Things You Didn’t Know About Sam ElliottPublished on August 15, 2018. Updated April 29, 2019
Sam Elliott is one of Hollywood’s most beloved icons, and despite having been in the industry for decades, he is without a doubt one of the most low-key stars out there. From his very first role in 1967’s The Way West to starring in Netflix’s The Ranch, Elliott has amassed nearly 100 acting credits to his name and while fans know he is talented and charming, a lot of the rest is a mystery. Get to know the star better with these things not widely known about Sam Elliott:
12. Paramount Feud
Sam Elliott fans know that 1976’s Lifeguard was one of the actor’s biggest film roles of the time, but as it turns out it changed his relationship with one studio for the rest of his career. In an interview, Elliott once said that he “kind of f–ked himself out of a career on that level of being too honest and too opinionated,” when promoting Lifeguard. He later explained, “There’s a third quotation to that scenario, it’s ‘honest, opinionated, and not very smart.’ All at the same time. And that’s a lethal combination and I’ll tell you what it came out of — it was the way Paramount chose to market that film. I’d spent six weeks on set with a guy named Dan Petrie who I have the greatest respect for, he’s no longer alive, he directed the film. And we took that whole movie serious, even though it was a fluffy treatment because it was set on a beach. But it was about a guy who was at a point in his life that he had to make up his mind about what he wanted to do: be a lifeguard or get a real job. And when the marketing campaign came out I was on the road for a long time and every time we’d go into a city and start an interview people would start the interview by saying, ‘This movie is nothing like I expected it to be,’ based on the marketing, and we would go into this long discussion about the f—ing marketing. [Laughs] It was never positive. So in the end I never worked for Paramount again.”
11. Sam and His Father
While Sam Elliott credits his father for showing him how to have a strong work ethic, things were not always easy between the two. At a young age Sam had decided he wanted to be an actor and that is something his father could not support. “My father once said, ‘You haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell in Hollywood.’ That motivated me. My father was a good, practical man, but he came from a different time,” the actor explained. When Sam was only 18, his dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack at only 54, and while they had their differences about his acting career, his father’s death only made him want to work harder. “He died thinking, ‘Man, this kid is going to go down the wrong path,’” Elliott said. “And I think on some level that was either hard on me or made me more focused in my resolve to have a career.”
10. Early Life
Samuel Pack Elliott was born on August 9, 1944 in Sacramento, California to Glynn Mamie Sparks, a physical training instructor, and Henry Nelson Elliott who worked for the Department of the Interior which deals with the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources. When he was a teenager his family, which included his older sister Glenda, moved to Portland, Oregon where Elliott attended and graduated David Douglas High School. After graduation he went on to attend University of Oregon and then Clark College in Vancouver, Washington and had already decided he wanted to become an actor.
9. Becoming An Actor
At only nine years old, Sam Elliott knew what he wanted was to become an actor and had grown up loving movies. One of his first roles in college was in a stage production of Guys and Dolls, and his talent was undeniable. The local newspaper’s review gushed about Elliott in particular and even suggested that he could definitely make it as a big-time actor. This helped cement Elliott’s plans to move to Hollywood and become a star.
8. His Voice
As much as Elliott is known for his skills, his good looks and of course the mustache, it is his voice that has fans coming back for more just as much as his other qualities. “My voice gets recognized before anything else. It’s always gotten attention. In choruses at church and school, I started as a tenor, moved to a baritone and finally became a bass. I knew then that my voice would be my instrument. Now if I want to hide, I just keep my mouth shut,” he said of his most noticeable feature. His voice has even helped him expand his career even further and among many commercials and voice acting roles he has voiced the infamous Smokey Bear since 2008 and voiced Ben the Cow in 2006’s Barnyard.
