how does one go about wrangling such talent with such a small budget?

Alex: Let’s see how small a budget it is! Right now we’re looking at a budget so small we might not even be able to afford Rudy, who is a signed-up member of the Writers Guild. The good thing is that Phil and Rudy – and our other collaborators – are more interested in doing real creative work and having a good time than they are in making lots of money. Money is important in our society, but it isn’t the only thing. I find people like to work on projects where they have autonomy and can achieve things they haven’t done before. Maybe this is why we are still friends.

Eric: You are a cinema buff and you have a special interest in Spaghetti Westerns. What do Westerns mean to you personally? As a filmmaker and movie watcher are you drawn to them more than any other genre?

Alex: I’m very drawn to Westerns. They’re interesting because for a long time the genre was gigantic in terms of its box office and popular appeal, and now it’s almost entirely played out. Yet the story of the OK Corral is weirdly relevant still — with the somewhat corrupt, get-along “community policing” of Johnny Behan in contrast to the hard-charging, hit-em-with-your-gun-barrel “broken windows” policing of the Earps. These are all-too contemporary issues. A couple of years back the authorities in London lost control of the city when massive riots broke out over a police killing. The same thing happened in LA after the Rodney King trial. So maybe Sheriff Behan can teach us something…

The campaign runs until September 28th, 2015. To find out more information and to donate head on over to Indiegogo. Mount up!

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About Eric Zaldivar

Eric Zaldivar is a filmmaker, screenwriter, researcher and Spaghetti Western film historian. He co-wrote the original screenplay for Django Lives! and remains involved on the project as a producer (writer/director John Sayles is also now involved). He also co-produced The Scarlet Worm (the world's first "abortion Western"), assisted on the documentary about Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, and was the second-unit director on Mike Malloy's Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled The 70s documentary. Zaldivar has also penned film reviews for Spectacular Optical and other cinema publications. He lives in Miami, Florida.