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The Quick and the Dead
Directed by Sam Raimi
Produced by Joshua Donen
Patrick Markey
Allen Shapiro
Written by Simon Moore
Starring Sharon Stone
Gene Hackman
Russell Crowe
Leonardo DiCaprio
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Dante Spinotti
Editing by Pietro Scalia
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) North America:
February 10, 1995
United Kingdom:
September 22, 1995
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million[1]
Gross revenue United States:
$18.64 million

The Quick and the Dead is a 1995 western film directed by Sam Raimi and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Writer Simon Moore's script for The Quick and the Dead was purchased by Sony Pictures Entertainment in May 1993, and Stone signed on as both star and co-producer. Development was fast tracked after director Raimi's hiring, and principal photography began in Old Tucson Studios in Arizona on November 21, 1993. Distribution duties were covered by Sony-owned TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

The Quick and the Dead was released in the United States on February 10, 1995 to a dismal box office performance, receiving mixed reviews from critics.



"The Lady" rides into the Old West town of Redemption circa 1878. In an attempt to seek vengeance for her father's death, she enters a single elimination gunfighting contest presided over by Redemption's ruthless leader, John Herod. One of the first men The Lady meets is Cort, a former Herod henchman turned reverend. Herod forces him to enter the quick-draw contest.

The Lady also begins a relationship with The Kid, an arrogant young gunslinger who hopes to impress his biological father, Herod. Through donations by Herod and Wells Fargo, the winner of the contest will receive $123,000 in cash. As Cort is persecuted for abandoning his violent past in favor of a peaceful religious life, the first and second rounds of the competition ensue. The Lady and Cort soon understand that Herod's main goal in the contest is to eliminate anyone who might pose a threat to him.

Each showdown takes place in the street, with contestants unable to draw until the town's giant clock strikes a predesignated hour. An exception occurs when The Lady angrily shoots it out with a man called Dred after her discovery that he has raped a young girl. Although she spares him, Dred refuses to give up forcing the Lady to kill him. After, she leaves town, refusing to continue the contest. Outside the town, while searching for her father's grave at a nearby cemetery, she's confronted by the town doctor.

He reveals that she recognizes the Lady as the daughter of the town's former marshal. The Lady, haunted by childhood traumas, reflects on how as a young girl, Herod manipulated her into killing her father. The doctor gives the Lady her father's badge, which gives her the strength to return to town and finish what she started.

One by one, gunfighters are eliminated until The Lady, Cort, Herod and The Kid are left as the four remaining contestants. The Kid challenges his father to a duel to the death in a final attempt to win his respect. Although he does suffer a minor bullet wound, John Herod ultimately wins, killing The Kid and then questioning the notion that he even was his son. Herod sees to it that The Lady and Cort are forced to face each other. He will have both killed if they refuse to shoot it out. Something has to give, and indeed The Lady is shot and killed. Doc Wallace declares her dead and takes her body to be buried.

Herod has just one man now left to defeat. He squares off with Cort in the street for their showdown. But to his shock, at the stroke of twelve, the clock tower explodes. When the dust settles, The Lady rides back into town. She and Cort have conspired to fake her death, with help from Doc, who knew her dad. Her return has clearly unnerved Herod and silenced his usual boasts. The Lady shoots it out with him and sends Herod to his grave. Cort becomes the town's new marshal as The Lady rides off into the sunset.


