''I've spent my entire career on horseback or on a motorcycle. It boxes you in, the way people perceive you. I read a lot of scripts. Most of 'em go to other actors.'' Sam Elliott
A quintessential "cowboy" actor, Sam Elliott is popular for playing characters in Western films. Since his debut in ''Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'' (1969), Elliot has starred in such films as "Conagher" (1991; TV), "Gettysburg" (1993), "Tombstone" (1993), "The Hi-Lo Country" (1998), "You Know My Name" (1999; TV), "The Contender" (2000), "We Were Soldiers" (2002), "Hulk" (2003), "Thank You for Smoking" (2005) and "Ghost Rider" (2007). He is now acting with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in the fantasy film "The Golden Compass" (2007).
Possessing a gruff speaking voice, Elliot has been the voiceover narrator for a string of commercials, including ones for Chevy, IBM, Union Pacific, and, most notably, he took over the voice for the American Beef Council, after Robert Mitchum.
More personally, the lanky 6' 2" Hollywood western hero with a rough physique and a thick handlebar mustache has been married to Oscar-nominated actress Katharine Ross since 1984 and has one daughter with her.
''I don't want to be known as a sex symbol. There's a great stigma that goes with that tag. I want to be a Sam Elliott." Sam Elliott
You Know My Name
Childhood and Family:
In Sacramento, California, Samuel Pack Elliott was born on August 9, 1944, to a physical training instructor mother and a father who worked for the Department of the Interior. During his teenage years, he followed his family from California to Oregon, where he attended and graduated from David Douglas High School. He then went to Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and studied psychology and English at University of Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon. He is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Since 1984, Elliot has been married to actress Katharine Ross (born on January 12, 1940). Although Ross starred in the 1969 film ''Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid'' in which Elliott had a very small role, the pair did not meet and begin dating until 1978 when they both starred with Roger Daltrey in ''The Legacy.'' They have one daughter, Cleo Rose Elliott, born on September 17, 1984.
The Hi-Lo Country
''I think I might have been a more interesting actor, had more of a career earlier on, if I had more formal preparation. When I see something ten years later that I was in I think, 'Boy, would I love to do that over.''' Sam Elliott
While studying acting in Los Angeles, aspiring actor Sam Elliott worked in a construction firm before eventually being signed by 20th Century-Fox. After appearing with three different roles in episodes of the ABC crime drama series ""Felony Squad," he made his film debut in a tiny role in director George Roy Hill's Oscar-winning Western "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), in which future wife Katharine Ross was the female lead, opposite Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Following his big screen debut, the newcomer actor subsequently retreated to television. He guest starred in multiple episodes of CBS’ Western TV series "Lancer" and made his TV-movie debut on ABC’s movie of the week "The Challenge" (1970). He was also a series regular on CBS' hit espionage series "Mission: Impossible," playing the role of Dr. Doug Robert (1970-1971).
In 1972, Elliot returned to the big screen portraying a free-lance photographer named Pickett Smith in George McCowan's "Frogs," alongside Ray Milland and Joan Van Ark. He then played Detective Charlie Bronski, opposite William Holden, in "The Blue Knight" (1973), a Golden Globe-winning NBC miniseries adapted from the Joseph Wambaugh novel. He next chased Indians as they tried to escape to Canada on ABC’s true story-based movie "I Will Fight No More Forever" (1975), alongside James Whitmore and Ned Romero.
Elliot landed his breakthrough feature film in 1976 when he snagged the title role in Daniel Petrie's teen drama "Lifeguard," with Anne Archer as his high school sweetheart. Afterward, he received the role of Sam Damon in the acclaimed seven-part NBC miniseries based on the Anton Myrer novel written in 1968, "Once an Eagle" (1976). He also starred in a 1978 British-American horror film directed by the late Richard Marquand, "The Legacy," during which time he began a relationship with the female lead and his future wife, Katharine Ross, and co-starred with Tom Selleck in the next year's NBC two-part miniseries adapted from great Western writer Louis L'Amour's third novel in the Sackett series, "The Sacketts."
In the early 1980s, Elliot reunited with soon-to-be-wife Ross in the Golden Globe-nominated CBS miniseries based on the true story novel by Ann Kurth, "Murder in Texas" (1981; Elliot starred as a plastic surgeon who was suspected of causing the death of his socially prominent first wife) and teamed up again with Selleck on another TV version of Louis L'Amour's novel, ''The Shadow Riders" (CBS; 1982). He also acted opposite Cybill Shephard on NBC’s nighttime soap opera partly inspired by the smash hit soap opera "Dallas," "The Yellow Rose" (1983-1984), which unfortunately failed to capture the public’s imagination and was cancelled after one season of 22 episodes.
