George P. Cosmatos

George P. Cosmatos
Born George Pan Cosmatos
(1941-01-04)4 January 1941
Florence, Italy
Died 19 April 2005(2005-04-19) (aged 64)
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation Director
Years active 1960–1997

George Pan Cosmatos (4 January 1941 – 19 April 2005) was a Greco-Italian film director and screenwriter. Following early success in his home country with drama films such as Massacre in Rome with Richard Burton (based on the real-life Ardeatine massacre), Cosmatos retooled his career towards mainstream 'blockbuster' action and adventure films, including The Cassandra Crossing and Escape to Athena, both of which were British-Italian co-productions. After relocating to North America, he directed the horror film Of Unknown Origin. This was followed by some of his best-known work, including the action films Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra (both of which star Sylvester Stallone), the science-fiction horror film Leviathan, and the critically acclaimed Western Tombstone.

Early life

Cosmatos was born to a Greek family in Florence, Italy, and grew up in Egypt and Cyprus. He is said to have spoken six languages.[1] After studying film at the London Film School, he became assistant director to Otto Preminger on Exodus (1960), based on Leon Uris's novel about the birth of Israel. Thereafter he worked on Zorba the Greek (1964), in which Cosmatos had a small part as Boy with Acne.


Cosmatos found success in Italy for directing the films Rappresaglia (1973) with Marcello Mastroianni and The Cassandra Crossing (1976) with Sophia Loren. In 1979, he made the successful British World War II adventure movie Escape to Athena, starring an all-star ensemble cast including Roger Moore, David Niven, Telly Savalas, Elliott Gould and Claudia Cardinale. He made his North American directorial debut with the Canadian horror film Of Unknown Origin. Afterwards directed the box-office hit Rambo: First Blood Part II starring Sylvester Stallone, Cobra, another successful Stallone vehicle, in 1986. In 1989 he directed the science-fiction horror film Leviathan, starring Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Ernie Hudson, and Amanda Pays and with special effects designed by Stan Winston.

Late in his career, Cosmatos received more praise for Tombstone, a 1993 Western movie about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. This film was particularly praised for the exceptional performance of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. Kurt Russell, who played Wyatt Earp, said Stallone recommended Cosmatos to him after the removal of the first director, writer Kevin Jarre, but Cosmatos had also worked with Tombstone executive producer Andrew G. Vajna before on Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Outside of his film career, Cosmatos was a notable collector of rare books, focussing mainly on 19th-20th Century English literature and signed & inscribed works. His library was sold through Sotheby's.[2]

George P. Cosmatos died of lung cancer on 19 April 2005, at his home in Victoria, British Columbia at the age of 64. He was survived by one son, Panos Cosmatos, who directed the independently released surreal film Beyond the Black Rainbow. Panos claims that his film was funded primarily by royalties from his father's film, Tombstone.



  1. Oliver, Myrna (2005-04-27). "George P. Cosmatos, 64; Director Was Known for Saving Troubled Projects". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  2. Catalogue: The Collection of George Cosmatos, Sotheby's, London, 23 March 2005

External links

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