  • Sharon Stone as Ellen ("The Lady"): The tournament's only female gunfighter. Has a personal vendetta against Herod for tricking her into killing her father, and finds an ally in Cort. When they have to eliminate one another, neither draw their guns at first; when Cort shoots her, everyone believes she has died, but she comes back to shoot Herod. Stacy Linn Ramsower plays Young Ellen in flashbacks.
  • Gene Hackman as John Herod: Herod rules over the town from his mansion in its center; his mercenaries enforce his will, posing as the town's "Councilors." He also develops an attraction to Ellen, and invites her to dinner one night, where he reveals that he also has a tragic backstory: his father, a judge, forced him to watch people he had sentenced being hanged, and his wife abandoned him for another man.
  • Russell Crowe as Cort: Herod's former right-hand man, who abandons his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life. Herod has Foy and Ratsy burn Cort's mission to the ground and force him to join the competition. He is arguably the fastest shot in Redemption except for Herod himself.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Fee "The Kid" Herod: He claims to be the son of John Herod. The Kid makes a living as the town's gunsmith and enters the tournament hoping to earn his father's acknowledgment and respect. He develops a crush on The Lady, although she pretends not to care after sleeping with him. He is shot in the stomach by Herod and dies.
  • Pat Hingle as Horace: Proprietor of the town's only saloon and manager of the gunfighter tournament.
  • Woody Strode as Charles Moonlight: Self described shootist hired by Redemption to gunfight Gene Hackman's Herod. Killed by Herod in the competition.
  • Roberts Blossom as Doc Wallace: Redemption's local doctor for as long as anyone can remember. He forms an alliance with Lady and Cort to stop Herod's oppression.
  • Kevin Conway as Dred: Local pedophile who is goaded by The Kid into joining the tournament. He is challenged by The Lady to a gunfight after he rapes Horace's young daughter Katie.
  • Keith David as Sgt. Clay Cantrell: A former Union soldier of the American Civil War. The extremely self-confident Cantrell has been hired by the town to participate in the tournament in the hopes he will be the one to eliminate Herod. He is shot through the head by Herod.
  • Lance Henriksen as Ace Hanlon: A trick-shot artist, he entertains by telling tall tales of his exploits. He is exposed by Herod as a fraud on several accounts and turns out to be far less skilled than he claims. He is easily killed by Herod in the tournament's first round.
  • Mark Boone Junior as Scars: Outlaw who was sentenced to 35 years for murder, but escaped after a mere three days. He is bald, filthy and blind in one eye. Scars is eventually killed by The Kid.
  • Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly: An outlaw bent on finding some buried loot, he seems to have forgotten its location. He is wounded by The Lady in the tournament before the rules are changed to a fight-to-the-death.
  • Raynor Scheine as Ratsy: Herod's errant henchman, who is killed by his own boss.
  • Jonothon Gill as Spotted Horse: He is a Sioux gunfighter with a reputation for being impossible to kill. His body is covered with 14 bullet wounds, but he keeps coming until shot in the head by Cort.
  • Olivia Burnette as Katie: Horace's teenager daughter who also idolizes The Lady.
  • Gary Sinise as The Marshal: The Lady's father who ends up accidentally killed by Ellen because of Herod.
  • Lennie Loftin as Flat Nose Foy: A gunfighter with bad teeth and a brood of ill-tempered young children. He is wounded by Cort in the first round.
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen as Gutzon: A champion shooter from his native Sweden; it is a title nobody takes seriously. He is wounded by The Kid in the first round and eliminated.
  • Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Man: Eccentric street vendor of Redemption.


Writer Simon Moore finished his spec script for The Quick and the Dead in late 1992, writing it as a homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, particularly the Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. The writer decided the lead character should be a female. "When you introduce women into that kind of world, something very interesting happens and you have an interesting dynamic straight away," Moore commented.[2] The names of the lead villain (Herod) and the town (Redemption) were intentional allusions to the Bible.[2] Moore considered directing his own script as an independent film and shooting The Quick and the Dead on a $3-4 million budget in either Spain or Italy.[2]

Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased Moore's script in May 1993 and approached Sharon Stone to star in the lead role in July 1993.[2] Because Stone also signed on as co-producer, she had approval over the choice of director. Sam Raimi was hired to direct because Stone was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness (1993). The actress told the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she would not star in it. Although she had mixed emotions on Raimi's previous work, she believed that the director still had yet to showcase his talents, feeling that The Quick and the Dead would be a perfect opportunity to "stretch the limits of his technical and creative ability."[3] Moore was also enthusiastic over Raimi's hiring, based on his previous work with the Evil Dead film series.[2]

When Sony began fast tracking development The Quick and the Dead, the studio commissioned a series of rewrites from Moore. The writer was eventually fired and replaced with John Sayles, who, according to Moore, took Sony's orders of "making more of an American Old West film".[1] Moore was rehired with filming to begin in three weeks because Sayles' script was approaching a 2.5 hour runtime. When rewriting the shooting script, Moore simply omitted Sayles' work without Sony noticing. A week before shooting, Sony considered the script good so that Moore described the rewrites "a completely fucking pointless exercise".[1]


Russell Crowe originally auditioned for a different role in the film before Sharon Stone asked that the actor try for the lead male role. "When I saw Romper Stomper (1992), I thought Russell was not only charismatic, attractive and talented but also fearless," Stone reasoned. "And I find fearlessness very attractive. I was convinced I wouldn't scare him."[4] Raimi found Crowe to be "bold and challenging. He reminds me of what we imagine the American cowboy to have been like."[4] On working with Raimi, Crowe later described the director as "sort of like the fourth Stooge".[2]

Sony Pictures was dubious over Stone's choice of Crowe because he was not a famous actor in the mid-1990s.[2] In order to get Gene Hackman to portray Herod, the film's antagonist, TriStar Pictures changed the shooting location from Durango, Mexico to Tucson, Arizona.[5] Sam Rockwell auditioned for The Kid, a role which ended up going to Leonardo DiCaprio.[6] Sony was also dubious over DiCaprio's casting. As a result, Stone decided to pay for the actor's salary herself.[2]

