Kevin Costner provided the inspiration for the new movie "Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone," airing Saturday on CBS.
Sure, Costner starred in the 1990 Oscar winner "Dances With Wolves," which began a resurgence in Westerns, small and large. And his latest film, "Wyatt Earp," opened in theaters June 24.
But, more significant to the creation of the TV "Wyatt" movie, Costner starred in the 1991 box-office hit "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." Both Robin Hood and Wyatt Earp were the subjects of popular '50s TV series. When Costner's "Robin Hood" project was announced, producer Rob Word realized there would be interest in the old "Adventures of Robin Hood" series.
When no one wanted the episodes because they were in black and white, Word culled material from old episodes to create three movies, or "featurizations": He colorized them, added new music and sold them in syndication.
"Return to Tombstone" is a similar but fancier featurization of ABC's 1955-61 Western series, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," which starred Hugh O'Brian as the famed lawman. This time around, Word filmed new segments with O'Brian reprising his Earp role. The story line has Earp returning to Tombstone in 1914 to solve a mystery. While there, he flashes back to scenes from his past.
"Wyatt didn't die until he was 80 years old," Word says, "so we were able to revisit Tombstone and shoot in Tombstone, which believe it or not, no Wyatt Earp movie had ever filmed."
It took Word and his editors seven months to assemble "Return to Tombstone" from the more than 200 episodes of the original series. Still, he says, "this was easier to do than the 'Robin Hoods' because we were able to have modern transitions."
The "Wyatt Earp" series hasn't been in syndication in 30 years.
Though he loved the series as a youngster, Word admits it's quite dated. "The rhythm of it ... the pacing's slow. That's why we did have to go into other episodes to find reaction shots. We'd find reaction shots of principals who were in the scene and then colorize the background to match where the location was for what I needed. We were able to change the pacing, make it more contemporary and more entertaining."
Word shot the new material in black and white and then colorized it, he says, "so we could have the choices we wanted, so we would blend from the new story to the flashbacks without any sort of jarring feel. It's just incredible how much better the colorizing has become. It's a pleasing look."
CBS, Word says, has an option for two more featurizations.
And, Word adds, "We're talking about doing 26 first-run hour spinoffs with it. Most first-run shows in syndication like "The Untouchables" cost $1.5 million. We can do first-run hours for $450,000."
"Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone" airs Saturday at 9 p.m. on CBS.