Sam Elliott on Finding Quality Roles: “I always felt if there’s three decent scenes in a film then that’s plenty”


“I’m not looking for moments. I’m just looking for good work, looking for a good script.” – Sam Elliott

Way out west there was this fella… fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Sam Elliott.

Elliott might be best known to most people for his role as “The Stranger” in The Big Lebowski, but Elliott has had a career filled with strong supporting performances in film and television. He has received considerable acclaim for his performance in A Star is Born as the older brother of actor-director Bradley Cooper‘s character. Discussing his role in the film with Gold Derby, Elliott talks about what it was like when Cooper revealed he was basing his character’s voice on Elliot’s, finding quality supporting roles, and the first time he was at the Golden Globes.

Cooper has admitted that before even casting Elliott as his older brother in the film that he was basing his character’s accent on Elliott’s. Elliott reveals that Cooper felt that he needed to warn him of that when Cooper met with Elliott about taking the role. He explains, “When I first met Bradley, who I’d never met before we did the film, I met him a month before we started production, he played a tape for me at his home that he’d been working with a voice coach for about four months at that time, which he told me is gonna sound a little strange probably, but he turned it on and it sounded very much like me, so I knew going in that he was doing this takeoff of my voice.

Elliott didn’t mind the impression — in fact, he saw the positive side of it. “I thought it kind of increased my chances for being in the film. Who else was he gonna get when he’s got my voice that he’s working with?

One common thread in Elliott’s career is the acclaim he’s received as an actor in supporting roles. He explains that quality of screentime is much more important to him than quantity. He says, “I’ve been referred to as a guy that doesn’t say much or the man of few words or whatever, but it’s not the size of the part, it’s the quality of the part, and I’m not looking for moments. I’m just looking for good work, looking for a good script. I always felt if there’s three decent scenes in a film then that’s plenty.

Elliott is receiving significant consideration for an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, which would be his first Oscar nomination. In the interview, He reflects on the first time he attended a major awards show, the Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel — in a fashion. Elliott reveals that he wasn’t invited to the ceremony, but he was actually working at the hotel. He says, “When I’d first gotten into the business I worked as a day laborer in a construction business. I was involved in rebuilding a wing in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. This was in mid-70s, right there on Wilshire Boulevard and it was right there above where all the cars come into the Golden Globes. I remember distinctly being there one time on Friday evening, we were wrapping up and seeing all those cars pulling in there to the Golden Globes, and about three years later I was in there in my tuxedo, and it was before they put it all on film so everybody was pretty well swackered.

More: Sam Elliot on How he Screwed Himself Out of a Career as a Lead Actor

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