Sam Elliott has had quite the lengthy and notable career and one of his film roles that stands out the most is in 1985’s Mask. As it turns out however, he almost passed up on the iconic role in his career. His agent contacted him about the part while he was in Hawaii on his honeymoon with wife Katharine Ross, and said he wouldn’t be back in time for the audition. When Ross heard that he turned it down, she contacted his agent, cut the honeymoon short and made sure her new husband was there to get the role.
6. Not Just Acting
Although the star began acting when he was in college, he has had other jobs as well. Like some of his characters, Elliott has a military background which was influenced by his father. He served in the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Airlift Wing based on the Channel Islands, and to support himself when he moved to Los Angeles he also worked in construction. He explained that there was no shortage of construction jobs and the hours of work meant he could still focus on acting and made sure he was never short of money when starting out.
5. Track Dreams
Known for his wiry figure, it isn’t surprising that Elliott used to be quite athletic and while he may have graduated with a two-year degree from Clark College, his initial dream was to be a track star at University of Oregon. Elliott was actually one of the top prep hurdlers in the state when he enrolled at the UO hoping to become one of legendary UO track and field coach Bill Bowerman’s “Men of Oregon.” “I had visions of being a ‘Man of Oregon’ but didn’t have what it took and was not ever academically inclined, ” Elliott said in a 2017 interview. “I came down here and (messed) around and got booted out.” After lasting only two terms at the University of Oregon, Elliott went to Clark College where his acting career was launched thanks to Guys and Dolls, but he still kept up with athletics, he ran both the 120-yard high hurdles and the 360-yard intermediate hurdles.
4. Personal Life
Sam Elliott may be one of the most lusted after men in Hollywood, but has always been a one woman man and has defied Hollywood odds with his more than three decade marriage to actress Katharine Ross. Elliott first met Ross when they both worked on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but he was too shy to actually interact with her. “She was the leading lady. I was a shadow on the wall, a glorified extra in a bar scene. It wasn’t until we made The Legacy [in 1978] that we actually interacted,” he explained. Elliott may not be into the tabloid side of Hollywood, but the relationship did cause controversy as Ross was still married to her fourth husband at the time feelings began to develop between herself and Elliott. After her marriage ended in 1979, Elliott and Ross were married on May 1, 1984 and later that year welcomed their only child, daughter Cleo Rose Elliott, who took to the entertainment industry and is now a musician.
3. Real Cowboy
The charming star has had many roles, but he has always has fit best into Western or cowboy-themed projects, and in real life he is much like those characters he portrays. Elliott is a quintessential “man’s man” and like his The Ranch character Beau Bennett, he does not keep up to date with technology or social media.”I don’t have email. Twitter, Facebook — everywhere you look, people are looking at their hands. In restaurants, it’s like you’re sitting in a patch of jack-o’-lanterns because everyone’s face is lit up by their phone. Nobody’s relating to each other,” the actor said of society’s recent obsession with their cell phones.
2. Home Life
Hollywood may have dominated the majority of Sam Elliott’s life, but he isn’t the type you would catch living in Tinseltown. Elliott and Ross returned to his roots with a home in Linn County, Oregon sitting on 200 acres. The couple also own a seaside ranch in Malibu, and Elliott will not hesitate to declare his personal life will always mean more to him than his career. “It’s great to have a nice career—I’ve been doin’ it almost 50 years,” Elliott said. “It’s what I wanted to do since I was 8 years old, and I’m fulfilled on that level. But being a dad? That’s even more fulfilling. It completes me. I’ve been married one time and I have one daughter, who I love more than anyone in the world. And that’s where my world is.”
1. Toughest Job
After nearly 100 acting jobs including in some of Hollywood’s most iconic films, fans might be surprised to learn that one of Elliott’s toughest jobs has come just recently. The actor revealed that working on The Ranch was the first time he ever worked in front of a live-studio audience and said, “I was terrified when I started.” He went on to explain, “I get so wrought up and nervous” that on Friday’s filming nights, “I’ve got my script tucked in, ’cause I’m afraid I’m gonna not remember what I need to say.”