If you walk through a list of the most distinctive and memorable voices of working actors in Hollywood, you’re likely to come up with James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman. One actor that belongs on the list is someone you may not think of. Then you hear that gravelly baritone and know the voice immediately: Sam Elliot. As leading men go, he has a mesmerizing voice in the same class as the resonating tonal quality found in actresses Katherine Turner, Adrienne Barbeau, and the late Suzanne Pleshette. He’s even been the voice of Smokey the Bear for the past decade. But it’s not just the voice. It’s that mustache and that look in his eyes like he can see straight through you. Would you watch a movie simply for ninety minutes of Sam Elliott? We would.
The Hero premiered at the Sundance Festival to mixed reviews. Echoing the themes of David Lynch’s The Straight Story mixed with the ambitious effort of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, The Hero is finally making its way to theaters across the country this summer. In the latest movie about Hollywood looking at itself, The Hero finds Elliott as Lee Hayden, a has-been actor whose career peaked in the 1970s. Hearing news of his terminal illness he revisits his career, his relationship with his estranged daughter, played by Jessica Jones’ Krysten Ritter, and befriends a much younger flirt played by That ’70s Show’s Laura Prepon. Even better, Elliott’s real-life wife, Katherine Ross, who dazzled moviegoers sporadically across the decades in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, The Graduate, and Donnie Darko, plays Hayden’s ex-wife in the film, a rare look at an equally underrated and brilliant performer we only wish we could see more of.
Sam Elliott has a history of being the best part of every movie he stars in: as Cher’s boyfriend in Mask (1985), as the Mark Twain-inspired narrating Stranger in The Big Lebowski (1988), as Virgil Earp in Tombstone (1993), as General Ross in Hulk (2003), as the perfect fantasy world Texas aeronaut Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass (2007), and as the Caretaker in Ghost Rider (2007), and countless other movies and TV shows.
Here is Elliott in his latest work, The Hero:
Look for The Hero in theaters in wide release June 9, 2017.