Sam Elliott is “The Hero”
By Skip Sheffield
Sam Elliott is “The Hero.” You know the guy. Tall, deep-voiced and with a big bushy moustache, Elliott has been a staple in Westerns and dramas since his film debut in 1969 with a bit part in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
In “The Hero” Elliott plays a character very much like himself. Writer-director Brett Haley tailored the character of Western star Lee Hayden with his writing partner Marc Basch after the real-life Sam Elliott. Haley and Basch had previously collaborated with Elliott in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” a post-65 romance with Elliott and Blythe Danner.
The movie begins with Lee Hayden doing a voiceover for “Lone Star BBQ Sauce.” Elliott is a much in-demand voiceover artist.
The scene shifts to a clinic. A biopsy has revealed to Hayden the grim fact he has pancreatic cancer. Lee smokes copious amounts of pot to ease his pain and anxiety.
Charlotte Dylan (Laura Prepon) stops by with cookies and to see how Lee is doing. She is an erstwhile stand-up comedian, but we never get to see her act. She does have a special interest in Lee, despite being half his age.
“You’ve got a thing for sad old guys,” a friend says.
Lee Hayden is being honored with a Western Society Award. He is embarrassed by all the fuss. Charlotte is there for moral support, which leads to a more intimate relationship.
Lee Hayden has a daughter, Lucy Hayden (Krysten Ritter) from whom he is estranged; a wife Valarie, played by Elliott’s real-life wife Katharine Ross, and a manager, played by Nick Offerman.
Through all of this Sam Elliott is the rock-steady foundation of what amounts to an old man’s fantasy.
“Many young women are attracted to Sam,” declares director Brett Haley. “Both Sam and Laura were a dream to work with. There could have been no better person for the role than Laura. She has star quality.”
Haley and Basch are currently working on another collaboration.