Sam Elliott’s father died at a young age. He was only 54 years old when he had a heart attack and collapsed on the family’s living room floor in Portland, Oregon. The actor was 18 at the time.
And so Elliott never got a chance to prove to his father that he could make it as an actor. The old man had said some pretty discouraging things to Elliott about his son’s chosen career before he died.
In a 2017 interview on “Off Camera With Sam Jones,” Elliott discussed his father’s influence and what motivated him to succeed as an actor even without his father there to cheer him on.
“My dad died thinking I was a total idiot for wanting to be an actor,” Elliott recalled. “He said, ‘You’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of having a fucking career.’”
“I never thought about it as trying to, having a need to prove something to him, other than that I wanted him to be proud of me,” Elliott added.
Watch Elliott’s interview here:
Sam Elliott Had Wanted to Be an Actor Since He Was ‘A Little Kid’
Elliott had pretty much always known he wanted to be an actor. He developed acting dreams when he was a child, he told The Guardian in a 2017 interview.
“It’s just something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid,” Elliott explained.
And when it came to his creative art, he didn’t compromise his standards. Elliott said his work in commercials has given him the financial freedom to turn down roles that didn’t ring true to him.
“My security comes from the fact that I’ve never done a job for money,” Elliott said. “A certain level of security comes out of the commercial world – that allows me to turn down the dramatic stuff, or the theatrical stuff … the acting work. But I’ve always basically made my own decisions. And I think I’ve done reasonably well. I have people that I get feedback from, get opinions from, keep me on the track, so to speak. But to me, it’s all about what’s on the page. It’s not about working for money.”
He added that he’s not concerned with his legacy. What drives him are the people he works with and “just going in and enjoying the process,” hard work and all.
All these years later, Elliott has made it as an actor. And what his father would say to that, probably only Elliott really knows.