“I think there’s a real truth to Westerns and a real simplicity to them that appeals to people”. These are not the words of a man who feels trapped or typecast as a one-dimensional cowboy. Sam Elliott sees the Western genre as a valid and very human form of cinematic artistic expression, and one that really speaks to him.
And why not? Crime, comedy, romance, war are all movie genres that have included indisputable classics. And the Western is no different. The entire human condition, in the right hands, can be portrayed on the screen.
Fits Just Right
You know how sometimes something fits so perfectly, it’s like it was meant to be? Well that was certainly the case with Sam Elliott and the role of Lee Hayden in The Hero. The writer and director of the movie, Brett Haley, had enjoyed working with Sam so much in their previous movie I’ll See You in My Dreams, that he created this entire movie just for him.
It’s not every day that an actor has a movie made to order for him. And as successful and respected as Sam has been, he’s certainly not an A-level superstar. So this was a rare and beautiful event for which he felt “totally flattered”. The movie itself was a beloved and acclaimed success.
His Biggest Influences
“To be honest with you I think my parents made the biggest difference in my life,” Sam Elliott has said. “[My father] was a man’s man, and that rubbed off on me. My mom has always been completely supportive of my work”. These are not your typical Hollywood responses. One might expect mention of some awesome mentor such as an older actor who took him under his wing or a director who gave him a chance. Instead we see a more personal and human attitude.
Anyone who has ever known Sam Elliott sees that he has never looked at the world through the eyes of a jaded Hollywood star. That intimate sense of solid realness has played no small part in giving him the career and life he has had.
It’s Not All About The Money
Who doesn’t like money? In that sense, Sam Elliott is no different from anyone else. But he does not put money at the center of his life. As for his voiceover work that he is so well known for (especially in commercials), he actually says he enjoys it because it’s easy and it gives him the financial security and freedom to be as picky as he wants to be about the movie roles he accepts. And it is that pickiness that he credits for his Hollywood longevity, as we’ve read before.
As a matter of fact, Sam often advises younger actors to avoid the temptation of accepting a job just for the money. He himself was forced to do that a few times when he was young, struggling, unknown, and poor. But it was never the path he had planned for himself, the path he has walked ever since.
His Thoughts On Katharine’s Career
Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross have been married for well over three decades at this point, and after all these years they remain a source of inspiration and a model to all of us of a healthy happy successful marriage. It’s notable that at the beginning of their relationship, she was a huge star, with leading roles in The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid alongside Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Sam, by comparison, was a less well known character actor. But over they years, his career has grown while Katharine, though still a well known and successful actress, is not nearly as prominent in the business as she was then.
To explain his wife’s career trajectory, Sam has said that she is not as hungry for the roles as she should be, that she doesn’t “chase it” so to speak. He believes that she deserves bigger and better things in - Hollywood. An he’s certainly right about that.