Why Doc Holliday Is Always Sweating In Tombstone

Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday is constantly sweating throughout the western biopic Tombstone, but there's a historical reason for all the sweat.

  • Doc Holliday’s excessive sweating in the film Tombstone was due to his tuberculosis, which he was suffering from at the time depicted in the movie.
  •  The scorching heat in the Arizona filming locations, combined with the uncomfortable wool costumes, caused Val Kilmer and the rest of the cast to sweat profusely during the production.
  •  Kilmer found the extreme heat and uncomfortable costumes frustrating, and he joked that it might explain why Holliday and his associates were so violent in real life.

Val Kilmer’s hard-drinking Doc Holliday can be seen sweating all throughout the western biopic Tombstone, but there’s a historical reason – and a behind-the-scenes reason – for all the sweat in the movie. Set in Southeast Arizona in the 1880s, Tombstone depicts such real-life historical events as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride. Kurt Russell leads the cast as notorious gunslinger Wyatt Earp, but Kilmer steals the show with a universally acclaimed portrayal of Holliday. Tombstone was one of the most commercially successful western films released after the genre’s heyday, and has been reappraised as a cult classic in the years since.

Kilmer nailed Holliday’s quick draw and genteel Southern accent. Earp and Holliday are just two of the real-life outlaws depicted in Tombstone; they appear alongside Johnny Ringo, played by Michael Biehn, and “Curly Bill” Brocius, played by Powers Boothe. But the film primarily focuses on the friendship between Earp and Holliday. In all his scenes, Kilmer’s Holliday can be seen sweating profusely. Not only is there a historical reason for Holliday to sweat so much; there’s also a behind-the-scenes explanation for it.

Doc Holliday Was Sweating So Much In Tombstone Because He Had Tuberculosis

The reason why Doc Holliday was sweating so much in Tombstone was that, at the time the film was set, he was suffering from tuberculosis. When Earp first reunites with his long-time friend Holliday, Holliday is seeking refuge in the dry climate of Arizona to combat his worsening tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that typically affects the lungs (but can also affect other body parts). Sweating is a common symptom of tuberculosis, along with a fever, a chronic cough, and weight loss. Holliday ultimately died of tuberculosis in his bed at the Hotel Glenwood at the age of 36.


There Was Another Reason Why Val Kilmer Sweat So Much In Tombstone

Kilmer might have had a solid character-based reason for sweating in his Tombstone scenes, but it was also unavoidable due to the scorching heat in the Arizona filming locations. The cast didn’t just have the blistering Arizona sunshine beating down on them; they were also forced to wear costumes made of period-accurate wool, which was unbearably uncomfortable in the hot weather (via CinemaBlend). The gunslingers looked just like they would have in the 1880s, but it was at the expense of the actors’ comfort.

While the heat and the uncomfortable costumes helped Kilmer’s portrayal of a man dying of tuberculosis, the actor wasn’t too pleased with the conditions. He joked that wearing those clothes in that heat might have been why Holliday and his cronies killed so many people on the frontier. According to the Tombstone set’s thermometer, the shooting locations reached a temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Dealing with that kind of heat made Kilmer understand why Holliday was eventually driven “mad” in real life.


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