Sam Elliott is known for his iconic voice and movie roles from Road House, to The Big Lebowski to A Star is Born. He’s also believed to be the truest representation of what a man should be – no doubt stemming from his tall stature and good looks that only appear to get better with time. But what’s the story behind this Hollywood legend?
Sam Elliott had a normal childhood. He was active in sports and extracurriculars, but he gravitated towards choir, theater and various forms of acting. Early in his high school career, he knew he wanted to become an actor. But with two hard-working parents, this was not a well-supported decision. His father in particular had issues with this decision, and wanted him to pursue a college degree instead.
Although this strained Elliott’s relationship with his dad, he didn’t lose sight of his dreams. He did go off to college, but he continued to participate in acting while he was there. Sadly, when Sam was just 18, his father passed away from a heart attack. Sam immediately dropped out of school following this tragic event.
In his continuous aspiration of an acting career, Sam took part in many stage performances in his young adulthood. After one performance in particular, a local newspaper journalist wrote an incredibly positive review about Sam Elliott’s performance. In fact, he spoke so highly of Sam that he suggested he take his talent to Hollywood and act for the silver screen. This was the encouragement that Sam needed – he promptly packed his bags and headed to LA.
Of course, getting to LA is only half the battle. Sam still wouldn’t experience overnight success – he had to work to get his early roles. While many people wait tables in the meantime, Sam’s rough stature and hard-working attitude pulled him in another direction. He decided to work in construction until he got his shot at the big time. Of course, this had many benefits for his future acting career, as it toughened him up and kept him in shape for his roles to come.
Sam Elliott was able to land a few minor roles in productions like The Way West, The Felony Squad and Mission Impossible. He did quite a number of these smaller parts until he attracted the attention of George Roy Hill, a famed director. At the time, George Roy Hill was working on Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – and he wanted to give Sam Elliott a minor role. Although Elliott’s character was unnamed and received very little screen time, the role gave his resume a huge boost and helped him earn bigger roles.
In the following years, Sam Elliott played a number of television characters, often in the lead role. In 1978, he was offered The Legacy, which was a horror film that co-starred Katharine Ross. This was a huge role for him for two reasons: first, it was Elliott’s first time playing the leading role in a major motion picture. This was surely to be the film that launched him to national fame. Second, and perhaps more importantly to Elliott, it reunited Elliott and Katharine Ross on-camera. Elliott previously met Katharine Ross when filming Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but as a minor character, he was too scared to approach her despite being totally infatuated by her. With his opportunity to co-star alongside her, he had a renewed shot at building a relationship with her. Fortunately for him, she felt the chemistry too, and the two began dating almost immediately.
Katharine Ross had to end her marriage to Gaetano Lisi, another actor, before dating Elliott. After 4 marriages, no one thought Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott would last. Yet, they remain happily married to this day, as one of the world’s most inspiring celebrity couples. They were even featured on the cover of Playgirl as “the sexiest couple alive”.
After The Legacy and Elliott’s marriage to Katharine Ross, his career only continued to grow. Over the following years, he would dominate the screen in Westerns, war films and a variety of other movies. As he developed, so did his characters. He proved time and time again that he has the range to play almost any role he is cast into.
Today, Sam Elliott remains one of the most beloved and respected character actors of all time. With recent credits in A Star is Born and The Hero, he continues to demonstrate an incredible acting ability and entertaining audiences around the world. No one can be sure what we will see next from Sam Elliott – but it’s sure to be an incredible piece of work.
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