What Movies Did Sam Elliott and Tom Selleck Star in Together?

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

If you think about it, Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott may be two sides of the same coin. Both actors are about the same age — Selleck is 77, while Elliott is 76. They’re tall and carry themselves in a way that commands respect. Calling it swagger cheapens it.

And yes, both men sport a fantastic mustache. It’s their calling card. After all, you can’t think of Selleck in the classic TV show Magnum P.I. without remembering him in a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, smiling and sporting a ‘stache. Elliott rocks a handlebar and it gives him instant credibility playing any version of a cowboy, whether it’s vintage western or a modern-day film.

So it would be perfect if their career paths intersected a time or two. Let’s take a look:

The Movie 4-1-1 on Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott

  • Yes, your favorite actors did perform together in a couple of movies.
  • In 1979, the two played brothers in a made-for-TV mini-series called The Sacketts.
  • And in 1982, the brother theme worked again. Both men starred in The Shadow Riders, another made-for-TV western.
  • Both movies were based on books by prolific western writer Louis L’Amour

Before we talk about the two TV movies, let’s go back another decade. The two first appeared together in an episode of Lancer in 1969.

“Sam and I were already good friends,” Selleck said in an interview last year with True West Magazine. “Fox had a new talent program, like the old studio system; we were in it. I’ve always said Sam was more formed in those days, [knowing] exactly what he wanted. I was still learning the craft.”

Coincidentally, both men appeared in the episode clean-shaven.

The Two Made First Louis L’Amour Movie in 1979

Now, let’s jump to 1979 for The Sacketts. Elliott already earned a spot in the cast, which also included Glenn Ford, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam and Jeff Osterhage. The casting director made Selleck read for his part of Orrin Sackett five times. He also had to prove he could ride a horse. And Selleck passed the test.

So what was the NBC movie/mini-series about? The Sacketts were three brothers living in Post Civil War Tennessee. Elliott played Tell Sackett, a guy who lived in the mountains. He hadn’t seen his family in a decade. Selleck, as Orrin, is a former lawman. He wants to get out of the business and settle down with his new wife. But their wedding is interrupted by the brother of a man Orrin had killed. There’s a gunfight at the wedding. Orrin’s fiance dies. Tyrel, played by Osterhage, kills the wedding crasher.

After the funeral, the mother of the Sackett boys tells Orrin to find Tell, then go after Tyrel. That’s when the story shifts west. There’s all sorts of cowboy stuff going on. Tell mines for gold. Orrin and Tyrel herd cattle. There are gunfights.

Pair Reunited for The Shadow Riders

And the three men had such a good time portraying cowboys they joined another TV movie based on a Louis L’Amour project.

That was The Shadow Riders in 1982. But in this movie, only Elliott and Selleck are brothers. Elliott pays Dal Travern. And as the movie opens, he’s facing a firing squad put together by some rogue lynchers. He gets rescued and decides to head home to Texas. He meets up with Selleck’s Mac, who served in the Union Army.

Katherine Ross, Elliott’s future wife, played his girlfriend in the movie. They married in 1984.

Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Remember when Selleck said that Elliott knew what he wanted way back in the 1960s. By their third project together, Selleck was two years into Magnum P.I., a career-defining role. Selleck concedes he was a late bloomer. He was well into his 30s when he landed his first big acting role.

Sam Elliott as Shea Brennan on 1883. (Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios.)

The two men still are going strong.

Selleck is in his 12th season of playing NYC police commissioner Frank Reagan on Blue Bloods. Elliott recently finished portraying Shea Brennan on 1883, the hit Paramount+ show.

His next project is a documentary about the Gettysburg Address. Elliott lends his wonderful, gravelly baritone to the project.

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