Hollywood writers are paid a lot to relinquish control. But that doesn't eradicate the pain. Even the most thick-skinned watch in frustration as their vision takes unanticipated turns.
Such was the case with "Wyatt Earp," according to a letter that writer Dan Gordon dashed off to critics lambasting the screenplay. The three-hour-plus film, rewritten by director Lawrence Kasdan, had opened to downbeat reviews and equally discouraging audience response. While he didn't want to disparage Kasdan, Gordon stressed, neither did he want his "Murder in the First"--a courtroom drama to be released by Warner Bros. in the fall--to be tainted by any "residual aftertaste."
According to Gordon, a veteran screenwriter responsible for such films as the 1992 hit "Passenger 57," the final version of the script was a far cry from the one he and "Wyatt Earp" star/co-producer Kevin Costner had knocked out over nearly three years. To illustrate his point, Gordon sent along a copy of his novelization and a book-on-tape he narrated himself--both based on his version of the story.
"Kevin and I were visualizing a 'Western Godfather,' " recalls Gordon, whose involvement with the project ended when Kasdan came on board in early 1993. "It was to be two movies, in fact, centering on three families: the Earps and two organized crime families. Mike Gray, a bizarro mirror image of Earp, managed to get Tombstone, the richest town west of the Mississippi, deeded to his private company. It was a land grab worth $10 million to $20 million in 1880 dollars--and the only thing between him and that money was Wyatt Earp. That's what our story was about."