Val Kilmer gave a career-defining performance as Doc Holliday in 1993’s Tombstone. However, when Oscar season came around, he was completely snubbed.
Snubs at the Academy Awards have long been common, with many incredible performances being forgotten about when it comes to nominations, but one of the most tragic instances is Val Kilmer not being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Doc Holliday in 1993’s Tombstone. In a film full of fantastic actors, Val Kilmer has always been a stand-out, with him being the main reason many viewers love the film. Sadly, even though Val Kilmer’s performance in Tombstone was magnificent, the actor was completely shunned the year of the 66th Academy Awards, only being nominated for an MTV movie award – which he didn’t even win.
Tombstone followed main character Wyatt Earp and his posse of lawmen who, after arriving in the titular town, must take down a gang of murderous outlaws known as the Cowboys. Doc Holliday, a real historical figure and close friend of Wyatt Earp, met the group in the town of Tombstone, where he eventually turned away from drinking and gambling to help protect the town. The film was packed with iconic lines, moments, and performances (such as Billy Bob Thornton’s famously ad-libbed role). Still, the most beloved moments revolved around Val Kilmer’s career-defining supporting role. The Oscars, however, did not love Tombstone nearly as much. Since the initial ceremony in 1929, the Oscars have consistently given less credence to genres the Academy seems to believe are less worthy of praise, such as horror, comedy, and westerns. While some in these genres do occasionally get awards season acclaim, these films are few and far between, with the show often shunning many audience favorites.
While Tombstone did have dramatic elements and is fairly historically accurate, its focus on crowd-pleasing action made it far less likely to get noticed by the Academy when compared to the (what it considers) more artful films that were nominated that year, like The Piano, The Fugitive, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List, the Best Picture winner. Due to a history of snubs like this, some have argued that genres like horror should have their own awards categories. Still, many believed Val Kilmer’s performance was incredible enough to be Oscar-worthy and stand-alone regardless of genre. Kilmer acted his heart out, never wavering as he takes Doc Holliday from a dapper, gentlemanly gambler to a sick, drunken shell of his former self. Though the iconic performance did have the potential to be nominated, many believed that it wasn’t because of a western that had just been nominated for several categories the year before known as Unforgiven.
Although Unforgiven was great, it came out a year before Tombstone. While the Oscars do occasionally recognize oft-ignored genres, one thing it rarely does is recognize those genres twice in a row. At the 65th Academy Awards, Unforgiven was nominated for Best Actor and won Best Supporting Actor, which is the spot Val Kilmer was gunning for. Unfortunately, great films just get passed over sometimes; even today, some are still upset over nomination snubs at the 2021 Oscars. However, Kilmer’s beautiful performance was deserving of a nomination and easily should have been put in over picks like Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. It seems as if there were too many hurdles on Val Kilmer’s path to Oscar gold.
Though Val Kilmer’s performance as Doc Holliday may not be inscribed in Oscar history, it will always be inscribed in viewers’ hearts. An actor’s main job is to disappear into the world of the film and sweep audiences away, making them go from being complete strangers to being emotionally invested in a character in the span of only a few hours. For an actor as iconic as Val Kilmer to do this, it showed true talent. Due to a career-defining acting job and the elevation of a character into the pop culture ethos, to viewers, Val Kilmer’s performance as Tombstone’s Doc Holliday will always be Oscar-worthy.