Filming was originally set to begin in October 1993,[7] but was delayed because Crowe was busy on another film in Australia.[2] Principal photography for The Quick and the Dead lasted from November 21, 1993 to February 27, 1994.[7][8] Locations included Old Tucson Studios in Arizona[2] and Mescal, 40 miles southeast of Tucson.[1] Production was briefly halted at times over weather problems.[9] Thell Reed, who was hired as the gun coach and weapons master,[2] worked with the cast through over three months of training.[1] To age Cort's Colt 1851 Navy Revolver and the other guns used, Reed experimented with simple measures. "I took them out by my swimming pool and dipped them in chlorine water to let them rust," he explained. "They looked rusty and old, but were brand new guns."[9] Such detail, including the nickel plating and ivory handles on Ellen's Colt Peacemakers, was accurate to the time period.[9]

The town of Redemption was designed by Patrizia von Brandenstein, known for her work on Amadeus (1984) and The Untouchables (1987).[1] Raimi's first choice as the visual effects supervisor was William Mesa, his collaborator on Darkman (1991) and Army of Darkness (1993). Instead, Sony choose The Computer Film Company to created the VFX sequences.[2] Pick-up scenes took place through November - December 1994. This included an extended duel between Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman.[10]


A sex scene involving Stone and Crowe was deleted from the final cut in the United States prior to the film's release. The actress/co-producer believed the scene did not fit in with the picture's established reality.[1] The Quick and the Dead was released in the US on February 10, 1995 in 2,158 theaters, earning $6,515,861 in its opening weekend. The film eventually grossed $18,636,537 in US totals[11] and was declared to be a box office bomb. However, writer Simon Moore acknowledged that the film performed modestly in Europe.[1]

The Quick and the Dead's dismal box office performance can be attributed to competition from Billy Madison, The Brady Bunch Movie, Just Cause and Heavyweights.[12] Director Sam Raimi later blamed himself and his visual style for the film's failure. "I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I'm like a dinosaur. I couldn't change with the material."[1] TriStar Pictures also showed The Quick and the Dead as an "out-of-competition" film at the May 1995 Cannes Film Festival.[13] A novelization written by Jack Curtis was published by HarperCollins in September 1995.[14] The Region 1 DVD release came in September 1998.[15]

Based on 27 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 67% of the critics enjoyed The Quick and the Dead with an average rating of 6.2/10.[16] By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 49/100, based on 21 reviews.[17] Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised Stone's performance and Raimi's directing. "Stone's presence nicely underscores the genre-bending tactics of Raimi, the cult filmmaker now doing his best to reinvent the B movie in a spirit of self-referential glee."[18] Critic and Raimi biographer Bill Warren wrote that the film "is a very conscious (though not self-conscious) attempt to recreate some of the themes, style and appeal of Sergio Leone's majestically operatic Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, especially the Man with No Name trilogy that starred Clint Eastwood. It's brisker, more romantic and somehow more American than Leone's movies."[3]

Jonathan Rosenbaum from the Chicago Reader observed that "Raimi tries to do a Sergio Leone, and though The Quick and the Dead is highly enjoyable in spots, it doesn't come across as very convincing, perhaps because nothing can turn Sharon Stone into Charles Bronson."[19] Roger Ebert criticized the film for being overtly cliché, but praised Raimi's direction and Dante Spinotti's cinematography.[20] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine felt that "The Quick and the Dead plays like a crazed compilation of highlights from famous westerns. Raimi finds the right look but misses the heartbeat. You leave the film dazed instead of dazzled, as if an expert marksman had drawn his gun only to shoot himself in the foot."[21]

Stone was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actress but lost to Angela Bassett in Strange Days.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i John Kenneth Muir (2004). The Unseen Force: The Films of Sam Raimi. New York City: Applause: Theatre & Cinema Books. pp. 180–189. ISBN 1-55783-607-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Muir, pp. 171-179
  3. ^ a b Bill Warren (2000). "Blood Still in the Viens". The Evil Dead Companion. London: Titan Books. pp. 162–179. ISBN 0-312-27501-3. 
  4. ^ a b Jamie Diamond (1995-03-26). "Straight Out of Australia, to L.A.". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Army Archerd (1993-08-16). "Douglas wows 'Greedy' cast, crew". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  6. ^ Rebecca Murray; Fred Topel. "Sam Rockwell Talks About Confessions of a Dangerous Mind". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  7. ^ a b Army Archerd (1993-10-13). "Lemmon enjoying fruitful outings". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  8. ^ Army Archerd (1994-02-25). "Friends stunned, saddened by Shore's death". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  9. ^ a b c Muir, pp.190-197
  10. ^ Army Archerd (1994-12-20). "H'w'd pumped for sequel to 'Gump'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  11. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  12. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of February 17, 1995". The Numbers. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  13. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Quick and the Dead". Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  14. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (Paperback)". Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  15. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (1995)". Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  16. ^ "The Quick and the Dead (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  17. ^ "Quick and the Dead, The (1995): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  18. ^ Janet Maslin (1995-02-10). "The Quick and the Dead". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Jonathan Rosenbaum. "The Quick and the Dead". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  20. ^ Roger Ebert (1995-02-10). "The Quick and the Dead". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  21. ^ Peter Travers (1995-03-09). "The Quick and the Dead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  22. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 

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