Slate‘s Kim Masters has reported about friction between Russell Crowe and Lionsgate marketers over the release date of 3:10 to Yuma, as well as delays that may have affected the slant and tone of the aarly one-sheets.

Crowe wanted Yuma delayed until ’08, she reports, because he wanted the fall season free and clear for the opening of American Gangster, which opens on 11.2. (Masters is hearing Universal will fund a Best Supporting Actor campaign for Crowe’s performance in that film). But Lionsgate decided to bring out Yuma on 9.7 (two days hence) in order to beat another big western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, to the punch.

But “once Lionsgate moved the date, everything had to be done in a hurry,” Masters writes. “Crowe was given an unusually small selection of photos to approve for the poster and rejected all of them.” (One of Masters’ sources says “he thought they made him look fat.” Has anyone taken a gander at those recent videos of Crowe doing Yuma interviews? He’s really packed it on.). “But those on his side say the studio didn’t offer enough choices and Crowe was merely exercising a routine movie-star prerogative. Finally, an acceptable option was proffered.”

Could this be the reason why Lionsgate went with those leather-coated-dandy one-sheets early on?

“But Mangold [and his team] apparently were fuming that Lionsgate left them out of the loop on various decisions,” Masters writes. (What decisions? The gay campaign?) “‘They’ve had a big-studio experience with Walk the Line — they know what it means to be included in the process,’ says a source inside the situation. ‘And Lionsgate isn’t used to dealing with filmmakers like that.’

Lionsgate, says this person, “is very comfortable drawing young men to Eli Roth movies, but not with bringing along a more mature movie like 3:10 to Yuma. Ortenberg counters that the 3:10 to Yuma campaign ‘will go down as one of the best of the year.'”