HFPA in Conversation: Sam Elliott is a Man’s Man

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros January 9, 2019
Sam Elliott at the 76th Golden Globes

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The Ranch star’s deep voice was a source of inspiration for Bradley Cooper, who directed and starred in A Star Is Born. Sam Elliott portrays Bobby Maine, brother and tour manager of Cooper’s Jackson Maine. The California-born actor started to train his voice as a kid. “When I was four or five years old my mom took me to sing in what you call a cherub choir, that is for young children. And was in a choir through grade school, middle school, high school and even in college. I was singing in vocal ensembles, school productions, and musicals and I developed a musical voice.  And it’s just genetic on some level; it’s the luck of the draw that my voice continued to drop. I certainly didn’t sound like this when I sang in the cherub choir,” Elliott told HFPA journalist Lena Basse at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles.

Even though singing was a big part of his life he knew early on that he wanted to be an actor. “I grew up in Sacramento and I used to go to a movie theater that was very close by my home.  I’d ride my bike over there or my mother would drop me off, and watch the Saturday matinees. I recall from nine years old knowing that that’s what I want to do. It wasn’t about being a movie star and it wasn’t about being a real actor on the stage. It was about just making movies, I just wanted to do that. I was a huge horror fan.  And I also liked westerns, they spoke to me.”

His first credited role in films was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969. and his breakthrough was the drama Mask in 1985.  In the 90s he was nominated twice for the Golden Globe; the first time for his role in the made for TV movie Conagher and for a second time for the TV show Buffalo Girls. He considers himself very fortunate because he was able to work with some of the old-time Hollywood legends. “I came into the business right at the time that there was a change afoot. I had an opportunity to work with some actors and the first round of brilliant filmmakers that I really loved.”

During his long career, he has portrayed several cowboys and got a reputation of being a man’s man. “I find that to be flattering, to be a man’s man. That’s a hard one. I’ve lived through a period of time in my life where the line is getting blurrier and blurrier between men and women. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of men’s men hanging around these days. I’m glad I grew up when I did, I’m glad I lived when I did, I’m glad I was in the business when I did.”

Listen to the podcast and hear why Sam and Bradley Cooper had challenges to set up their first meeting; why he has a Texan accent; why he didn’t become a musician; when was the last time he saw Cher, his costar in Mask; how he met his wife, actress Katharine Ross; what big life events happened to him the year he turned 40; what he wishes for his daughter; why he often plays loners; how he got the role in The Big Lebowski and how he interpreted the Coen brothers’ script; what helps him stay sane in Hollywood; and why he considers himself a lucky man.