Elliot returned to feature films in 1985 with Peter Bogdanovich's Oscar-winning biographical drama "Mask," alongside Cher, Eric Stoltz and Laura Dern. He then acted opposite Kate Capshaw in HBO’s movie adapted from another L'Amour's novel, "The Quick and the Dead" (1987), and played a burned out cop in writer/director James Glickenhaus' independent buddy-action movie "Shakedown" (1988). He also portrayed a tough, no-nonsense, single father and impoverished apple farmer in John D Hancock's heart-warming Christmas movie, "Prancer" (1989).
Entering the new decade, Elliot played a mysterious man who suffered a heart attack after bedding Kirstie Alley's frustrated housewife's character, in Carl Reiner's feature comedy "Sibling Rivalry" (1990), and was cast as a detective in Lili Fini Zanuck's Golden Globe-nominated film version of Kim Wozencraft's novel, "Rush" (1991), starring Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Also in 1991, he hit the big time when he executive produced, co-wrote the screenplay (with Jeffrey M Meyer and wife Katharine Ross, who also co-starred) and played the title role of an honest, hardworking cowboy in a made-for-cable project adapted from a Western novel by L'Amour, "Conagher." The picture was one of the highest-rated originals ever to air on TNT and would win Elliot a Western Heritage Award, as well as a Golden Globe nomination (for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV).
Elliot subsequently acted the part of Virgil Earp, opposite Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday, in George P. Cosmatos' Western movie "Tombstone" (1993), which is loosely based on the 1957 classic, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." That same year, he distinguished himself as Brigadier General John Buford, a Union cavalry officer during the American Civil War and one of the unsung heroes of "Gettysburg," in a TNT original movie written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. A close adaptation of Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1974 novel "The Killer Angels," the movie was later given a feature release. He also portrayed a hard-drinking cop in "Fugitive Nights: Danger in the Desert," an NBC book-based action/thriller movie written and executive produced by Wambaugh.
After starring as a marshal who becomes dangerously obsessed with a beautiful woman (played by Linda Fiorentino) in a surprisingly good straight-to-video Western "The Desperate Trail" (1995), Elliot offered an unflinching portrayal as Wild Bill Hickock in a CBS miniseries version of the Larry McMurtry novel, "Buffalo Girls" (1995; starring Angelica Houston), which earned him Emmy (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special) and Golden Globe (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV) nominations. Also that year, he starred as a man struggling to learn how to survive from a legendary mountain man in an ABC Western movie directed by John Kent Harrison, "The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky."
During the rest of the 1990s, Elliot portrayed Captain Bucky O'Neill in TNT's four-hour historical miniseries helmed by John Milius, "Rough Riders" (1997) and appeared as The Stranger, the film's narrator, in the Coen brothers' comedy film starring Jeff Bridges, "The Big Lebowski" (1998). He also played villainous Jim Ed Love to Woody Harrelson's heroic Big Boy Matson in Stephen Frears' Western drama based on Max Evans' novel, "The Hi-Lo Country" (1999; also with Billy Crudup), which won him another Western Heritage Award, and executive produced and starred as legendary lawman Bill Tilghman, a real life cowboy, in the John Kent Harrison-directed TNT movie "You Know My Name" (1998), which won him a Western Heritage Award.
Elliot next garnering rave reviews for his portrayal of Chief of Staff Kermit Newman, the president's (played by Jeff Bridges) inside man and most trusted aide, in writer/director Rod Lurie's drama/thriller "The Contender" (2000), which won him an Alan J. Pakula Award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Afterward, he was cast as Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, alongside Mel Gibson, in Randall Wallace's war film based on the book by Lieutenant General Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway, "We Were Soldiers" (2002). The next year, he appeared in the Ang Lee-directed superhero film based on the Marvel Comics book series, "The Hulk," starring Eric Bana, and teamed up with Joan Allen in Campbell Scott's film adaptation of Joan Ackermann's play, "Off the Map."
Elliot recently co-starred with Aaron Eckhart, playing cancer-stricken Marlboro Man Lorne Lutch, in Jason Reitman's Golden Globe-nominated satirical comedy "Thank You for Smoking" (2005), based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, and provided the voice of Ben the cow in the computer-animated film "Barnyard" (2006). Recently, he portrayed the Caretaker, opposite Nicholas Cage, in the Marvel Comics-inspired superhero film, "Ghost Rider" (2007), directed by Mark Steven Johnson. He was also hired by Chris Weitz for his fantasy film "The Golden Compass" (2007), which is based on "Northern Lights" (titled "The Golden Compass" in the U.S.), the first novel in Philip Pullman's trilogy "His Dark Materials." In the film that also stars Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, Elliot portrayed Lee Scoresby, a Texan "aeronaut" who comes to Lyra's (played by Richards) aid.
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Alan J. Pakula Award, ''The Contender,'' 2001
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler - Television Feature Film, ''You Know My Name,'' 2000
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler - Theatrical Motion Picture, ''The Hi-Lo Country,'' 1999
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler - Television Feature Film, ''Conagher,'' 1992