"I'm a huge fan of the Western," Dana Delany says. "I just feel like they define America. I love all the Anthony Manns, all of the John Fords, the Budd Boettichers."
Not a sentiment you might predict from a Connecticut girl. Nor might you guess that she discovered the genre while attending the prestigious Wesleyan University, one of the three "little ivies."
"It's more of an academic school than a theater school. But they had a wonderful film department. I took a course on Western films, and that's where I discovered one of my favorite films of all time, John Ford's My Darling Clementine, which of course is the Wyatt Earp legend, in [Ford's] way of telling it."
Tombstone was her first Western, but not her first period picture. She'd been busy guesting on soaps, episodic TV and small films when, in 1986, Liberty, a three-hour TV movie about the building of the Statue of Liberty, was announced. Being of Irish heritage, the role of Moya Trevor, a just-off-the-boat immigrant, appealed. "Pete Hamill had written it; he was the professional Irishman and a great storyteller. I loved it because my grandfather, John Delany, was actually born in Brooklyn in 1885, before the Statue of Liberty even went up. My Broadway debut had been in an Irish play called A Life, and I'd had to do an Irish accent on that. I read the script for Liberty, and I don't think they were interested in me. I was like, I'm gonna get this! So I flew myself to Baltimore, auditioned for it, and I got the part. And I ended up just loving working with Richard Sarafian, the director, who of course did some fantastic movies," including Man in the Wilderness and Vanishing Point. "And there were so many young actors in that who went on to be great big stars. I remember doing scenes with LeVar Burton and Angela Bassett, Carrie Fisher and Chris Sarandon."
Delany was busy with a wide variety of roles over the next eight years, notably five seasons as Colleen McMurphy on ABC's China Beach, for which she won two Emmys. "Well, when I read the script [for Tombstone], I thought, 'This is me!'" After peals of laughter, she added, "People said to me, 'Was that written for you?' I mean, I've said these lines: I've said the line about room service!"
Wyatt Earp: What's your idea of heaven?
Josephine Marcus: Room service.
"Josephine, she was an actress. She wanted adventure. She wanted a man with adventures. She liked to sing, she liked to dance. She was an equal to the man, and yet she was still a woman: it was a great, great character."